Books That Made a Difference to Mary Roach
By Burkhard Bilger
I happened to pick this book up and reread it about the time of the last presidential election. While politics dug a firebreak between red state and blue, this book was a reminder, for me, of the rural South's enchantments. Bilger was once my editor, but my adoration of his writing would be as strong if I had not ever met him. Like the short stories of Eudora Welty, this is writing that makes a northerner want to drop out of her life and re-emerge south of the Mason-Dixon with a shotgun and a still. (And why not? I'll never, as long as I live, write descriptions as fine as Bilger's: "He's finding his groove now, voice rising and falling like a country preacher, body rolling and bobbing in his chair like a balloon on an updraft.") Bilger is a New Yorker staffer who grew up in the South and, thank God, never really got it out of his system.