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Ava's Man Paperback – August 13, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

The same fierce pride and love that animated All Over but the Shoutin' glow in Rick Bragg's new book. In fact, he informs us in the prologue that it was the readers of his bestselling 1997 memoir about his mother's struggle to raise three sons out of dire poverty who told him what he had to write about next. "People asked me where I believed my own momma's heart and backbone came from ... they said I short-shrifted them in the first book." Bragg sets out to make amends in this heartfelt biography of his maternal grandfather, Charlie Bundrum, who with wife Ava nurtured seven children through hard times that never seemed to ease in rural Alabama and Georgia. "He was a tall, bone-thin man who worked with nails in his teeth and a roofing hatchet in a fist as hard as Augusta brick," writes Bragg, "who inspired backwoods legend and the kind of loyalty that still makes old men dip their heads respectfully when they say his name." Charlie's children adored him so much that 40 years after his premature death in 1958 at age 51, Bragg's elderly aunts and mother began to cry when asked about him. Chronicling Charlie's hardscrabble life in the flinty, expressive cadences of working-class Southern speech, Bragg depicts a rugged individual who would find no place in the homogenized New South. The marvelous stories collected from various relatives--Charlie facing down a truckload of mean drunks with a hammer, hatchet, and 12-gauge shotgun, or brewing illegal white whiskey in the woods ("He never sold a sip that he did not test with his own liver")--are not just snapshots of a colorful character. They're also the author's tribute to an oral culture with tenacious roots and powerful significance in the American South. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Following up his bestselling memoir, All Over But the Shoutin', Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bragg again creates a soulful, poignant portrait of working-class Southern life by looking deep into his own family history. This new volume recounts the life of his maternal grand father, Charlie Bundrum, who died in 1958, one year before Rick was born. Lacking a grandfather, the New York Times reporter sets out to build one "from dirt level, using half-forgotten sayings, half-remembered stories and a few yellowed, brittle, black-and-white photographs."His investigations in the Appalachian foothills along the Georgia-Alabama border turn up a beloved, larger-than-life rambler who inspired backwoods legend among contemporaries, undying devotion from his wife, Ava, and unabashed love and awe from his large extended family. Big-hearted but flawed, Bundrum was a man of contradiction. Genuinely devoted to his wife and children, he was a tenuous provider (a roofer by trade, he also cooked and frequently tasted his own moonshine) who fiercely defended his clan from trouble and hardship even as he occasionally brought it on them. He lived by a code of country justice that tolerated brawling with lawmen but disdained bullying, distinguished "good, solid biblical cursing" from mere "ugly talk," and forswore spitting in the presence of ladies.Bragg strives for an unvarnished portrait and succeeds, mostly balancing tremendous affection for his grandfather with the recognition that Bundrum, the last of his kind and a connection to a culture of backwoods self-sufficiency long dead in the South, deserves and would demand an honest rendering. "He is so much more precious smelling of hot cornbread and whiskey than milk and honey," Bragg writes. "The one thing I am dead sure of is that his ghost... would have haunted me forever if I had whitewashed him." A man like that, he concludes, "would, surely, want a legacy with some pepper on it."Bragg delivers, with deep affection, fierce familial pride, and keen, vivid prose that's as sharp and bone-bright as a butcher knife. In this pungent paean to his grandfather, Bragg also chronicles a vanished South that like the once-wild Coosa River Charlie liked to ply in homemade boats is becoming too tamed to accommodate those who would carve out a proud if hardscrabble living on its margins. (Sept.) Forecast: Knopf is pulling out all the stops for this; know they've got a winner: 200,000-copy first printing, 19-city author tour, and a nine-copy floor display including audio and large-print editions, and paperback copies of All Over but the Shoutin'.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More from Rick Bragg
Rick Bragg's memoirs are lush with narratives about manhood, fathers and sons, families, and the changing face of the rural South. Visit Amazon's Rick Bragg Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375724443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375724442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Paula Hess on August 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I fell in love with Rick Bragg's writing in All Over but the Shoutin' and didn't think he could ever surpass it. I was very wrong. I started Ava's Man yesterday afternoon and didn't stop till I was finished. With the story of his mother in Shoutin I learned how it was to grow up in the south with his mother, 3 brothers and an alcoholic father who was never around. I wondered at the time where his mother got her backbone from and in Ava's Man I found out. His maternal grandfather, Charles Bundrum, was a true man of the south. He raised 7 children during the depression with little or no money and he raised them all solid. He had to move his family 21 times to keep one step ahead of poverty. He worked where ever there was work and he made moonshine. He lived his life as a man and loved his family. Charles could have been an angry man but , he wasn't. He was a legend in his own time and I am so glad that Mr Bragg took the time to tell his story. This is a great piece of southeren literature with almost lyrical prose that will be very hard to forget.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on February 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As impossible as it may seem, Rick Bragg's soaring, compelling and inspiring "Ava's Man," his account of the life and time of his maternal grandfather, eclipses "All Over but the Shoutin.'" I find it difficult to describe the impact this astounding memoir had on me; I can honestly tell you that I have never wept or laughed (often simultaneously) over the pages of a book as I did while reading "Ava's Man." This work contains more raw material on what life should mean to us and how to live that life than most undergraduate educations. Through handsomely crafted anecdotes, Bragg has constructed a unique homage -- to a person, place and time which have passed from the American scene. As we learn who Charlie Bundrum was, what motivated him and how deeply he influenced those who loved and respected him, we discover a genuine American archtype by which we can measure our own lives. A memoir Americans will treasure for decades to come, its author has now elevated himself to the highest level of our national letters.
The introduction and epilogue alone richly outline the Charlie Bundrum's essential qualities. A powerful roofer and talented distiller, an angry, violent man who desperately loved and protected his family, a fiercely resilient man who disdained societal restrictions, Charlie Bundrum would be painfully out of place in the modern South. "It is only when you compare him with today...that he seems larger than life. The difference between then and now is his complete lack of shame. He was not ashamed of his clothes, his speech, his life. He not only thrived, he gloried in it."
Rick Bragg describes his grandfather as a man "whose wings never quite fit him.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on August 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
And if reading does indeed improve there is a high probability that Rick Bragg will write it. His first book, "All Over But The Shoutin", was a remarkable book and was recognized as such. And when a group of his stories were collected for, "Somebody Told Me", it contained shorter works that can stand with any that have appeared, whether fiction or non-fiction. I don't understand why this new work, "Ava's Man" is touted as a continuation of his first book. It is true the work expands on the history of his Family, but it is more of a prequel, exploring his Grandfather, Rick's Mother, and her Sisters. The distinction is important, for if you are expecting part two of Shoutin, which is not what you will get.
I want to be clear; I am not criticizing this book. There is no one else writing today that I enjoy reading more. This new work is different, and the reasons are clear, the Author almost states as much in his comments.
In his previous work he has written either about his own experiences from a child to the writer he is today, or he was writing his first hand accounts of events as he experienced them. In, "Ava's Man", he is relating a story of a man he never knew as told, by among others, his Mother and his Aunts. The result of his collecting and relating the stories of others requires he be faithful to what they share. This same requirement left him little space to write prose that is totally unique and his own. There were bits of the book where he would introduce an idea, or summarize a lifestyle or a manner of speaking, and the writing was pure Rick Bragg Poetry. But this was not the rule.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of literary journalism who got her hands on an advance copy of AVA'S MAN, and let me tell you, it doesn't disappoint. Told in the same lyrical, easy-going prose as ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING, this tribute to Bragg's grandfather is like a history lesson of life in the true South at the first half of this century. As a southerner, I've almost given up on southern writers, who produce a life that neither I nor my parents even recognize, but about three pages into this book, I told my husband: "This is the real thing." With no trace of sentimentality and no glorification of violence, Bragg tells a story so honest and unvarnished that it could really be any of our grandfathers. In fact, half way through I became convinced we were long-lost cousins, so close and personal were his stories, and predict that when the book arrives in the stores in August, that will the universal reaction. In a time in our history when all that is southern seems to be slipping away, Rick Bragg relights an old flame. We're lucky to have him.
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