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Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession Hardcover – August 14, 2012
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“Hilarious, dirty, and incendiary, [Better Off Without 'Em] is a book that will prompt guffaws in some, an urge to shoot it through the spine in others, and everyone to agree that it will only stoke the election-year bonfire.” (Vanity Fair)
"[Thompson] is serious about his argument and has more than enough ammunition." (New York Times)
"[Thompson] is awesomely talented and wickedly funny." (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“For critics who lament the homogenization of the United States, Thompson offers several memorable scenes with distinct regional flavor. . . . Underneath all the macho bombast, there are some serious ideas at play. In a chapter on the condition of education in the South, Thompson writes passionately and persuasively about the disastrous long-term effects that de facto segregation and systematic underfunding of public schools will have on the US economy.” (The Boston Globe)
“[Thompson’s] solution is a kind of no-fault divorce for nation-states: no hard feelings, just two adults who can’t quite make the relationship work, shaking hands and walking away.” (The Oxford American)
"[Chuck Thompson] is funny in the mode of P.J. O'Rourke and Joe Queenan.” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
“A convincing case that the American South is essentially a separate country that negatively affects the rest of the United States. . . . Everyone jokes about secession, and some politicians—like Texas Gov. Rick Perry—have even threatened it. But what if it actually happened, Mr. Thompson wondered? . . . Better Off Without ‘Em combines scathing humor, caustic opinion, colorful travel writing, jaw-dropping interviews and solid academic research in an entertaining and thought-provoking book that sticks to the ribs like cheese grits and pecan pie.” (Fort Myers Weekly)
“An entertaining and worthwhile read . . . [Thompson] amasses data, and somewhere in between the fire and the brimstone, plans of serious argument are laid down.” (DailyKos.com)
“A fun, engaging read— let’s call it speculative nonfiction—and would make for a fine night of beer-fueled argument.” (Wonkette.com)
“As if Kevin Phillips’s American Theocracy were being narrated by Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi . . . Viciously funny and thoroughly tasteless, it’s an easy and cathartic read for anyone fed up with the Confederate influence on the national discourse. But like Taibbi or Bill Maher, Thompson isn’t aiming just to entertain; he wants readers to take his underlying argument seriously.” (The Washington Monthly)
About the Author
Chuck Thompson is the supervising editor for CNN.com Travel. His other books include the comic memoirs Smile When You’re Lying and To Hellholes and Back, and his writing has appeared in Outside, Esquire, and The New Republic, among other publications.
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While the South gets a bad rap on a lot of things: lower test scores, obesity, religious and often close mindedness, obsessed with football, being nuts about guns-- just a few things; Thompson decided to go and spend some time traveling around (for a year, I think) trying to get a better understanding of many Southerner's mindsets and thought process.
Even I was blown away by a lot of the scenarios and situations he came across. The chapter on the education system in the South though really broke my heart. I know that a lot of Southerners may feel offended by some of what Thompson tells about, but I would suspect that those are people who've never spent their lives living up North or on the West coast where these tales are only known to them from civil war chapters of history books. I have a friend from Colorado who can't even watch "Django", even those it's a satire, because she can't wrap her mind around the fact that people would even feel empowered to own and disrespect another human being.
The South has its issues and Thompson does a great job at analyzing them and telling you how they affect the country as a whole, and our image around the world. If you're fairly open-minded, not easily offended especially when facts are there to back up a case, and appreciate a straight forward delivery, then I'd recommend this book to you. If you're a bit sensitive, you may think Thompson comes across as in-your-face and may want to keep browsing.
I contacted the author via email, and asked if there was any hope of an updated edition (alas, no), for although the book was published over a decade ago, it is a prescient view of the worst of the Trump base: obsessed with guns and fundamentalist religion, anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-immigrant, poorly educated, and easily distracted by football, Nascar, the NRA, and white nationalism.
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