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Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta Paperback – October 13, 2015
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“The truest book about the Mississippi Delta since Rising Tide.”
—Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic
“[Grant] succeeds, and with flair. His empathic manner, reportorial talent and eye for the unexpected detail make this a chigger-bitten trip that entertains as much as it informs.”
—The New York Times Book Review
"Grant takes a fillet knife and lays us open to the bone, like you might a catfish. He exposes our idiosyncratic insanity and brilliance, both the failure and the promise that are driven by an intimate yet remote love/hate relationship along the racial divide. It’s sad and beautiful at the same time."
—Mississippi State Senator John Horhn
“Readers with an appetite for a deep-fried version of A Year in Provence will find much to sate them here. … [Grant is] like a deeper and way funkier version of Peter Mayle. … it’s the individual voices and anecdotes he records that give Dispatches from Pluto its dissonant lilt and outré charm.”
—Jonathan Miles, Garden & Gun
“One of the best books to have been written about this part of Mississippi. Richard Grant has done something completely different from previous forays into this fascinating and frequently vilified part of America. … Grant’s book strikes a good balance between being partly A Year in Provence, Mississippi-style, and partly a searching investigation of the local culture. This is a man who has done his homework, asked hard questions, and made a point of getting to know everybody, white and black alike.”
—The New Criterion
“This book’s great virtue…is how it sets aside assumptions to look with clear, questioning eyes. Mississippi’s landscape, with its ‘crated little town(s)’ and ‘primordial interruptions in the empire of modern agriculture,’ is refreshed by Grant’s lovely prose.”
“Part travelogue, part sociological study, part memoir, and part nonfiction heir to the works of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, Dispatches from Pluto is provocative in the best kind of way. Grant approaches his subjects with empathy, yet pulls no punches. The result is an honest, engaging account of life in one of America’s most beguiling, bewildering cultural outposts. This book is a revelation.”
—Alan Huffman, author of Mississippi in Africa
"An appealing stew of fecklessness and curiosity, social psychology and social dysfunction, hope and despair."
“[A] delightful inside look at life on today's Mississippi Delta.”
—Frans De Waal, one of his “6 favorite books” in The Week
“Grant writes with an admiration and tenderness for his new home and neighbors. The book’s often riotously funny, particularly when describing real-life crime stories in Greenwood and elsewhere. But Grant’s also thoughtful and earnest in trying to understand race relations in modern-day Mississippi… Grant’s insights as an outsider trying to decipher a new world make this book compelling and also challenging. He’s confronting tough truths and asking hard questions, but from a place of genuine respect and love.”
—Mississippi Business Journal
About the Author
Richard Grant is an award-winning author, journalist, and television host. His books include Crazy River, the adventure classic God’s Middle Finger, and American Nomads, which has since been made into a BBC documentary of the same name.
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Unlike other travel books I have read, like Under the Tuscan Sun and A Year in Provence, Grant's Dispatches dripped, reeked, and sung of honesty. There was no romanticizing the characters, location, flora, or fauna. No pandering to the "natives" or silently looking down on other because of the vast differences in two worlds. The author's respect was as deep as the Delta swamp, and gave this journal a hint of what it's like to be in the deep south at any time of year.
Here in Memphis, inescapably, the congenital insanity of the Delta is well-known, legendary even. So, it was only after weeks of persistent urging by my wife, a Yankee by birth but an absolute Southern lit fiend by predilection, that I picked up Richard Grant's "Dispatches from Pluto". Good God Almighty! What a book! This book is so funny, so well-written, so perceptive, so spot-on, so damn good. I was gobsmacked by it. And to think it was written by a Brit with a New York girlfriend in tow!
I've already bought a half-dozen copies for my friends and will probably wind up buying more. This fellow's take on the whole Delta thing is priceless. "Livin' in the Delta is like being in love with a crazy person," says one of his (real-life) lady characters as they pursue a road-trip through moribund, though ethnically cosmopolitan, little Mississippi towns. When you read the book you'll see how perfectly this statement captures the spirit of the Delta.
I don't know, perhaps it requires the objectivity of a well-traveled foreigner to triangulate properly on such an otherworldly, socially complex locale, a singular, contradictory place whose oddities have grown opaque through custom and tradition, even to its own inhabitants. Indeed, perhaps specifically a worldly-wise Brit was the quintessential man for the job of laying it all out, especially the nagging situation of race and class, and doing so with exquisite humor and insight. In any case I heartily recommend this book. Just lemme say this: When you get it, take it slow, like you would a 30-year-old single-malt scotch, and savor every drop. You will not be disappointed. Meanwhile I need to write this boy a congratulatory letter.