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In the growing pantheon of neo-Southern chick lit, there emerge numerous images that, bless their hearts, are well-worn territory: steely-fisted old magnolias, wardrobe mishaps that lead to social paralysis, the use of alcohol to salve most wounds. But in the right hands, these are subjects we happily visit time and again
You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning, by Celia Rivenbark ($25, September 2009, St. Martin’s Press)
Celia Rivenbark always makes me burst out laughing in a very unladylike way. Hers is the quirky, barbed tongue that causes one to spew sweet tea from one’s nostrils. The longtime humor columnist is a purebred wise gal who borrows heavily from the Southern writer’s toy box: redneck cousins with funny names; cutesy terms for “unmentionable” body parts; and the down-market joys of beauty pageants, Clay Aiken, and mill towns. The folks she celebrates are the sort who would go muddin’ on a Sunday. Reared in the tradition of the newspaper column—750 or so bon mots—Rivenbark surely knows that brevity is the soul of wit. Though in places this book could have been more sharply edited, it still has all the flavor her fans have come to love. You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning is a lively mix and definitely worth a good gulp.
Some Day You’ll Thank Me For This: The Official Southern Ladies’ Guide to Being a “Perfect” Mother, by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays ($22, April 2009, Hyperion)
From the writing team who brought us Being Dead Is No Excuse, this snarky book takes readers on a visit to the iconic world of Southern motherhood. Here, the authors detail the foibles of their subjects, celebrating the quirkiness of their Delta (i.e.: Greenville, Mississippi) denizens. Essays weave a social fabric of the complex rules pertaining to monograms, silver patterns, and the skilled playing of the “Who’s Your Daddy” game. Though a number of the stories introduce women who are better described as rude, flighty, shallow, and grasping than Southern, they also contain flashes of fun and freshness. Recipe inclusions reflect Southern foodways and are eminently approachable. (Rum balls and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Potatoes” are now among my must-haves.) The book’s lists (think: which favorite flower signals your mothering style?) are bright. And the spawning of a new acronym—DSM for Daughters of Southern Mothers—will surely become useful in today’s Twitter age.