"Every so often, you pick up a book and two pages in your nose is glued to it. Not necessarily because of the subject matter per se -- though good subject matter certainly helps -- but because the prose is so damned electric.
"Usually, I've found, when it comes to reportage like this, the book's author has a single name: Hunter S. Thompson. Recently, though, I've added another name to my stuck-nose lexicon, having been utterly ensnared by Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting With Jesus.
"Bageant grew up in a fundamentalist Christian, ultra-working-class family in a claustrophobic little Virginia town named Winchester. Then, in his own terminology, he made his escape. He moved west and made a pretty decent career for himself in the world of journalism. A few years ago, though, he felt a craving for his childhood home and, now deep into middle-age, decided to relocate once more."No single book will ever be able to fully explain why so much of impoverished America so consistently votes against its own economic self-interest. Likewise, no single book will ever fully explain the unique confluence of historical and cultural forces that created and continues to bulge the Bible Belt. But Bageant, a newcomer to the world of book writing, takes a pretty good stab at it. And he does so in a way that's accessible, raucous and unapologetically foul-mouthed. It's fun reading, and, given his depressing subject matter, that's quite a feat." - excerpted from a piece by Sasha Abramsky, The American Prospect
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War
by Joe Bageant
Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN: 9780307339362, 030733936X
After thirty years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a "dirt-poor" childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass.
Two in five of the people in his old neighborhood do not have high school diplomas. Nearly everyone over fifty has serious health problems, and many have no health care. Credit ratings are low or nonexistent, and alcohol, overeating, and Jesus are the preferred avenues of escape.
A raucous mix of storytelling and political commentary, Deer Hunting with Jesus is Bageant's report on what he learned by coming home. He writes of his childhood friends who work at factory jobs that are constantly on the verge of being outsourced; the mortgage and credit card rackets that saddle the working poor with debt, i.e., "white trashonomics"; the ubiquitous gun culture - and why the left doesn't get it; Scots Irish culture and how it played out in the young life of Lynddie England; and the blinkered "magical thinking" of the Christian right. (Bageant's brother is a Baptist pastor who casts out demons.)
"Joe Bageant is a brilliant writer. He evokes working class America like no one else. The account of his revisit to his Virginia roots is sobering, poignant, and instructive." - HOWARD ZINN, author of A People's History of the United States
"This book is righteous, self-righteous, exhilarating, and aggravating. By God, it's a raging, hilarious, and profane love song to the great American redneck. As a blue state man with a red state childhood, I have been waiting for this book for years. We ignore its message at our peril." - SHERMAN ALEXIE, author of Reservation Blues
"This fine book sheds a devastating light on Bush & Co.'s notorious 'base,' i.e. America's white working class, whose members have been ravaged by the very party that purports to take their side. Meanwhile, the left has largely turned them out, or even laughed at their predicament. Of their degraded state - and, therefore, ours - Joe Bageant writes like an avenging angel." - MARK CRISPIN MILLER, author of Fooled Again: The Real Case for Election Reform
"Joe Bageant is the Sartre of Appalachia. His white-hot bourbon-fuelled prose shreds through the lies of our times like a weed-whacker in overdrive. Deer Hunting with Jesus is a deliciously vicious and wickedly funny chronicle of a thinking man's life in God's own backwoods." - JEFFREY ST. CLAIR, author of Grand Theft Pentagon and co-editor of CounterPunch
"This recounting of lost lives - of white have-nots in one of our most have-not states - has the power of an old-time Scottish Border ballad. It is maddening and provocative that the true believers in 'American exceptionalism' and ersatz machismo side with those stepping all over them. Bagaent's writing is as lyrical as Nelson Algren's, and if there's a semblance of hope, it's that he catches on with new readers thanks to the alternative media." - STUDS TERKEL
"Deer Hunting with Jesus is one of those rare books that is colorful, depressing, hilarious, and biting all at the same time. Joe Bageant has given us a glimpse into the vicious class war that is too often ignored or hidden by those happily perpetrating this war." - DAVID SIROTA, author of Hostile Takeover
"Dead serious and damn funny ... Bageant writes with the ghosts of Hunter S. Thompson, Will Rogers, and Frank Zappa kibitzing over his shoulder ... Takes Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas, to the next level. " - MOTHER JONES"Bageant mixes a reporter's keen analysis, a storyteller's color, and a native son's love of his roots in this absorbing dissection of America's working poor... wise, tender, and acerbic." - BOOKLIST
What it adds up to, he asserts, is an unacknowledged class war. By turns brutal, tender, incendiary, and seriously funny, this book is a call to arms for fellow progressives with little real understanding of "the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks."
Deer Hunting with Jesus is a potent antidote to what Bageant dubs "the American hologram" - the televised, corporatized virtual reality that distracts us from the insidious realities of American life.
"Faced with working-class life in towns such as Winchester, see only one solution: beer. So I sit here at Burt's Tavern watching fat Pootie in a T-shirt that reads: one million battered women in this country and i've been eating mine plain! That this is not considered especially offensive says all you need to know about cultural and gender sensitivity around here. And the fact that Pootie votes, owns guns, and is allowed to purchase hard liquor is something we should all probably be afraid to contemplate. Thankfully, even cheap American beer is a palliative for anxious thought tonight." - Excerpt from Chapter 1
Joe Bageant writes an online column (www.joebageant.com) that has made him a cult hero among gonzo-journalism junkies and progressives. He has been interviewed on Air America and comments on America's long history of religious fundamentalism in the BBC/Owl documentary The Vision: Americans on America. Until recently he worked as a senior editor for the Primedia History Magazine Group. Bageant and his wife recently downsized their lives in America so that Joe could spend half the year in Belize, where he writes and sponsors a small development project with the Black Carib families of Hopkins Village.
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