cover image Better Off Without %E2%80%98Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession

Better Off Without %E2%80%98Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession

Chuck Thompson. Simon & Schuster, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4516-1665-1

Acerbic travel writer Thompson (Smile When You're Lying) turns his withering gaze southward in this lengthy argument for Southern secession. Employing a litany of quotes, studies, and interviews (often with folks that must surely be the most reprehensible specimens he could dig up, including proud Klansmen) to bolster this hilariously over-the-top "apoplexy of northern martyrdom," Thompson argues that the South's deep-rooted ties to evangelical Christianity, allegiance to socially conservative politics, and failure to look toward the long-term has had a detrimental effect on the region, as well as on the nation as a whole, resulting in a surfeit of exploited American workers living paycheck to paycheck, terrible public schools, and latent racism operating under the guise of the Religious Right. It may sound like a hodgepodge of allegations, but Thompson's mix of vitriol, bewilderment, humor, and research holds the seemingly disparate elements together and makes for an entertaining, if absurdly hyperbolic, read. Fans of Thompson's previous work (those familiar with his screed against school teachers in Smile will find some tonal similarity in his chapter on college football) will get the most out of the book, but even proud Southerners will likely be find a few thought-provoking problems to chew on. (Aug.)