The Prince of Frogtown
By Rick Bragg
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400040407, 272pp.)
Publication Date: May 6, 2008
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In this final volume of the beloved American saga that began with All Over but the Shoutin’ and continued with Ava’s Man, Rick Bragg closes his circle of family stories with an unforgettable tale about fathers and sons inspired by his own relationship with his ten-year-old stepson.
He learns, right from the start, that a man who chases a woman with a child is like a dog who chases a car and wins. He discovers that he is unsuited to fatherhood, unsuited to fathering this boy in particular, a boy who does not know how to throw a punch and doesn’t need to; a boy accustomed to love and affection rather than violence and neglect; in short, a boy wholly unlike the child Rick once was, and who longs for a relationship with Rick that Rick hasn’t the first inkling of how to embark on. With the weight of this new boy tugging at his clothes, Rick sets out to understand his father, his son, and himself.
The Prince of Frogtown documents a mesmerizing journey back in time to the lush Alabama landscape of Rick’s youth, to Jacksonville’s one-hundred-year-old mill, the town’s blight and salvation; and to a troubled, charismatic hustler coming of age in its shadow, Rick’s father, a man bound to bring harm even to those he truly loves. And the book documents the unexpected corollary to it, the marvelous journey of Rick’s later life: a journey into fatherhood, and toward a child for whom he comes to feel a devotion that staggers him. With candor, insight, tremendous humor, and the remarkable gift for descriptive storytelling on which he made his name, Rick Bragg delivers a brilliant and moving rumination on the lives of boys and men, a poignant reflection on what it means to be a father and a son.
Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’, Ava’s Man, I Am a Soldier, Too, and Somebody Told Me are available in Vintage paperback.
Praise for The Prince of Frogtown
“Bragg crafts flowing sentences that vividly describe the southern Appalachian landscape and ways of life both old and new. . . . His father’s story walks the line between humorous and heartbreaking . . . This book, much like his previous two memoirs, is lush with narratives about manhood, fathers and sons, families and the changing face of the rural South.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Smooth and rich as bourbon.”
“Bragg continues in the vein of his legendary storytelling, breathing life into a father he barely knew while learning to love a son.”
Praise for Ava’s Man
“Rick Bragg has written a powerful and poignant book about his kin, the kind of people we hear about too seldom . . . At the end I shared Rick’s pride and awe of what his family had endured.”
“It is hard to think of a writer who reminds us more forcefully and wonderfully of what people and families are all about.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Earthy, mischievous, yet gorgeous. . . . [Bragg’s] tales . . . would not be out of place if they were told around a campfire.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Bragg] is every bit the equal of . . . Harper Lee and Truman Capote.”
“[Bragg has] a true gift for great storytelling (the kind. . . that makes you think it’s just a plain old story, until he gets to the end and you’re either weeping or covered with goosebumps).”
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Here is a man with wit, devotion and a fierce sense of dignity.”
—Time Out New York
“Bragg writes like his grandfather drank. . . . He cuts loose with wonderful flowering descriptive floods . . . that can cripple another writer with envy.”
—The Miami Herald
Praise for All Over but the Shoutin’
“An absolutely wonderful book.”
“Rick Bragg writes like a man on fire. And All Over but the Shoutin’ is a work of art. While reading this book, I fell in love with Rick Bragg’s mother, Margaret Bragg, a hundred times. I felt like I was reading one of the prophets in the Old Testament when reading parts of this book. I thought of Melville, I thought of Faulkner. Because I love the English language, I knew I was reading one of the best books I’ve ever read. By explaining his life to the world, Rick Bragg explained part of my life to me. You feel things in every line this man writes. His sentences bleed on you. I wept when the book ended. I never met Rick Bragg in my life, but I called him up and told him he’d written a masterpiece, and I sent flowers to his mother.”
“Searingly honest, beautifully written, All Over but the Shoutin’ is perhaps the most courageous thing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg has ever written. Making his reputation on his ‘dark gothic’ stories of urban riots, community disasters, and Haitian bloodbaths, Bragg has never failed to record the grace and dignity of people who live their lives in the margins. All Over but the Shoutin’ is one more such story. But it is braver because the marginal people he gives us are himself, a child of ‘poor white Southern trash,’ and his family–an alcoholic, mostly absent father, and an extraordinary mother, quietly heroic in the face of devastating poverty. Bragg looks down the corridors of his past with love, hate, humor, regret, self-doubt, and understanding. In the telling, he may occasionally flinch, but he never turns away.”
“This is a great book: a poem disguised as a memoir, a gift from a son to his mother, a primer on reporting…. Language at its loveliest.”
In his sad, beautiful, funny and moving memoir, All Over but the Shoutin', Rick Bragg gives us a report from the forgotten heart of "white trash" America…. Bragg is showing us a place we have not seen before, not quite like this. And he is joining an elite group of American writers who have used the literature of childhood to affect our understanding of our society, standing in the tradition of Huck and Tom, Holden Caulfield and Dorothy Allison's Bone Boatwright...
—The New York Times Book Review
“Bragg . . . has a strong voice and a sweeping style that, like his approach to newspaper writing, is rich, empathetic, and compelling. His memoir is a model of humility combined with pride in one’s accomplishments.”
“A record of life that has been harrowing, cruel and yet triumphant, written so beautifully he makes the book a marvel.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A deeply affecting book. . . . Bragg captures the rhythms of small-town life with grace and pathos.”
“Bragg tells about the South with such power and bone-naked love . . . he will make you cry.”