When Ben Metcalf’s first novel, Against the Country, was published in January of this year, it drew scant attention from the world we designate “literary,” and none from the marketplace of what we call ideas. But another look reveals that Metcalf seems guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of sentences written with intent—sentences of extraordinary interest and beauty, originality and art, drama and delight.
Within certain communities, it’s become popular to host “white trash parties” where people are urged to bring Cheetos, pork rinds, Vienna sausages, Jell-O with marshmallows, fried baloney, corndogs, RC cola, Slim Jims, Fritos, Twinkies, and cottage cheese with jelly. In short—the food I ate as a kid in the hills.
We have come to expect and accept black and white in the workplace, on the playing field, in politics, in the military, and we congratulate ourselves on our steady march to racial harmony. But our neighborhoods and our restaurants do not look much different today than they did fifty years ago. That Kingly vision of sitting down at the same table together and breaking bread is as smudgy as it’s ever been.
What was the year? 1986? 2008? Does it matter? What was the great offense? Same as last time, more or less. Some white shit. What was the reaction? One Negro leader or another—fill in the blank—stood in front of the cameras and declared we would do such things he knew not what! This said with a walls will come tumbling down certainty, same as last time, more or less.
Grasping a starched napkin in his left hand and twirling a pair of mod eyeglasses in his right, Goren Avery shepherds the flocks who seek purchase nightly at Highlands Bar & Grill, this reliquary of a restaurant, the most vaunted in the South. This place, and, by extension, this city, is his domain.
Cooking with Chris. The author lays out his imaginary career as a spy in another hilarious essay, comparing the "Stories and Recipes From CIA Families All Over the World" and the "Cherokee Club Cookbook." As he says, these texts were literally meant for him to find.
It’s an American tradition made manifest in class ascendancy (moving to New York to escape a hick town, getting an education and altering an accent): when we feel incomplete—when we feel uncomfortable in our own skin—we seek newer, richer identities. We examine the people who have what we want; we costume ourselves.
"Spanglish is not simply a piecemeal cobbling-together, a collecting of scraps of random vocabulary into a raggedy orphan of a sentence. It has logic and rules, and more interestingly and importantly, it embodies a constantly shifting and intimate morphology of miscegenation."