Rick Bragg: Meeting the Authors

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Yet again, I have no pictures.

Rick Bragg came to speak about his new book, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story at Malaprop’s recently. I personally am not interested in Jerry Lee Lewis but I knew I had to go see Rick Bragg. I fell in love with his work when I read Ava’s Man. What an experience! Ron Rash introduced Rick Bragg and a bookstore employee pointed out that Charles Frazier was in the audience. Man. Some sort of talent had to have rubbed off on all of us there that night!

Rick Bragg was every bit as funny as I expected him to be. I listened to The Prince of Frogtown on audio so I knew that his accent is pretty similar to mine, but I still enjoyed hearing him speak. He read us a brief excerpt from the Jerry Lee Lewis book but mostly he seemed to enjoy answering questions. Every answer was a story. Even at the end, when someone asked him a simple yes or no question, we were answered with a story. I loved it.

One of my friends happened to be in the audience and he started to ask a question about some confrontation between Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis and Mr. Bragg cut him off a little bit and answered the question he thought he was asking. I found out later the question was supposed to be something funny like, “Jerry Lee Lewis and a pistol vs. Elvis and his black belt: who wins?” I enjoyed hearing the story we got, but I would have like to have heard the answer to the real question too.

Of course the signing line was long but it moved more quickly than I expected. As I got closer I could hear Mr. Bragg asking everyone where they were from and how they were doing and just making everyone feel at home. When I got up there, he asked where I was from and I told him “Right here.” He looked at the bookstore employee and said, “Well, that makes three of them here tonight.” Wow! I know locals are generally outnumbered at events like this but I didn’t expect it to be that bad! Anyway. I then launched into the short version of a story about my husband sticking his foot in his mouth when we met by saying that he didn’t realize the hospital we worked at was old enough for me to have been born in it. Mr. Bragg laughed as he signed my copy of All Over but the Shoutin’ and then asked who to make the copy of Jerry Lee Lewis out to. I told him, “My uncle Rick. He’s a Yankee but we forgave him a long time ago.” Next thing I know, the book is signed, “To Rick, we forgive you.” I then checked my book, signed, “To Jennifer, from Right Here.”

I got the book signed for my uncle Rick because he didn’t think he’d get the opportunity to see Mr. Bragg. It turned out that he was able to several days later. He went through the signing line at his store and then asked Mr. Bragg if he remembered me. He said that he did and signed that book, “To Rick, Yankees are People Too.” We laughed so hard!

If you ever have the opportunity to go see Mr. Bragg speak, don’t even hesitate. He’s hilarious and a fantastic storyteller, both on paper and in person.

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