Some of the stories Rick Bragg has covered as a journalist include the Oklahoma City bombing, the unrest in Haiti, and the Elian Gonzalez case. Rick earned a Pulitzer Prize while writing for The New York Times and has also written several well-regarded books, many of them exploring, in some way, his tumultuous family history and the heartaches of growing up with an alcoholic dad. His latest book is Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, a rousing mix of rock-n-roll biography and spiritual inquiry and arguably a culmination of Rick’s thematic interests from earlier books.
I talk to Rick about how he weaves a sense of community into his stories, the responsibilities of a journalist to those he profiles, and some of the themes he likes to revisit. Plus, banter on rock ‘n’ roll, heaven & hell, and whether alcohol is a prerequisite for any self-respecting Southern writer.
Listen to the Podcast
- All Over but the Shoutin, Rick’s first book is a classic and how many readers came to know his work. It’s his first attempt at documenting his troubled boyhood home.
- The Prince of Frogtown: In this one, Rick takes another look at his dad from those who grew up with him, and a more complex figure emerges. Intercut with this exploration is Rick’s attempts to bond with his stepson and move beyond his father’s shadow.
- I Am a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story: The severity of Jessica’s treatment while held captivity by the Iraqis was such that medical experts believe she repressed some of the memories, but in the book her recovery seems extensive. Arguably Rick’s most optimistic book.
- Somebody Told Me, a choice selection of Rick Bragg’s newspaper stories, selected and arranged by Rick himself.
- Tried by Deadly Tornado, An Anchor of Faith Holds, Rick’s article about a tornado that hits an Alabama church on Palm Sunday.
- Rick’s coverage of the Elian Gonzalez case for The New York Times.
- Rick’s 2007 profile of Nick Saban for Sports Illustrated. Incidentally, LSU would go on to win the BCS Championship that season and the New York Giants (the embodiment of all that is good and as it should be in the world) would win the Super Bowl.
- To those who want to explore some of the challenges of our current health-care system, I recommend reading Catastrophic Care by David Goldhill, a Democrat and writer for The Atlantic. The book is a thoughtful, non-partisan look at some of systemic issues that keep costs high and innovation low. The documentary Wait Till Its Free is also worth watching.
- I Wish I Was (Sort of) More Like James Dean, my written exploration into the mysteries of James Dean and the number 23.
I got to meet Rick Bragg at the 2014 Louisiana Book Festival. See that hint of yellow by my collar? That’s my LSU shirt. Thanks to Sherry Verdel for the photo.
Sponsor for this episode
LA Film Prize, a short-film festival in Shreveport, Louisiana. Home of the $50,000 film prize. Viva La Film Prize!
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