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Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta (2015)

de Richard Grant

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2341789,953 (4.04)11
In Dispatches from Pluto, adventure writer Richard Grant takes on "the most American place on Earth"--the enigmatic, beautiful, often derided Mississippi Delta. Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto--winner of the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize--is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining. On a remote, isolated strip of land, three miles beyond the tiny community of Pluto, Richard and his girlfriend, Mariah, embark on a new life. They learn to hunt, grow their own food, and fend off alligators, snakes, and varmints galore. They befriend an array of unforgettable local characters--blues legend T-Model Ford, cookbook maven Martha Foose, catfish farmers, eccentric millionaires, and the actor Morgan Freeman. Grant brings an adept, empathetic eye to the fascinating people he meets, capturing the rich, extraordinary culture of the Delta, while tracking its utterly bizarre and criminal extremes. Reporting from all angles as only an outsider can, Grant also delves deeply into the Delta's lingering racial tensions. He finds that de facto segregation continues. Yet even as he observes major structural problems, he encounters many close, loving, and interdependent relationships between black and white families--and good reasons for hope. Dispatches from Pluto is a book as unique as the Delta itself. It's lively, entertaining, and funny, containing a travel writer's flair for in-depth reporting alongside insightful reflections on poverty, community, and race. It's also a love story, as the nomadic Grant learns to settle down. He falls not just for his girlfriend but for the beguiling place they now call home. Mississippi, Grant concludes, is the best-kept secret in America.… (més)
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This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in race relations in general, and in the Delta region in particular.

The author is British and has worked as a freelance writer, traveling throughout the world. After settling in New York City for a period, and becoming disenchanted with the cost of living and quality of life afforded by living in a 400 square foot apartment with a large dog, he decided to relocate to the Mississippi Delta.

He and his girlfriend purchased an isolated, old plantation house near the settlement of Pluto on the Yazoo River outside Greenwood, Mississippi. To say they were outside their comfort zone is an understatement.

His observations, coming from someone that has traveled broadly throughout the world, are without obvious bias, candid and refreshing. I live within 30 minutes of the Delta (on the Arkansas side), and recognize many of his experiences, while others were a revelation.

While the author paints a very nuanced portrait of race relations in the Delta, he does not sugar coat things. There are, in fact, some truly awful people there. His attempts to bridge the racial divide are enlightening, as are the many vignettes he relates during his time in Pluto.

If you live in or around the Delta, you will enjoy this book. If you have never been to the Delta, you will be a more informed, better person for having read it. ( )
  santhony | Nov 30, 2020 |
Sort of makes you wan to move to Mississippi? But also, not want to move there ever. Schrodinger's Mississippi.It's a fun travel book, with interesting history! ( )
1 vota bhiggs | May 12, 2020 |
The adventures of a British journalist in the Mississippi Delta. This book does a god job of conveying the complexities of the Delta, especially interactions between black and white Mississippians. Grant also describes the richness of the soil, the problems of the climate and the "joys" of buying and then maintaining an aging mansion. I enjoyed this book, but it's perhaps not for everyone. ( )
1 vota nmele | Aug 1, 2017 |
For a contemporary view of one of the poorest regions of the American South, you cannot do better than this book. Author Richard Grant, a transplanted Englishman, writes with humor and insight about living in the Delta region of Mississippi. ( )
1 vota ArtRodrigues | Jan 2, 2017 |
The state of Mississippi has long fascinated me because of its rich Civil War history and its remarkable literary tradition – two key interests I have enjoyed my entire life. I first started exploring Mississippi by car in the late 1980s and I have continued to do so to this day, often spending many of my vacation days driving the state on self-directed Civil War tours, or ones designed to hit as many of the state’s wonderful bookstores and literary landmarks as I can manage in a week or ten days.

As everyone knows, though, Mississippi has its dark side, a legacy from the darkest days of slavery that continues to haunt the state to this day. Look at all the standards by which American states are generally measured, and you are likely to find Mississippi near, or actually at, the bottom of every single one of them. But then consider some other measurement, such as which states produce the highest number of prominent writers (per capita or otherwise) and Mississippi probably stands near the top of the list. Let’s just say that as much as I love the state, I don’t always feel safe driving its back roads on my own.

Richard Grant’s Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta portrays Mississippi and her people through the eyes of a British adventure/travel writer, a man who first became acquainted with the state while “interviewing elderly blues singers in the mid-1990s.” Grant was charmed by Mississippi, particularly by the city of Oxford, while on that initial project and would return periodically to visit his Mississippi friends. On one of those visits an old friend brought Grant to the Mississippi Delta region to show him her “home ground,” and Grant so fell in love with an old plantation house (near Pluto, Mississippi) belonging to his friend’s father that he impetuously offered to buy it – without first mentioning anything to his New York City girlfriend. Luckily for Grant, his girlfriend was as ready to get away from New York City as he was, and after looking at the house she agreed to give the Delta a shot.

Thus begins the Mississippi Delta adventure of two people who could hardly have been any more different from their new neighbors if they had tried. Richard and Mariah were liberal left-wing progressives for whom being politically correct in speech and thought was simply a way of life. For their neighbors, shall we say, it was not. But in the next few months, Richard and Mariah would make some of the closest friends they had ever had, and would explore the Delta in a way that outsiders are seldom permitted to do.

Grant would learn just how tricky race relations still are in Mississippi, a state with so large a black population that blacks can be said to hold as much (or even more) political clout as whites. He would learn that many Mississippi blacks would not look him in the eye when speaking with him; that even if he considered them a friend, many blacks preferred to speak with him outside or to enter his home from its rear entrance; and that there were many places his black friends did not think safe for a white man to visit – even in their company. Grant, though, because he wanted to tell Mississippi’s story, was persistent and he managed to get both his black friends and his white friends to be honest with him.

Along the way he meets some of Mississippi’s most colorful people and some of her most famous, including actor Morgan Freeman who still lives in Mississippi when not working on a film, and owns (with partners) what is perhaps the state’s most famous blues club. He explores the often bizarre world of small town Mississippi politics (in which gunfire and threats sometimes play a key role), the blues legacy being left behind by a generation of blues pioneers now steadily dying off, and the improving but still delicately balanced relationship between the state’s black and white populations.

Dispatches from Pluto exposes a side of a state that has been underappreciated for too long. Mississippi is rich in history, music, and American culture in a way that many other states cannot claim to be. Maybe a few more books like Dispatches from Pluto will finally expose what is still a well kept secret: Mississippi is a great place to visit – for a lot of good reasons. ( )
  SamSattler | Oct 31, 2016 |
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Some people who come here even say they have tumbled back in time, but I do not think that is true. They have merely slipped sideways into a place they do not recognize, and may never understand. -- Rick Bragg, New Delta Rising
A strange and detached fragment thrown off by the whirling comet that is America. -- David Cohn, Where I Was Born and Raised.
Nothing in this world is a matter of black and white, not even in Mississippi, where everything is a matter of black and white. -- Richard Rubin, Confederacy of Silence
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"Let's go there and look at nothing," said Martha. "They got buckets of nothing in Issaquena County."
Somebody tracked down his date of birth in the county records, and it was confirmed that James Lewis Carter Ford had made it just past his ninety-second birthday, on a staple diet of fried chicken and Jack Daniel's. The cause of death was having lived a long, full life.
...pick the okra small... fry them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper, add a splash of water, and put a lid on the pan. When they start to get tender, give them a good squirt of lemon juice, which dissolves the sliminess.
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In Dispatches from Pluto, adventure writer Richard Grant takes on "the most American place on Earth"--the enigmatic, beautiful, often derided Mississippi Delta. Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto--winner of the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize--is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining. On a remote, isolated strip of land, three miles beyond the tiny community of Pluto, Richard and his girlfriend, Mariah, embark on a new life. They learn to hunt, grow their own food, and fend off alligators, snakes, and varmints galore. They befriend an array of unforgettable local characters--blues legend T-Model Ford, cookbook maven Martha Foose, catfish farmers, eccentric millionaires, and the actor Morgan Freeman. Grant brings an adept, empathetic eye to the fascinating people he meets, capturing the rich, extraordinary culture of the Delta, while tracking its utterly bizarre and criminal extremes. Reporting from all angles as only an outsider can, Grant also delves deeply into the Delta's lingering racial tensions. He finds that de facto segregation continues. Yet even as he observes major structural problems, he encounters many close, loving, and interdependent relationships between black and white families--and good reasons for hope. Dispatches from Pluto is a book as unique as the Delta itself. It's lively, entertaining, and funny, containing a travel writer's flair for in-depth reporting alongside insightful reflections on poverty, community, and race. It's also a love story, as the nomadic Grant learns to settle down. He falls not just for his girlfriend but for the beguiling place they now call home. Mississippi, Grant concludes, is the best-kept secret in America.

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