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January 21, 2006

NORAH VINCENT'S SELF MADE MAN gets a very positive review in The New York Times book review today. Excerpt:

That bowling league, for example. Norah-as-Ned commits to it for eight months, becoming the weak link on a four-man team of working-class white men. (Vincent has changed the names of the characters and obscured the locations to protect the identities of her subjects.) The resultant chapter is as tender and unpatronizing a portrait of America's "white trash" underclass as I've ever read. "They took people at face value," writes Vincent of Ned's teammates, a plumber, an appliance repairman and a construction worker. "If you did your job or held up your end, and treated them with the passing respect they accorded you, you were all right." Neither dumb lugs nor proletarian saints, Ned's bowling buddies are wont to make homophobic cracks and pay an occasional visit to a strip club, but they surprise Vincent with their lack of rage and racism, their unflagging efforts to improve Ned's atrocious bowling technique and "the absolute reverence with which they spoke about their wives," one of whom is wasting away from cancer.

Read the whole thing. I told you it was going to be big!

UPDATE: In short order, numerous readers sent variations on this comment, from reader Byron Matthews:

"a plumber, an appliance repairman and a construction worker"

Since when do those occupations describe the "white-trash underclass"?

That could only get by a NYT editor, I'm afraid.

To be fair to the Times Book Review, it's in quotes (indicating that it's what the writer thinks others might think) -- and the passage explodes a view that is, I suspect, overrepresented among NYT readers. That's a good thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on the term "white trash," from Ed Driscoll.

MORE: Read this insightful observation from Shannon Love, too.