It's like crack in book form.
Nonfiction book group titles, spring 2011.

Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: The re-read.

Sometimes I really like to re-read books. I do that more with fiction, but I always enjoy a second (or third, or fourth...) toodle through favorite nonfiction titles as well.

A case in point? Hollis Gillespie's memoir/essay collection Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood. I have no qualms reporting that I first read this one because I loved the title, and then I kept reading it because I really enjoy Hollis Gillespie. Although it can be taken too far, basically, I like people who swear. And Hollis swears. A lot.

Bleachy I re-read this title because I was going to be giving a talk on memoirs and biographies to a lovely group of library professionals, and I wanted to have some examples of titles ready that have different "tones." The tone of Gillespie's book is much of what I love about it: feisty, profane, yet strangely gentle. That's hard to pull off. But she does it well:

"When I was seven I had a crush on Satan. Not that I knew who he was, I just based everything on his picture. In the illustrated children's Bible I remember one picture in particular, in which Jesus had just pushed Satan off a cliff, and Satan is sailing down through the air, a trail of red robes billowing behind him. He looked only slightly irritated at the inconvenience. He had hair as black as octopus ink, styled like Lyle Waggoner's, an impeccably groomed beard, and a deep sunburn. 'Course that cloven hoof was kind of a downer, but hey, other than that I thought he was hot.

When my mother came home from work that day I told her I wanted to marry Satan when I grew up. She looked at me gravely, then said, 'Kid, whatever you do, don't get married.'" (p. 274.)

Ha! What was also interesting to me about this book was how much I'd mis-remembered it; I remembered it as much more about her search for and making of a home in Atlanta, when really her home-buying adventures just take up a few chapters toward the end. It's also a bit more repetitive than I thought, and not quite as polished. (On the other hand, I think her collection Trailer Trashed: My Dubious Efforts Toward Upward Mobility is one of the best essay collections ever, that one's feisty AND polished.) But that's okay. It was still a fun re-read. And I even got Mr. CR to partake--I left it in the bathroom, and although at first his opinion of the book's author was not high ("she annoys me"), he eventually admitted that he enjoyed some parts of it.