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For Malcolm Jones, his parents’ disintegrating marriage was at the center of life in North Carolina in the 1950s and 60s. His father, charming but careless, was often drunk and away from home; his mother, a schoolteacher and faded Southern belle, clung to the past and hungered for respectability. In Little Boy Blues, Jones–one of our most admired cultural observers–recalls a childhood in which this relationship played out against the larger cracks of society: the convulsions of desegregation and a popular culture that threatens the church-centered life of his family. He richly evokes a time and place with rare depth and candor, giving us the fundamental stories of a life–where he comes from, who he was, who he has become.
“Lovely and profound. . . . A carefully thought-out, deftly written book, one that restores dignity to a form that had fallen from grace. . . . In the hands of a subtle, disciplined writer, memoir provides a rich palette. . . . Little Boy Blues reinvigorates the form and helps us to remember why we bother to read other people’s faulty memories in the first place.”–Los Angeles Times
“Jones’s memoir is beautifully written and heartfelt. His clear-eyed view of growing up in the South and his honest look at the complexities of familial love will leave few readers unmoved.”–George Pelecanos
“With a touch as light as the scent of face powder hanging in his mother’s bedroom, [Jones] examines scenes from his own childhood, obscured by a miasma of Southern decorum and disappointment. . . . Jones doesn’t employ caricature or hyperbole in telling his story. In unaffected prose, he explores vignettes from his lifelong attempts to distance himself from his mother, with the dawning realization that his efforts only added links to their chain of dueling dependence.”–The Seattle Times
“A delightful, moving and often unsettling book. . . . Jones makes you laugh, he makes you cry, he makes you see and feel.”–The Washington Times
“Insightful, interesting and telling in its details. . . . [Jones] tells in clear, perceptive prose of the time and place in which he found himself.”–Winston Salem Journal
“Jones describes his Southern childhood without bathos and with elegant restraint, reminding me a little of the delayed and muffled detonations in Joyce’s ‘The Dead.’”–Sally Mann
“With affectionate regard, Little Boy Blues captures the minutiae of a world far removed–Mason jars with lightning bugs, the delivery of a piano, the caustics of Christian catechism. Jones chronicles one family’s sleepwalk out of the Eisenhower era into the fast forward jump-cut dynamics of an integrated South. This is a story epic in its intimacies.”–Van Dyke Parks
“Told with affection. . . . There is an abundance of comic relief in those finely drawn characters, and self-pity is mercifully absent.”–The Post and Courier (Charleston)
“This memoir possesses the compelling intimacy and frankness of a late-night conversation. . . . Among the many, many strengths of Little Boy Blues is the way Jones balances two views of his past: the naive experiences of the boy who lived it and the deep perceptions of the man that boy has become. It is a wonderful book.”–Eric Kraft