Hillbilly haiku hits home
(Editor's note: We receive lots of books. Some of the more curious arrivals are featured in this space.)
Teachers of composition advise their students to write about what they know. It is best not to speculate just how much this advice applies to the life and, ahem, "work" of Mary K. Witte. According to the press release accompanying her book Redneck Haiku, the author lives in Fresno, where the mayor's name is Bubba, and she works for a garbage company. However, it is safe to say that Witte herself is not a redneck, because clever self-analysis is not the hallmark of this indigenous American species. Trust me; I know. These are my people. And Witte, it almost pains me to admit, lives up to her surname. In more than 100 haikus yes, textbook haiku, three lines, 17 syllables she wittily describes what an anthropologist might call the socioeconomic signifiers of redneckdom. Pam can't identify the father of her child. Betty Lou's was conceived in a church parking lot, thereby flouting one of her pet theories. One man is named for the drive-in where he was born. It's all here food designed to persevere rather than to nourish, homes that tend to blow away in a high wind, criminally reckless fashion decisions, eat-until-you-die buffets and the deification of race car drivers. Consider this example of Witte's cartoonish but depressingly accurate portrait of a culture: Wanda's hip slit skirt allows her to climb into monster pickup truck. It may be that rednecks are the last group considered fair game for mocking. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, "rednecks" as Witte seems to define them are simply a widespread group linked by a chosen lifestyle. And isn't the very definition of a free country a place where you can make fun of your neighbors?