Somebody Told Me collects Rick Bragg’s newspaper stories together in one volume. Bragg’s ability to bring stories to life shows in his newspaper articles just as it does in his first two books, All Over But the Shoutin’ & Ava’s Man.
“Thank God for talkers.” he writes in the introduction. “I grew up at the knee of front porch talkers, of people who could tell a story and make you believe you had beent here, right there,…..The women in my world, aunts and cousins and grandmas and a girlfriend or two, could telegraph straight to your brain he beauty of babies you never touched, songs you never heard, loves you never felt……..They had a gift, one the rest of us who aspire to be storytellers can only borrow.”
Bragg inherited that gift of storytelling and it shines through in his feature newspaper stories. I think his talented would have been wasted on straight news stories. He knows how to delve into the human-ness of a story which clearly shows in stories like “Tried by Deadly Tornado, An Anchor of Faith Holds” which was originally published in the New York Times on April 3, 1994.
While Bragg often writes about the darker side of life he also has an ability to uplift with stories like “All She Has, $150,000, Is Going to a University”. The story of Oseola McCarty, who worked most of her life laundering the clothes of others, gave all she had ever saved to the University of Southern Mississippi.
Bragg’s newspaper stories take him all over the United States and to other parts of the world. It is obvious after reading this collection of his newspaper stories why he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. His ability as a writer brings the words off the page and just as the storytellers he grew up listening to he is able to make you believe you were right there.