September 30, 2002

Mama Makes Up Her Mind, by Bailey White

I first started listening to NPR during the opening days of the Gulf War. Our local NPR station, KPCC, abandoned its regular programming and had war news on most of the time. It was like CNN, only I could listen to it in the car. The normal programming returned over the next few days, and I made some pleasant discoveries. Bailey White, an occasional commentator for All Things Considered, was chief among them.

I believe the first spot I heard detailed Bailey's discovery of how to teach first-graders to read: maritime disaster. Teach a kid that a book can tell him something horrible, and you've won the battle. And then there was the bit about Bailey's mama and roadkill recipes; and the story about the Evil Bed in the guest room.

I don't listen to NPR much any more, and I haven't heard Bailey's voice in years. But I happened to open Mama Makes Up Her Mind the yesterday (a friend returned it to us), and got hooked all over again. It's a book of short sketches, two or three or five or six pages long, a form that is never completely satisfying in book form; it's like trying to satiate yourself on carrots and iceberg lettuce. And some of the sketches aren't nearly as interesting the second time around, like when Bailey's mama saw the flock of bicyclists from the bathtub on the back porch.

But then there's "Midnight Cowboy", and "Dead on the Road", and "The Bed", and "Scary Movies", and "Memorizing Trollope", and "Maritime Disaster", and "The Dance of the Chicken Feet"--oh, there's more than enough here to be worth the price of admission.

Posted by Will Duquette at September 30, 2002 07:02 PM

laila said:

send me information about each section in this book