I’ve been convinced for a long time that people from the South get to savor life, on a number of levels, much more richly than the hordes from other places who spend their existence rushing everywhere for absolutely everything. Even the New South moves a little slower than most everyplace else. People there get to savor cuisine, architecture, social history and in particular, the written word. Those of us in journalism note that Southern newspapers have long stood out repeatedly for their courage and sense of mission. Mississippi has long since moved from its antebellum past. It’s given us some of the finest fresh oysters to ever grace a china plate, the magnificence of magnolia canopies shading quiet streets, a horizon dotted white with cotton, and an abundance of literature from native authors that have included William Faulkner and Richard Wright. To that estimable list we can now add the work of William Jeanes, a native Mississippian who’s enjoyed acclaim in the world of automotive journalism, but whose other experience with language is considerably broader than that. Jeanes has trod a path known to other Southern writers, from newspaper scribe to long-form magazine crafter, to a purveyor of gentle, charming commentary.
If you recognize the author’s name, grab a gold star. From Mississippi, Jeanes joined the staff of Car and Driver in 1972 before taking on the Chevrolet account at the Campbell-Ewald ad agency and then returning to the magazine as its editor-in-chief. After that, he was group publisher at Hachette Magazines overseeing both C/D and Road & Track. Returned to his home state, he has published a collection of columns from his current vehicle, the Northside Sun in Jackson, and elsewhere. They populate this 268-page paperback in impressive numbers. The Road to Pickletown will tell you, very enjoyably, about what growing up in this uniquely Southern environment is like. There’s the lore of Ole Miss, the great trail of the blues that stabs through the state, venom-free observations on politics and the joys, such as they are, that Cream of Wheat provides. And yes, cars get their due: A predawn blast through Paris aboard a Bentley Turbo R for C/D; and a first-person East African Safari Rally report done on assignment for Playboy. There’s also the most famous Mississippi native ever, Elvis Presley. We should note here that Pickletown is named for a person, not a cucumber immersed in brine. This little book will make you smile repeatedly. You can pre-order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or alternately, by aiming your browser right here.