Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant

An occasionally bumbling Brit moves into the Mississippi Delta and delivers a romping survey of the surroundings.

dispatches from pluto

Richard Grant (Crazy River) is “a misfit Englishman with a U.S. passport and a taste for remote places,” a writer and professional peripatetic when he encounters an old plantation home in the Mississippi Delta. Later he will ask, “What sort of idiot goes on a picnic and ends up buying a house?” He then explains.

In Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta, Richard moves, with his girlfriend, from New York City to a spot even the locals find remote. They struggle with home improvements, an enormous vegetable garden and the moral problem they encounter in hunting for their meat. After some hilarious hiccups along the way, they take pleasure in living in large part off the land. Perhaps more challenging are questions of culture: the liberal newcomers are sensitive to their conservative religious neighbors, who are surely suspicious in turn. But from the beginning they manage to bond like family.

Grant narrates the next year with reflection and humor, from electoral politics and absurd local news to learning how to hunt and party like a Deltan. The myriad forms and intensities of racism and racial tension develop into a theme, as Grant pursues diverse friends and acquaintances. But he finds beauty as well as complexity, and concludes, “I had done the thing that modern life conspires against. I had fully inhabited the present without distraction.” Dispatches from Pluto offers a lovely, appreciative and entertaining tour of the strange and rich Mississippi Delta.

This review originally ran as a *starred review* in the October 27, 2015 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 7 armadillos.

2 Responses

  1. Reading the chapter “elephant in the room” brings us to the inevitable come uppance on failed race relations, which I understand having grown up in Florence AL. Everyone in RG’s path is not a victim but a participant in a situation they were born into. I would like to have RG report on root causes namely his ancestral brethren in The UK that started the slave trade, moved millions against their will to the Americas. then moved on to carve up Africa and the Middle East . The world sits atop miriad problems , TODAY, that relate to English imperialism … Please report on that RG.. It would be a great read I am sure… I am not excusing every failure that occurs everyday in the delta, the south, and in N America but I would appreciate RG holding up a contrite mirror to his own country …

    • Hi, Reginald. Thanks for coming by to comment. I think your points are well taken in that this is not a problem unique to the Delta, the South, the United States, or anywhere in particular. However, I don’t think Richard Grant entirely fails to acknowledge that, either. The final lines of the chapter you mention make the point that the problem is ongoing and the responsibility of everyone involved – as you say, that these are participants, not victims.

      As to your statement that he should take on his own native country as a topic for his writing, you can always make that suggestion. But he seems to be more focused on writing about his adventures, which take him elsewhere. I don’t think this or any of his other books are intended to take any place to task for its history, and I don’t think that’s the overall effect of this book, either. Rather, he’s an outsider approaching the Delta with bemusement and affection, and discussing the questions that naturally arise for him. The way I read it, Dispatches from Pluto recognizes some of the complexities of the region, but does not make an indictment.

      Again, I think your points are well made. It’s just that on my reading, you and Grant are not at such odds after all.

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