The characters of a Rick Bragg story, whether they are in his celebrated “All Over but the Shoutin”,” or his latest, “Ava”s Man,” are as dichotomous and hard to peg as the man himself.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Knopf

Bragg will conduct a reading of “Ava”s Man” at Shaman Drum tomorrow at 8 p.m.

With “Ava”s Man,” Bragg charts the paternal reaches of the parental spectrum. Bragg tells the story of his grandfather, Charlie Bundrum, a man who could have easily passed by Tom Joad on a dusty back road, and perhaps traded punches with him. Bundrum protected his family with a gentle affection and a powder-keg disposition towards outsiders during the Great Depression.

The work arrives not without anticipation, as “All Over but the Shoutin”,” Bragg”s 1997 tribute to his loving and self-sacrificing mother, won him critical praise and a devoted following.

By most accounts a kind, “aw-shucks” Southerner, Bragg fuels his prose with, as he says, “anger.”

With writing as casual, at times, as a trip to the Piggly Wiggly, Bragg”s resume includes seven years at the iconic New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing.

Bragg”s gift lies in his portrayal of simple people whose lives spin on an axis of complexity people whose decency could not save them from the hardscrabble life of the mythical Deep South.

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