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10 thoughts on “Raney

  1. Lawyer Lawyer says:

    RANEY, Clyde Edgerton's first novel on why it's not a sin to marry a Whiskeypalian even when you are a Free-Will Baptist

    First of all, the illustration of Raney by Clyde Edgerton is not that of the first edition, first printing. Seeing as how I'm a goodreads librarian I should fix that.

    First Edition, Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1985

    Yep. Fixed. That's now the correct image for the First Edition, First Printing of Raney

    I know. I have one. It's signed. The REAL first printing is green with a guitar on it. The title, Raney is printed in a block background of hot pink.

    I'm gloating. I'm gloating because it was a very, very short first printing. I'm gloating because Clyde Edgerton signed it for me and then serenaded me and my wife, picking his banjo, while singing Safety Patrol.

    To hear more of Clyde Edgerton's Music visit

    Watch this: Clyde Edgerton is singing Way Down in Columbus, Georgia, while playing the banjo.

    It's not Safety Patrol, but it gives you a good idea of how this man comes across at a book signing.

    It's a good thing I finally met Clyde Edgerton. I had literally stalked him for several years. My brother-in-law, Bill, as in Bill from Dallas, as opposed to Cousin Bill from Shreveport, got tired of Connecticut winters and moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. Clyde Edgerton lives in Wilmington, teaches at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and likes to write while having breakfast at The Salt Mine, one of two restaurants of the same name.

    Among other things, Edgerton teaches creative writing at UNCW

    I confess. I stalked him. In a polite way. I ate breakfast at the Salt Mine five mornings in a row. I didn't have my cholesterol checked for six months thereafter because I would have had to fess up to my lady doctor, who is beautiful, that I had spiked my LDL and lowered my HDL, while stalking an author who has written five New York Times Notable Books of the Year, was a Guggenheim Fellow, was admitted to membership of the Southern Writers Association, and washes his own pickup truck in the front yard of his house--HIMSELF.

    I never caught him there. But I highly recommend the homemade corned beef hash, eggs over easy, with wheat toast. Oh, and on the lunch special, I recommend the chicken fried steak. That's on Saturdays. He washes his truck on Saturdays.

    I told you. I stalked him. When I confessed to Clyde that I had stalked him, he kind of grinned. When I described his house, his pickup truck and his dog, he was a little rattled. Not to worry. My favorite independent bookseller told him I was harmless--for the most part. And you will notice that no photograph of Clyde washing his truck appears below. Even a literary stalker must have some degree of ethics. *ahem*

    Edgerton was born in Durham, North Carolina in 1944. He was raised just outside Durham in a little place called Bethesda. He came from a long, long line of cotton and tobacco farmers. Fortunately, his parents were the first of their family to leave the farm. Otherwise, well--Clydge Edgerton would not have become an author I would have ended up stalking.

    He doesn't look like it, but Edgerton was a fighter pilot for five years from 1966 to 1971. You can read about Edgerton's love of flight and his combat flights over Vietnam in Solo: My Adventures in the Air.


    Edgerton flew combat reconnaissance over the Ho Chi Minh trail for over a year. Sticking with a downed pilot until his comrade was pulled out earned him the Distinguished flying cross.


    Flip through any biographical article about the man and you'll find out most folks figured he would end up being a baseball player or a rock musician. His parents and his twenty three aunts and uncles never took him to have a literary bent. But it was listening to all those storytellers in his family that turned him into the writer with an extraordinary ear for dialog and an eye for the natural humor of human foibles.

    Characters flow out of Clyde Edgerton as easily as water falls off the sides of mountains in Western North Carolina. By the time you've become familiar with Edgerton's books, you realize this is a man who knows and loves people, warts and all.

    Now, Raney was not the first Edgerton I read. The first was Walking Across Egypt which came out in January, 1987. I was so enthusiastic over that one I was ecstatic to find a paperback of Raney.

    I have read Raney three times. The last time was when I read it aloud to my wife. I figured she would enjoy it, especially since Clyde had sung Safety Patrol to her. And she did enjoy it. Immensely. She giggled, hooted, belly laughed, cried, guffawed and snorted a few times. Me, I'm impervious to such things and just kept right on reading, in character, of course. I am a professional. Do not try this at home. The Carol Burnett gang would not have cracked me up. When you are in character, you are in character.

    Generally, you'll find a book blurb that says read it, read it aloud, read it to someone else (I did) and give it away (I won't.) Buy your own copy. Stalk Edgerton yourself. It's good for you. The breakfast at The Salt Mine is not good for you. But it is good. Stalking authors is fun. It builds character. Maybe he'll sing to you, too.

    Anyway, Raney Bell is a very proper young Lister, NC, lady, who sings like a nightingale--bluegrass ballads--that'll have you tearing your heart out and stomping it flat, or fluttering around like a blue bird because it's one of the happy toe tapping ones. She is a Free Will Baptist. God's in his Heaven and all's right with the world, and her mother, daddy, and all her aunt's and uncles, too.

    Then up pops this new librarian down at the library in downtown Lister. His name is Charles. And he is not from Lister. He is all the way from ATLANTA, Georgia. You know what those people are like in Atlanta. They have funny ideas. They are LIBERAL. And Charles is not Free Will Baptist. He is EPISCOPALIAN! You KNOW what THEY are like.

    But Charles loves bluegrass music as much as Raney. He can sing and play the guitar, too. You would NEVER know he was from Atlanta if he would only sing songs. But he has to come to dinner and you can't sing all the time. And when you can't sing you have to talk politely. But Charles goes telling Uncle Nate about there being no difference between black people and white people. You could have heard a pin drop.

    Now, all this happens back in 1975. And it does happen in NC. And sometimes, people like Uncle Nate who was never the same after the WWII, uses the N WORD.

    What you all (I have translated that for Y'ALL) have to understand is that people like Uncle Nate and Raney and all her kin don't have a mean bone in their body. Their politically incorrect thinking comes from ignorance, not malice.

    You ALL will see this when it turns out that Charles' best man is B-L-A-C-K! It turns out he's no stranger than Charles' own mother who is a VEGETARIAN!!! Now, feeding her at the reception is gonna be hard.

    So in this short little book you all will be sad to see it over, we see Raney get married to an Episcopalian from Atlanta, GA. An' we get to see how two people as different as day and night live and love together for a year and grow alike as two peas in a pod and go together just like peas and carrots--just like Forrest and Jenny, except Raney was never flighty like that Jenny.

    After Edgerton did his Air Force duty, he went back to the University of North Carolina where he got his Masters in English. He taught at his own former high school where he was one of the favorite teachers there. He obtained his PhD in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Edgerton took a teaching position at Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, a Baptist School.

    Campbell University, the Baptist School without a sense of humor

    After watching Eudora Welty read one of her short stories Edgerton decided to become a writer as well as a teacher. After the publication of Raney Mr. Edgerton and Campbell University parted ways. Some Baptists just have NO sense of humor.

    So, if you are not a Baptist, or you are a Baptist with a sense of humor or any other thing you want to be because that's all right with Clyde and me, read this book. Read it aloud. Read it to someone you love. Give a copy to a friend. Make it your copy. You're not getting mine.

    For Anne and Bill Boston, from Dallas, not Shreveport, who had the good sense to move to Wilmington, NC, who know where Clyde Edgerton lives, and who just sent me a signed copy of Edgerton's latest, The Night Train: A Novel from Two Sisters Bookery.

    Two Sisters Bookery, 318 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC

    Why is this review being circulated again? Well, I'm trying to set up a meeting with Professor Edgerton at UNCW to get a submission to On the Southern Literary Trail, and get that copy of Solo signed.

  2. Sue Sue says:

    At times wickedly funny, at times decidedly not, Raney is the story of the marriage of the titled young woman, a North Carolina Free Will Baptist, to Charles, a (former) Atlanta Methodist cum Episcopalian. Why do I include all these modifiers you may ask. Well, therein lies the story, and the humor, the mores of the 1970s, the story of young love and marriage.

    We spend roughly two years with Raney and Charles and their extended families and various Preachers, local folk, debating the roles of wives and husbands, how much water should be used to cook string beans, sex, whose mama is right, what sex is right, liquor/wine in the home or anywhere, sex.

    This is young marriage. this is two people who love each other but are also different in some basic ways. What we share in the novel is their struggle to learn each other and see if they can find their middle road.

    I was sorry to see this book end.

  3. Michele Casper Michele Casper says:

    I wasn’t even going to review this book, but I need to put my feelings about it into words, for whoever may be listening. I was disappointed, even angry, at this book. I returned it to the library as quickly as I could.

    I read this book because I found Clyde Edgerton’s Walking Across Egypt, which was cited in a talk at a BYU Women’s Conference, to be inspiring. That book is about a quirky, religious southern woman who, in her way, was a great soul and truly lived her religion.

    Raney is also about a quirky, religious southern woman (much younger than the previous heroine). She is also a great soul who lives her religion in a pure and innocent way. The conflict comes in the form of marriage to her husband, Charles. Charles is good to Raney, but believes that many of her views (and that of her family) are unsophisticated, prudish, and prejudiced.

    It’s obvious to the readers that this family’s views are prejudiced and unexamined, particularly concerning blacks. But there are some other convictions that Raney has that Charles, in his very reasonable, knowing way, casts doubt upon (equating them with the prejudice against blacks).

    Raney is against the consumption of alcohol. Her feelings are both religious and personal. Her uncle Nate uses alcohol as self-medication for emotional issues. It eventually leaves him dead.

    Raney is also against pornography, which she condemns as “filth”. Charles, who indulges, explains that God gave him the desire, and it hurts no one, so there is nothing wrong with it. He eventually breaks down Raney’s barriers, a sip of wine at a time; and convinces her that what she saw as “filth” is an enhancement to their intimacy.

    So now I am probably going to sound unsophisticated, prudish, and prejudiced. Religious convictions aside, both alcohol and pornography can destroy lives and families. They can take away a person’s choice and self-confidence. They can set up unrealistic expectations and destroy the trust of those close to the users.

    Raney’s coming to accept these things as being reasonable, and the idea the reader is left with that Raney's beliefs are just unexamined religious prejudices to be set right is what made me angry. I’ve seen too much.

  4. Jenny (Reading Envy) Jenny (Reading Envy) says:

    I zipped through this in an evening, the story of newlyweds in the pre-civil rights, post-WW2 south. The story is told from the perspective of Raney, the wife, who comes from a down-home, family-oriented, Free Will Baptist background in North Carolina. She marries Charles, who is more educated, whose parents are Episcopal, who is a reader and a thinker. He is also a librarian, and while he isn't described as one, I'd like to call him a music librarian. After all, they meet when he is collecting songs, and they perform regularly together.

    I love the focus on music, the religious debates, the thinking vs. believing discussions, and the assumptions vs. reality of a brand new marriage (that last one is probably something anyone who has been married can identify with). The frequent use of the n- word serves to illuminate the reality of smallmindedness in the south during that time, but wow sometimes it was rough to read it so frequently. Fair warning.

  5. Bethany Bethany says:

    The first words out of my mouth after finishing this were, This book is stoopid.

    I didn't hate it, but gosh... I can't think of one commendable thing about it. Not the writing, story or characters. It just rubbed me the wrong way. Why, oh why did the two main characters marry each other? Did they ever have a conversation together before deciding to get hitched? I doubt it, because then they would've realized they are completely incompatible. Raney was alright, but I DETESTED CHARLES. Ooh, it just warmed my heart how he wore down Raney's morals. I just loved how he convinced her that his porn-habit was not harmful, but helpful. Fantasies are a good outlet for his mind! (N.B. - these last few sentences should be read in an icy, sarcastic tone.) I just can't, can't, can't buy into that. Call me puritanical, I don't care.

    I was originally going to give this 2 stars, because a lower rating seems a little unfair... but, good riddance! I no longer care.

  6. Kirk Smith Kirk Smith says:

    The first year of a marriage is one of the most difficult experiences I know of. Another difficult experience is learning when to seek a marriage counselor to save a relationship. That decision usually comes a bit late. This deceivingly humorous little book addresses such huge issues. I am bowled over by how much wisdom is concealed here as I laugh my way through each chapter.

  7. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    So, SO un-politically correct. And therefore, SO funny!

  8. Reese Reese says:

    Halleluyah. Praise the Lord. Etc. Etc. Etc. I finished reading RANEY, the first Clyde Edgerton novel; and I'm pretty sure that, for me, it's the last Edgerton novel. Not long after LUNCH AT THE PICADILLY was released, one of my closest friends read it. She loved it; she bought me a copy; I HAD to read it. It has some charming bits, and a strong friendship got me through the novel; the novel didn't get me through the novel.

    Several years earlier, another friend -- a less influential one -- raved about WALKING ACROSS EGYPT. So I bought it, and about fifty pages into the book, I shelved it. A jet plane couldn't have taken me the short distance from start to end. It has a place in a bookcase, instead of in my garage, only because Clyde signed it.

    For twenty-five years I ignored another friend's favorable comments about RANEY. Seventy-five would have been better. That last remark only means that there are too many good or great works that I haven't read for me to feel pleased that I spent my time reading so-so material.

    If Flannery O'Connor weren't one of my favorite authors and if I hadn't lived in the South for fifty-eight years, others could say, Maybe you're just not Southern enough to appreciate Edgerton's novels. But that explanation can easily be dismissed. The blurb on the front cover of my edition of RANEY comes from Roy Blount, Jr.: A funny, deft, heartening book. If I were single, I would marry it. Well, Roy, I think that I could understood your marraige to a book (any book) about as well as I can understand the marriage of Charles Shepherd and Raney Bell. Yeah, they do really enjoy singing together. So sing together, chickadees -- as did Edgerton and his EX-WIFE, Susan Ketchin, to whom the book is dedicated. The announcements from the HANSON COUNTY PILOT that open and close the book suggest that the author intended to give his readers a realistic work, not a comic book, fairy tale, or two years of a soap opera. But while the characters seem to be real folks and the incidents seem actual, at the core of the novel is a marriage that should have Made in Mars stamped on it.

    My careful reading of RANEY has left me with two questions. Since Charles and Raney live in a free country (as Edgerton's characters repeatedly remind us) that has plenty of young, single adults, why did they marry each other? And why did I not laugh even once when I read this funny, hilarious book that causes uncontrollable fits of laughter? If I HAD to present an answer to my own questions, I could only say, It's a two-star book.

  9. ALLEN ALLEN says:

    The 1970s come alive in this good-humored satire, set in a small Carolina town, about the first year of married life between a local Freewill Baptist (Raney) and a liberal Episcopalian (Charles) from Atlanta. Although Raney and Charles love each other very much and share a love of folk music, their cultures, mores and politics are bound to clash. The novel is narrated entirely by Raney in a not-always-reliable voice, a large part of its charm. When Charles founds a group called Thrifty Energy Alternatives (TEA) to keep the big power companies at bay, you know you're in the Seventies, and when he wants to host an old Army buddy who happens to be a minority, all passive-aggressive hell breaks loose on the part of Raney's family. One perspicacious and sympathetic observer remarks that when a couple marry, it's really the wedding of two families. All this makes Raney a fun and occasionally profound comic novel from skilled humorist Clyde Edgerton, in which New and Old South clash just as vigorously as the slightly bewildered newlyweds. I highly recommend it.

  10. Mahoghani 23 Mahoghani 23 says:

    This book gave me misconceptions. First, I thought this book was written back in the day but I see it was published in 1985 but the story started in 1975. Some of the language, using the N-word to be specific, didn't endear me to this author. I'm not sure if he was displaying the family and their beliefs towards Blacks or if he was expressing how he felt himself.

    The story is very entertaining and based on Raney, her beliefs (religious), her marriage and lifestyle. Religion is just as sensitive a subject in family households as well as in public spectrum. Raney marries Charles Shepherd but has no idea of his beliefs, thoughts and feelings. Their first game Skye comes up their first marital night in the bedroom and from there it spirals into constant contention between the two.

    Comical, witty and somewhat inspiring in learning things about people bullying or trying to bully others into their way of thinking.

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Raney This book is too good to keep to yourself Read it aloud with someone you love, then send it to a friend But be sure to keep a copy for yourself, because you'll want to read it again and againElizabeth Forsythe HaileyRaney is a smalltown Baptist Charles is a liberal from Atlanta And RANEY is the story of their marriage Charming, wise, funny, and truthful, it is a novel for everyone to loveA real jewelRICHMOND TIMESDISPATCH