Why did I love this book?
Though published in 1941, this book remains, for my money, at least, the most insightful book on white southerners. In an account equally rich in provocative thought and vivid phraseology, Cash explored the roots of the historically fierce masculine individualism, and near-visceral hostility to new ideas—the "savage ideal," he called it—that not only kept the South a hot mess most of the time, but sustained it as "not quite a nation within a nation, but the next thing to it" right up to the eve of American entry in World War II. Cash trembled at the prospect of the powerful, likely irreversible new forces unleashed by this momentous development colliding with the South's historically rigid resistance to change. When the time came, however, the region would show a “capacity for adjustment” that would have astounded its reproving, though still affectionate son, had he not taken his own life just short of five months after his book appeared.