The author of Crackers: This Whole Many-Angled Thing of Jimmy, More Carters, Ominous Little Animals, Sad Singing Women, My Daddy, and Me was actually born in Indianapolis, Indiana, but Roy Blount Jr. grew up the son of Southern parents in Georgia. An American literary humorist in the tradition of Twain and Thurber, Blount occasionally reaches into his background to write about Georgia and Georgians with his lively satirical wit and wry style, but his range is the whole of American culture.
The son of Roy Alton and Louise (Floyd) Blount grew up in Decatur, Georgia. After his introduction to journalism at the Decatur High School newspaper, Roy Blount Jr. started his career as a sports reporter and columnist for the Decatur-DeKalb News (1958-59). With a Grantland Rice sportswriting scholarship to Vanderbilt University, he worked summers in New Orleans and New York as a newspaper intern, graduated with a degree in English (BA, 1963), and earned a Woodrow Wilson fellowship to study English and American literature and language at Harvard University (AM, 1964).
From 1966 to 1968 Blount worked as a writer for the Atlanta Journal and as an English instructor at Georgia State College following stateside military service as “a callow, married Army lieutenant” from 1964 to 1966.[i] He was hired by Sports Illustrated in 1968 and spent seven years there as a staff writer and associate editor. He spent a season traveling with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and based on that experience he wrote his highly acclaimed first book, About Three Bricks Shy of a Load (1974), considered one of the best of all American sports books. In 1975 Blount left the Sports Illustrated staff to become a freelance writer, and he has spent the past forty years reaching beyond journalism into fiction, poetry, memoir, play and screen writing. A prolific writer whose work has appeared in more than 200 books and roughly 170 different periodicals, Blount is also a sought-after performer and commentator, live on stage and in radio, TV and film.
Blount opened his second book, Crackers, declaring “I am from Georgia and I am determined to decipher what has been going on.” A 1980 collection of essays, sketches, and profiles that drew upon the nation’s interest – spurred by Jimmy Carter’s presidency -- in things Southern, Crackers solidified Blount’s reputation as an astute critic whose humor was as much about revealing truth as getting laughs. Crackers also demonstrated for a national audience that the ex-sportwriter could write clever commentary about much more than athletics. Reviews of Crackers compared Blount’s wit to that of Mark Twain, Ring Lardner, Philip Roth and Richard Pryor. Georgia writer Harry Crews, wrote of Crackers in the Washington Post Book World, “The book is ‘about’ nearly everything and everybody in the country.” Crews called Crackers “a triumph over subject, proving – if it need proving again—that there are no dull subjects, only dull writers.…Crackers is the funniest book I’ve read in a decade, and I know, too, that I could not ask for a more knowledgeable, well-written commentary on our times.”
In the decade after A Few Bricks Shy and Crackers had established Blount’s credentials with publishers, his career continued to expand. In 1981 he began appearing as a regular guest on Garrison Keillor’s live-radio A Prairie Home Companion, his first foray into an additional career as a writer-performer. Blount transformed articles he had written for Esquire and The New Yorker into one-act plays for the Humana Festival of New American Plays, and in 1986 he wrote and performed a one-man show in New York that would eventually become Roy Blount’s Happy Hour and a Half (1988). Since then a frequent guest, occasional commentator, and cameo actor on television, he has also written a full-length movie script (Larger Than Life, 1996) and an episode teleplay for HBO’s animated fairytale series Happily Ever After (“The Frog Princess,” 2000).
The written word, however, remains Blount’s chief love and an occupation at which he has worked tirelessly. In the decade of the 1980s, following Crackers, he compiled four more volumes of articles and essays, and he published, in quick succession, a book on human hair, a reversible book containing two separate poetry collections, a comic novel in the voice of the “first husband” of a woman U.S. president, and an updated edition of A Few Bricks Shy. In the 1990s he followed with another collection of articles and his own selective anthology of Southern humor before writing Be Sweet: A Conditional Love Story, Blount’s memoir devoted to his late mother. Be Sweet and Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South (2007) -- Blount’s seventh collection of essays and his twentieth book -- would both be named “Books All Georgians Should Read” by the Georgia Center for the Book.
After collaborating with photographer Valerie Shaff on several best-selling books on animals, Blount researched and wrote a biography of the Civil War general Robert E. Lee for the Penguin biography series, followed by a "rambling" guide to the city of New Orleans. The author of a book on the making of the Marx Brothers’ classic movie Duck Soup, Blount has also written the introductions to several books, including an edition of Georgia Boy (University of Georgia Press, 1995) and four editions of Mark Twain.
A lover of language and wordplay, Blount has written two full glossaries reveling in words, their mysteries, joys and allures: Alphabet Juice (2008) and Alphabetter Juice (2011). Accordingly, his enthusiasm for the English language has been recognized by the American Heritage Dictionary, which has named him to its usage panel. A past president of the Authors Guild, Blount is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Authors, and he was the 2009 recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Award from the University of North Carolina.
[i] “Salute to John Wayne,” in Not Exactly What I Had in Mind. Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1985.
Photo of Roy Blount Jr. by Joan Griswold.
The following titles by Roy Blount Jr. are held by the Hargrett Library:
Save Room for Pie. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.
Alphabetter Juice. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
Hail, Hail, Euphoria! New York: It Books, 2010.
Alphabet Juice [Sun Valley Writers' Conference broadside]. Ninja Press, 2009.
Alphabet Juice. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Long Time Leaving. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.
Feet on the Street. New York: Crown Journeys, 2005.
About Three Bricks Shy-- And the Load Filled Up. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004.
Robert E. Lee. New York: Penguin/Viking Book, 2003.
Be Sweet. New York: Knopf, 1998.
Crackers. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998.
Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor. New York: Norton, 1994.
Camels are Easy, Comedy's Hard. New York: Villard Books, 1991.
First Hubby. New York: Villard Books, 1990.
Now Where Were We? New York: Villard Books, 1988.
Soupsongs / Webster's Ark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
It Grows on You. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1986.
Not Exactly What I Had in Mind. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1985.
What Men Don't Tell Women. Boston: Little, Brown, 1984.
One Fell Soup. Boston: Little, Brown, 1982.
Crackers. New York: Knopf, 1980.
About Three Bricks Shy of a Load. Boston: Little, Brown 1974.