Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis [in Booklist]
When the material is already so funny, adding another layer of guffaw-inducements hardly seems possible, until you’ve heard Helen Ellis narrate her own 23-essay collection. Alabama-born-and-raised, Manhattan-domiciled for decades, Ellis is not wrong when she insists, “Southern accents are disarming.”
Here, as in the teaser-podcast that debuted last fall, her sweet, melodic drawl is just as marvelous with the mundane (explaining the zen of writing thank you notes) as the profane (the dulcet tones of “YIPPEE-KI-YAY, MOTHERFUCKER!”). Her ‘southern lady code’ (refer to the cover for her punchy definition) never wavers, as she talks marriage, shopping, cheese logs, Southern Effeminates, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, airline toilets, threesomes, pot parties … pretty much anything is fair game. Perhaps just a smidge more delightful than Ellis is her accounting of her mother’s sagacious advice for facing everything in life – mugging, kidnapping, included – with the powerful magic of “No, thank you.”
In between the hilarity, Ellis lets drop a few gravely serious moments, from being raped to sitting through a gruesome murder trial to support a close friend. If her new title has any drawbacks, that would have to be its length – at just over three hours, listeners will be left wishing for more.
Review: “Media,” Booklist, June 1, 2019