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Cover of Things I Like About America

Poe Ballantine

Things I Like About America

  • nonfiction / essays
  • ISBN 0-9716915-1-7

​Poe Ballantine’s risky personal essays are populated with odd jobs, eccentric characters, boarding houses, buses, and beer. He takes us along on his Greyhound bus journey through small town America (including a detour to Mexico), exploring what it means to be human. Written with piercing intimacy and self-effacing humor, Ballantine’s stories provide entertainment, social commentary, and completely compelling slices of life.

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02 February 2017

Heartland Media of Chicago & the Live from the Heartland Radio Show: Readings from The Sun—featuring Sy Safransky, founder and editor of The Sun, along with contributors Poe Ballantine, Krista Bremer, and Cheryl Strayed.

Readings from The Sun—featuring Sy Safransky, founder and editor of The Sun, along with contributors Poe Ballantine, Krista Bremer, and Cheryl Strayed.

Poe Ballantine reads “The Irving” from his essay collection, 501 Minutes to Christ. This story...Forward

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Praise for Things I Like About America

Ballantine never shrinks from taking us along for the drunken, drug-infested ride he braves in most of his travels. The payoff – and there is one – lies in his self-deprecating humor and acerbic social commentary, which he leaves us with before heading further up the dark highway.

The Indy Bookshelf

In Ballantine’s world, the trip between a joyful guffaw and overwhelming hopelessness takes the blink of a well-turned sentence. It doesn’t seem to matter what our particular take on life is; the stories teem with such substantial realism and human interest that we have no choice but to disregard our individual dispositions and get on the bus for the next disappointing town, the next rainy bus stop … The stories are well worth the price of admission.

The Absinthe Literary Review

Part social commentary, part collective biography, this guided tour may not be comfortable, but one thing’s for sure: You will be at home.

Willamette Week

Meet the new guide on the lonesome highway. Poe Ballantine’s wry voice, clear eye, hilarious accounts and lyrical language bring us up short by reminding us that America has always been about flight, and for most of its citizens it has been about defeat. His wanderings, drifters, bad motels, cheap wine, dead-end jobs and drugs take us home, the home Betty Crocker never lived in. We’re on the road again, but this time we know better than to hope for a rumbling V-8 and any answers blowing in the wind. The bus has been a long time coming, but thank God it has arrived with Mr. Ballantine aboard. Sit down, give him a listen and make your own list of Things I Like About America.

Charles Bowden
Author of Blues for Cannibals and Blood Orchid

Poe Ballantine reminds us that in a country full of identical strip malls and chain restaurants, there’s still room for adventure. He finds the humor in situations most would find unbearable and flourishes like a modern-day Kerouac. With his funny, honest prose, Ballantine explores the important questions about being an American: Do I have enough money to buy this bucket of KFC? Can I abide another sixteen-hour Greyhound bus trip? Did my crazy roommate steal my beer again? It’s a book to cherish and pass on to friends.

Mark Jude Poirier
Author of Unsung Heroes of American Industry and Goats

Poe Ballantine makes sense of American alienation: the impulse to roam endlessly looking for the thing we know doesn’t exist and that place where we belong that could be anywhere. He makes writing really well seem effortless, even as he’s telling us how painful writing is. He knows that life is the most funny when it shouldn’t be, and that the heart breaks the most during small moments. These stories are shining gems. He kills me, this guy.

Mimi Pond
Author of Splitting Hairs: The Bald Truth About Bad Hair Days

In his search for the real America, Poe Ballantine reminds me of the legendary musk deer, who wanders from valley to valley and hilltop to hilltop searching for the source of the intoxicating musk fragrance that actually comes from him. Along the way, he writes some of the best prose I’ve ever read.

Sy Safransky
Editor, The Sun