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on 20 March 1999
Thought-provoking collection of 24 essays on the wackier side of American life, most of which are real eye-openers. Some are amusing ('California Dog Days'), some genuinely scary/sinister ('The Other Oklahoma', 'Calling Julia B'), some painful ('Not Meant for Walking' - ouch!) and some genuinely touching (how could anyone not be moved by the Angola Prison Rodeo?).
This'll probably be compared to Bill Bryson's 'The Lost Continent'. The main difference is that, as a reporter, Jeffreys actively seeks out the unusual (at some risk to himself, it seems), while Bryson responds to his native country through the eyes of an ex-pat. There is more warmth in Bryson, more detachment in Jeffreys, and if it's a laugh you're after, Bryson wins hands down. He manages to get more laffs in one page than Jeffreys does in his whole book. (On p.268 of ABP, Jeffreys even comes up with a typical Brysonism: "Actually I made that last one up." Nuff said.)
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on 3 June 2001
Well written and scary essays about America's underbelly. However the quality is not maintained throughout the book and the last few essays are based on not very exciting subjects
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on 21 November 1998
A fanatastic romp through the dark side of America. For any one who has been to the US or who is planning a trip this is a must read. The author takes us on a whilrwind tour of America's dark places, like the bar in Alabama where prison guards relax at night wrestling with bears. Unlike most travel writers Jeffreys engages with the people he meets in a profound way. Esquire called the book `riveting', The Face said it was `disturbing' in fact it is both. All the chapters are linked by a narrator, a Native American who forsees America's doom. The chapter on this man, Charlie Horse, is unforgettable, a great thriller of a story it left me chilled. A wonderful stocking stuffer or book for a transatlantic plane ride. Move over Bill Bryson, the competition has arrived and it's much funnier.
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on 4 April 1999
This is a winner. I have read all Bill Bryson's books as a Brit living in the US. They have lots of belly laughs but ABP is has a much more sly humour which often had tears running down my face. Jeffreys description of a flight sandwiched between two American bible bashers was priceless. There is also a serious side which I enjoyed and admired. Jeffreys has a rare ability to get close to bizarre or threatening subjects and make them reveal both their humanity and evil side. For anyone planning a trip here or hwo just wants a reminder of what makes America really tick this is the book to read. As Uncut magazine put it recently, when giving ABP five stars, "Jeffreys makes Hunter s.Thompson look like a self-mythologising wuss." As a big Thompson fan I had to agree. This is what makes Back Porch such a great read its is a mix of Kerouac, Thompson and Bryson but with bags of its own unique voice.
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on 31 January 1999
I read this book because of the Guardian review which said Americas's Back Porch was "an exquisite morsel of post-modern Americana". But it is even better than that. I read it laughing very hard when I wasn't fascinated by the many insights. There is a Native American theme woven into the delightful accounts of American wackiness, which made me far more aware of the persecution the original Americans suffered. That is when it wasn't making me crack my ribs with mirth. Like the Guardian in their review I loved most of all the chapter about a short airplane ride taken in the obese company of two neo-fascists from America's corporate underworld.
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on 8 December 1998
A perfect stocking stuffer and a wonderful antedote to the soft centre humor of Bill Bryson. This author offers a marvellous journey through the strangest parts of America to many places I would be too scared to visit. The effect is dazzling and I had great fun whilst learning a lot. The book is also noteworthy because it does not neglect the American Indian. Jeffreys uses a navajo tour giude to constantly remind viewers that much of what underlies America's darker troubles is the genocide against Native Americans. There is nothing heavy handed about this - he just uses humour and irony to wonderful effect.
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on 4 January 2009
Based on other reviews I bought this to read on a recent flight over to the US. I didn't find anything funny or even midly amusing, nor anything entertaining, and gave up part way through.

Yes I could recognise some of the caricatures portrayed here from 20 years of travelling around America, but I feel that it exagerates anything bad at the expense of having anything good to say. I don't feel that it gives any sort of balanced view of the Americans that I have got to know over the years and for whom I have a lot of affection.

Disappointed at having wasted my money, my copy has gone for recycling. At least I'll put it to good use that way.
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