Monday, March 3, 2014

Amy Greene at Crosstown Arts

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Between Whitesburg and Bulls Gap, there’s a 48-acre farm in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. The farm once belonged to Amy Greene’s grandfather, and it’s where Greene grew up — a few miles from Cherokee Lake and its silos, which you can see, at low water, rising up out of it.

That lake is man-made — the results of a dam built by the TVA — and that dam brought electricity and jobs to the area. It also saved lives, because the dam helped to control the flooding that endangered farms and farm families — farms such as the fictional one Annie Clyde Dodson still lives on in the summer of ’36. A social worker hired by the power company has been trying to reason with Annie Clyde to relocate, as her neighbors have done. But Annie Clyde will have none of it. She means to stand her ground near the Long Man River. And once her daughter goes missing, she means to find her.

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That’s the tale — rich in local color, custom, and characterization — told in Amy Greene’s fine new novel, Long Man (Knopf). It’s a tale she’ll be reading from and discussing when Greene is in Memphis on Tuesday, March 4th. But her local visit should be unlike the tour that accompanied Greene’s critically acclaimed debut novel a couple years ago. Back then, the author was willing to admit to Derrick Hill, who interviewed her for the Tennessee Literary Project: “I was terrified before I went on the book tour. Why does this have to be part of the experience? Why can’t I just write and live in a hole and just be in my cave all the time?”

Well, not exactly a cave. Greene was referring to her home in Russellville, Tennessee, and for this daughter of the foothills, it’s been a remarkable career so far.

She grew up in a storytelling household, then started writing her own stories. After marrying and having children of her own, she turned, age 27, to the low-residency undergraduate program at Vermont College. A writing conference at Duke convinced Greene to start work on the manuscript for a novel, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference introduced her to writer Jill McCorkle, who introduced Greene’s manuscript to McCorkle’s agent. But when that agent, impressed with Greene’s work, called to accept Greene as a client, the author wasn’t in Russellville. She was celebrating her birthday according to tradition: a trip to Dollywood. Greene signed a contract with Knopf a couple months later. The debut book was Bloodroot (2010).

And what of touring now? As Greene also told Derrick Hill: “You always think about what the writer is giving the reader, but since Bloodroot was published and I started talking to readers, I think also about what the reader gives the writer when you have those conversations. … It’s just great to see what they are getting out of it.”

Memphis readers have the chance to give back to Greene when she stops by Crosstown Arts on March 2nd, from 6 to 8 p.m. For more on the event, go to crosstownarts.org. And for more on the writer, visit amygreeneauthor.com. •

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