“The Lisa Howorth event was grand. Good crowd, good reading. She won me over,” said Corey Mesler, co-owner (with his wife, Cheryl) of Burke’s Book Store. Mesler was referring to Howorth’s appearance at Burke’s on July 10th to read from and sign her debut novel, Flying Shoes (Bloomsbury).
Just so happens, Howorth herself is the book-store co-founder (with her husband, Richard) of Square Books in Oxford, and that's where Howorth began her publicity tour in mid-June. Her Memphis visit came at the tail end of a month-long tour, which took Howorth across the South, to Washington, D.C. (where she grew up), to Seattle, and to San Francisco before returning to Mississippi, where, in Tupelo, she recently had yet another signing. But for someone who’s watched more than her share of authors on tour, Howorth’s own has been something of an eye-opener.
Buck is back. That’s Baruch “Buck” Schatz, 88 years old and retired from the Memphis Police Department, but he’s still got a way with words and he’s not afraid to use them. As in this exchange between Buck and a young detective on the force (the subject, crime in general; the asterisks not in the original):
“That’s how you and I are different,” Buck says. “You look at crime as a computer program. As a collection of statistics. It’s easy to take a compassionate view of criminals when you treat them as a group of the disenfranchised and the downtrodden. You have to sympathize with them in the aggregate, because on an individual basis, these mother****ers are goddamn intolerable. And statistics turn the suffering of the victims into an abstraction. Crime, to me, was always personal; a thing people do to each other.”
For nearly a century and a half, the Lotos Club, located today in an impressive townhouse on New York City’s Upper East Side, has counted major writers, journalists, and critics as members. Lifelong member Mark Twain once called it the “ace of clubs.” And that’s where, last week, the club hosted a reception honoring two former Memphians: writers Anna Olswanger and Vince Vawter.
“There was this guy in the English department at Ole Miss. He asked me to stay after class one day.
“I said: ‘Did I do something wrong?’
“He said: ‘No, Mr. Iles. I just want to make sure you know something.’
“I said: ‘What’s that?’
“He said: ‘I want to make sure you know you can write.’
“I said: ‘Well, um, yeah, thanks.’”
The next installment of the “Impossible Language” series is the evening of Saturday, April 26th, and for those not in the know, it’s a series of poets reading from their work with visual artists often showing their work. It is also part of the wide range of artistic activities, including events spearheaded by Crosstown Arts, that have sprung up on North Cleveland in and around the Sears Crosstown building.
Ashley Roach-Freiman is playing her part. A poet in the MFA program at the University of Memphis and poetry editor for the program’s literary journal, The Pinch, Roach-Freiman heads “Impossible Language.”
What is all of this about? Let Roach-Freiman explain, as she did recently in another series — a series of emails:
“It’s cool,” Eric Jerome Dickey said by phone, and he wasn’t referring to the fact that that morning on Barbados, where Dickey lives, he had the windows open and fan going. The native Memphian and best-selling author was referring to life on the island generally. But life on Barbados is different. As Dickey reported: “For one thing, in the States, you get so used to stuff. You have access to it … Walmart, Target … an overabundance of everything. Here, I walk into a store, and there may be only four pairs of pants my size! No Nike stores, no outlet malls, no Adidas stores.”
So, no. No “spend cycle” — as Dickey described it — on Barbados like the one you find in the U.S. But here’s Dickey on a few more matters, put to him before his Memphis signing at The Booksellers at Laurelwood on Friday, April 18th, at 6 p.m. He’ll be autographing his latest novel, A Wanted Woman (Dutton).
With four collections of poetry, a Rome Prize in 2003, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005, and a Bogliasco Fellowship in 2012, what else is there to add to Sarah Arvio’s impressive resume?
A lot and including: publication in The Best American Poetry 1998, Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English, Ariadne’s Thread: A Collection of Contemporary Women’s Journals, and, forthcoming and perhaps on a lighter note, Eating Our Words: Poets Share Their Favorite Recipes.
To go with this week’s Flyer coverage of The Concrete Killing Fields, Pat Morgan’s first-person account of her work with the homeless in Memphis, I asked the author about an important point she makes throughout the book: inadequate mental-health services for the homeless in the wake of decades of deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.
Go to Mother Jones for a useful timeline of events that saw the emptying of public psychiatric hospitals in favor of community-based, state-funded outreach programs. The timeline is subtitled "How deinstitutionalization moved thousands of mentally ill people out of hospitals — and into jails and prisons," and pay particular attention to the year 1984.
That timeline ends in 2010, and rephrase the subtitle to read: "into jails and prisons or onto the streets." Which is why I asked Morgan to bring us up to date on mental-health services for the homeless generally and what’s being done — and needs still to be done — for the homeless in Memphis and Shelby County:
Memphis isn’t Chicago. Nor is it an urban magnet on the order of Atlanta.
But Memphis, according to Zandria F. Robinson, is a “key space" and "grounding site" to examine race, class, and regional identity in the post-soul South. She does so in her new book, This Ain’t Chicago (The University of North Carolina Press).
And regardless of the route, Dear will be at First Congregational Church in Memphis on April 8th to discuss his latest book, The Nonviolent Life (Pace e Bene Press). That's just days after the city observed the 46th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrated the reopening of the renovated National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis.
“Bro, let me tell you, there was something seriously wrong with us.”
Yes, there was.
Tommy Lee, the man behind the above quote, was describing the time he and band mate Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue were on tour in 1987. One night, they’d run out of heroin, but they did have on hand some needles, so they reached for the bottle. The two tied off and took their Jack Daniel’s straight — into their veins.
Two words from best-selling author and native Memphian Hampton Sides: Tell stories.
That’s the message Sides will be delivering inside the University Center Theater at the University of Memphis on Thursday, April 3rd, at 6 p.m. As guest speaker in the school’s Marcus W. Orr Center for the Humanities lecture series, Sides is certainly one to tell great stories — and reach readers. His Ghost Soldiers has been translated into a dozen languages. He followed that with a life and times of Kit Carson, Blood and Thunder. He followed that with a riveting account of the life of (and manhunt for) James Earl Ray, Hellhound on His Trail. This summer, look for Sides' latest nonfiction narrative: In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette.
The phone call in late February was to a house near Woodstock, New York, a town in the frigid Catskills. The voice on the other end of the line belonged to Holly George-Warren, here to talk about her latest book, but she was remembering her friend Melinda Pendleton, who had passed away in New Orleans the week before.
The official publication date of George-Warren’s A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton, From Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man (Viking) was still weeks away. But the author had just learned that the book was already into its second printing — a book that George-Warren will be discussing and signing in Memphis at Crosstown Arts (438 and 430 N. Cleveland) on April 2nd.
The tattoo on the shoulder of Megan Fox quotes from it. The classes headed by Kenneth Adelman are inspired by it. And ad men everywhere continue to play off it — “it” being the work of playwright William Shakespeare.
No matter that Fox’s tattoo doesn’t quote quite correctly (or borrow meaningfully) from King Lear, that it’s odd to think of Hamlet as a lesson in crisis management (though Adelman thinks otherwise), and that “2B or not 2B” isn’t exactly existential. (It’s actually the clever tag line to an airline ad: Reserve your seat electronically!)
What does matter, in this day and age: You want an all-purpose cultural upgrade? Shakespeare, after nearly 400 years, is still your go-to guy — or guys. And Kenneth Adelman knows it. His teaching company is called Movers & Shakespeares. “Shakespeares” is right.