Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What are y'all reading?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Overton Park -  - The Witch of Painted Sorrows (Atria Books) by M.J. Rose -  - Laurie Amento: "It’s a historical fiction book that takes place in the Belle Époque period in Paris, a woman has fled New York and a treacherous husband. It looks like there’s going to be some sorcery, witchery, and some art. I like it so far, it’s very intriguing."
  • Overton Park

    The Witch of Painted Sorrows (Atria Books) by M.J. Rose

    Laurie Amento: "It’s a historical fiction book that takes place in the Belle Époque period in Paris, a woman has fled New York and a treacherous husband. It looks like there’s going to be some sorcery, witchery, and some art. I like it so far, it’s very intriguing."

Memphis Reads Erik Larson

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 2:36 PM

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CBU and the Booksellers at Laurelwood present a Memphis Reads event featuring author Erik Larson and his latest book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, on Friday, April 15th, at CBU in the University Theater at 7:00 p.m.

Dead Wake is the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania. On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its 10th month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic Greyhounds, the fastest liner then in service and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don't, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

Larson is the author of five New York Times bestsellers. Dead Wake hit Number 1 on the Times list soon after launch.

Tickets can be purchased at the Booksellers at Laurelwood, or online at this link. All college students are admitted free with a student ID.

Erik Larson
CBU — University Theater
Friday, April 15
7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Author of KLANDESTINE to speak at the National Civil Rights Museum

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 11:27 AM

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Journalist Pate McMichael, author of KLANDESTINE: How a Klan Lawyer and a Checkbook Journalist Helped James Earl Ray Cover Up His Crime (Chicago Review Press) will discuss his book as part of the National Civil Rights Museum’s Book & Author Series. This event is free and open to the public.

On April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by a single bullet fired from an elevated and concealed position. Almost half a century later, unanswered questions surround the circumstances of his demise, and many still wonder whether justice was served.

After all, only one man, an escaped convict from Missouri named James Earl Ray, was punished for the crime. On the surface, Ray did not fit the caricature of a hangdog racist thirsty for blood. Media coverage has often portrayed him as hapless and apolitical, someone who must have been paid by clandestine forces. It’s a narrative that Ray himself put in motion upon his June 1968 arrest in London, then continued from jail until his death in 1998. In 1999, Dr. King’s own family declared Ray an innocent man.

After his arrest, Ray forged a publishing partnership with two very strange bedfellows: a slick Klan lawyer named Arthur J. Hanes, the de facto “Klonsel” for the United Klans of America; and checkbook journalist William Bradford Huie, the darling of Look magazine and a longtime menace of the KKK. Despite polar opposite views on race, Hanes and Huie found common cause in the world of conspiracy. Together, they thought they could make Memphis the new Dallas.

Relying on novel primary source discoveries gathered over an eight-year period, including a trove of newly released documents and dusty files, KLANDESTINE takes readers deep inside Ray’s Memphis jail cell and Alabama’s violent Klaverns. Told through Hanes and Huie’s key perspectives, it shows how a legacy of unpunished racial killings provided the perfect exigency to sell a lucrative conspiracy to a suspicious and outraged nation. 

McMichael is an award-winning journalist. His stories have been published in Atlanta magazine, Saint Louis magazine, Zócalo Public Square, and elsewhere.  

Pate McMichael
Thursday, March 31st
6 - 8 p.m.
National Civil Rights Museum (Hooks Hyde Hall)
450 Mulberry Street

Friday, March 25, 2016

Bill Haltom book signing postponed

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 10:45 AM

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Due to a death in the family, Bill Haltom has had to cancel the book signing scheduled for Saturday, March 26h, at Burke's Book Store.

A later date will be named in the near future and we will keep you up to date.

Milk & Sugar: The Complete Story of Seersucker (Nautilus Publishing)  traces the origin of the seersucker suit from its humble beginnings to its rise as a darling of both men’s and women’s haute couture. It examines its role in Southern culture from courtrooms and law offices, churches and synagogues, fraternity row and sorority rush, tasteful garden gatherings to raucous fundraisers. Along the way, Haltom also outlines the regional “rules” of wearing and accessorizing seersucker and its embrace by fashionistas and celebrities from New York City to Hollywood.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bill Haltom and the story of seersucker coming to Burke's Books

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 1:38 PM

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Milk & Sugar: The Complete Story of Seersucker (Nautilus Publishing) by Bill Haltom, an award-winning author, columnist and attorney, is set for release on Saturday, March 26th. Haltom will be at Burke’s Book Store that day from 2 – 4 p.m. for a book signing.

 

Milk & Sugar traces the origin of the seersucker suit from its humble beginnings to its rise as a darling of both men’s and women’s haute couture. It examines its role in Southern culture from courtrooms and law offices, churches and synagogues, fraternity row and sorority rush, tasteful garden gatherings to raucous fundraisers. Along the way, Haltom also outlines the regional “rules” of wearing and accessorizing seersucker and its embrace by fashionistas and celebrities from New York City to Hollywood.

 

The book is being published with the blessing of Laurie Haspel Aronson, CEO of Hansel of New Orleans and great-granddaughter of the originator of the seersucker suit.

 

For over 25 years, Haltom has been a newspaper and magazine humorist as well as author of five previous books. He has chaired editorial boards for four magazines, including the ABA Journal, the flagship publication of the American Bar Association. He practices law in Memphis and is a frequent speaker at conventions, banquets and leadership seminars.

 

“I had to figure out a way to combine two loves — writing and my seersucker suits — so I was compelled to do a book,” Haltom says. “I have long been fascinated with how seersucker seems to bring a sort of civility to any gathering, while also being a sort of wink towards playful, yet high, fashion.”

 

Bill Haltom

Saturday, March 26th

2 - 4 p.m.

Burke’s Book Store

936 South Cooper Street


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Monday, March 21, 2016

Chris Offutt, the pornographer's son, to read at story booth

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 1:39 PM

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When Andrew Offutt died, his son, Chris, inherited a desk, a rifle, and 1,800 pounds of pornographic fiction. Andrew had been considered the king of twentieth-century smut, with a writing career that began as a strategy to pay for his son’s orthodontic needs and soon took on a life of its own, peaking during the 1970s when the commercial popularity of the erotic novel reached its height. With his dutiful wife serving as typist, Andrew wrote from their home in the Kentucky hills, locked away in an office no one dared intrude upon. In this fashion, he wrote more than 400 novels, including pirate porn, ghost porn, zombie porn, and secret agent porn. The more he wrote, the more intense his ambition became and the more difficult it was for his children to be part of his world.

 

Over the long summer of 2013, Chris returned to his hometown to help his widowed mother move out of his childhood home. As he began to examine his father’s manuscripts and memorabilia, journals, and letters, he realized he finally had an opportunity to gain insight into the difficult, mercurial, sometimes cruel man he’d loved and feared in equal measure. Only in his father’s absence could he truly make sense of the man and his legacy.

 

In My Father, the Pornographer, Offutt takes us on the journey with him, reading his father’s prodigious literary output as both a critic and as a son seeking answers. This is a book about the life of a working writer who supports his family solely by the output of his typewriter; it’s about the awful psychic burdens one generation unthinkingly passes along to the next; and it’s about growing up in the Appalachian hills with a pack of fearless boys riding bicycles through the woods, happy and free.

 

“A literary detective story interwoven with memories of a youth riddled with sexual confusion and inarticulate yearning. . . . There is a touching universality to his tale and its mix of longing and despair . . . . In the end, the value of this haunting account lies in Offutt’s refusal to find a pat moral in his journey.” — The Washington Post

 

Chris Offutt is an award-winning author and screenwriter. He worked on the HBO drama True Blood and the Showtime series Weeds. His books include Kentucky StraightThe Same River TwiceThe Good BrotherOut of the Woods, and No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home. His work has appeared in The Best American EssaysThe Best American Short Stories, and many other anthologies. He lives near Oxford, Mississippi.

 

Chris Offutt

Thursday, March 24th

6 p.m.

story booth @ Crosstown Arts

438 N. Cleveland


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dog behaviorist Bryan Bailey to speak at Booksellers

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 1:19 PM

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Dog trainer and Memphian Bryan Bailey's new book, Embracing the Wild in Your Dog, is about developing a deep understanding of the authors of your dog's behavior-nature and the wolf. By doing so, you will learn the whys and hows of its behavior and how activating and deactivating the natural, wolf-like impulses and mechanisms in your dog will lead to the harmonious existence and the control you always dreamed of. Most of all, you will come to embrace the wild in your dog and the grace and the peace that is breathed into its acceptance.

​"[T]his book represents much more than a simple training guide. There is an undeniable power and beauty to the author's musings as he weaves into the text vital lessons learned from his mentor during intense survival training in the Alaskan wilderness. A firm response to currently accepted dog-training methods."  — Kirkus Reviews

Raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, Bailey grew to appreciate the wildness of the land and its abundant wildlife. In particular, he developed a fondness for the gray wolves that roamed the vast mountain ranges and forests near his home. Under the guidance of a Special Forces Survival Instructor, he spent years studying the social interactions of wolves in their packs and discovered that, beyond obvious physical similarities, there were also behavioral similarities between the wolves and the sled dogs that were his family’s pets. Bryan has traveled to over thirty countries in Europe, Africa, the jungles of southeast Asia and the remote regions above the arctic circle in his pursuit of learning the behaviors of hyenas, lions, tigers and the gray wolf, with an emphasis on how instinct, passed from the gray wolf, has affected the behavior of our domestic dogs.

Bailey and wife Kira own ProTrain Memphis and Taming the Wild in Memphis. From their website: "A nationally-recognized, award-winning author and behaviorist, Bryan has studied wolf and other predatory behaviors worldwide. He has been featured on CNN, 'Fox & Friends,' SiriusXM radio, 'Talk of Alabama,' WREG TV-3, and in many publications, including Dog World, At Home Mid-South Tennessee, Bloom Magazine, HOSS magazine, SheKnows, The Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald. Veterinarians, dog owners and celebrities such as John Mellencamp, James Fitzpatrick, the late Junior Seau, Julio Jones and many others have eagerly sought out his services." 

Bryan Bailey
The Booksellers at Laurelwood
Saturday, March 19th
2:00 p.m.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Author Stephen V. Ash to speak at Rhodes

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 12:27 PM

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In May 1866, a year after the Civil War ended, the city of Memphis erupted in a three-day spasm of racial violence aimed at the recently-freed African Americans who lived there. More than 40 black men and women were murdered, many more injured, and all of the city’s black schools and churches and many homes destroyed by fire. It was the first large-scale racial massacre to erupt in the post-Civil War South, impacting subsequent federal policies and constitutional law.

On March 17th at 6 p.m., in the McCallum Ballroom, Bryan Campus Life Center at Rhodes College (reception at 5:30 p.m.), Dr. Stephen V. Ash will speak about his book A Massacre in Memphis. Ash is a professor
emeritus of history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and has published many books relating to the dynamic, racial interplay in the Civil War and post-Civil War South. He takes special interest in Tennessee
history.


His lecture at Rhodes, which is part of the college’s “Communities in Conversation” lecture series, will examine the origins of the Memphis riot, describe its horrific violence, assess its significance in American history, and especially its importance to Memphis as a city. This event is free and open to the public and will be
followed by a book signing.


Ash’s book gives a portrait of Memphis as a southern city in the immediate aftermath of the civil war. It was a
time when racial tensions were high and there was talk of the Emancipation Proclamation as an abomination
by “Rebel Memphis” and their Irish supporters. Most whites resented the influx of blacks into the city and
especially the presence of black federal troops and Yankees who had come to assist the recently freed
slaves. By spring of 1866, tensions were high and riots and racially incited murder ensued. Congress
eventually blamed them on “the intense hatred of the freed people by the city’s whites, especially the Irish — a hatred stoked by the Rebel newspapers.”

“Meticulous . . . Ash offers remarkable portraits of ordinary Memphians . . . caught up in the tumult of their
time . . . riveting.”— Kirkus (starred review)


“This detailed account of the lengthy riot and its reverberations surges at the reader . . . For those who want
to understand the roots of America's racial issues, Ash's captivating and thoughtful book offers explanations
and raises many new questions.” — Publishers Weekly

The Memphis Massacre is one of the best-documented episodes of American history in the nineteenth
century. And yet it remains little known today, even by Memphians. This event is part of a semester-long
effort to commemorate the Memphis Massacre, headed up by University of Memphis historians Beverly Bond
and Susan O’Donovan. They are working with a slew of community partners, including the National Park
Service and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, and Humanities Tennessee. The goal of this
communal series of events is to shatter the silence about the Memphis Massacre and to mark this moment
as a turning point in Memphis, Southern, and American history. Ash’s lecture will be an important occasion in
this set of events.


Ash was awarded the UT Alexander Prize for Distinguished Research and Teaching in 2005, and the UT
Chancellor’s Award for Research and Creative Achievement in 2004. Rhodes College is excited to have him
deepen our understanding of the history of our city.


Find Communities in Conversation on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.


Dr. Stephen V. Ash
Thursday, March 17, 2016
6 p.m. (reception at 5:30 p.m.)
McCallum Ballroom (Bryan Campus Life Center)
Rhodes College





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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bob Mehr to sign Trouble Boys at Booksellers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2016 at 4:04 AM

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Trouble Boys is the first definitive, no-holds-barred biography of one of the last great bands of the twentieth century: The Replacements. With full participation from reclusive singer and chief songwriter Paul Westerberg, bassist Tommy Stinson, guitarist Slim Dunlap, and the family of late band co-founder Bob Stinson, author Bob Mehr is able to tell the real story of this highly influential group, capturing their chaotic, tragic journey from the basements of Minneapolis to rock legend. Drawing on years of research and access to the band's archives at Twin/Tone Records and Warner Bros., Mehr also discovers previously unrevealed details from those in the group's inner circle, including family, managers, and musical friends and  collaborators.

“Bob Mehr’s raucous, ribald, and oft-times harrowing book takes us behind the scenes, to the bottom of the bottle, all the way to the end of the road, and then further still—revealing the story of the Replacements, a band that gave away its soul on every record and refused to sell its soul to a corporate world.” —Robert Gordon, author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion

Tuesday, March 1st
6:30 p.m.
The Booksellers at Laurelwood
387 Perkins Road Extended

Monday, February 29, 2016

Greg Sestero, author/actor, to appear at the Mid-South Book Festival

Posted By on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 at 2:30 PM

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As everyone with any current culture awareness knows, Room is the Best Picture-nominated, and Best Actress-winning (Brie Larson) movie of this week's Academy Awards ceremony. 

This blog post is not in any way about that movie, but it is why I was confused when Kevin Dean, executive director of Literacy Mid-South, contacted me today to tell me that someone connected with the film had been booked for this September's Mid-South Book Festival.

I am clearly on the low end of pop-culture consciousness because The Room, as it turns out (with its all-important article), is the cult classic starring Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero. Dean implored me to stop whatever it was I was doing (poking around Facebook) and get a copy, as though this journalistic locomotive might be so quickly halted. "It's epic," he reiterated. 

The Room has been called "the best worst movie ever made" and "the Citizen Kane of bad movies." And people love it. In fact, it sells out showings all over the place and fans have watch parties in their homes. 

The book The Disaster Artist is a bestselling look behind the scenes of the making of the movie that cost $6 million to produce and earned a total of $1,800 at the box office. From Goodreads: "Readers need not have seen The Room to appreciate its costar Greg Sestero’s account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and interpersonal relationships to achieve the dream only he could love. While it does unravel mysteries for fans, The Disaster Artist is more than just an hilarious story about cinematic hubris: It is ultimately a surprisingly inspiring tour de force that reads like a page-turning novel, an open-hearted portrait of a supremely enigmatic man who will capture your heart."

"We are excited to add Greg Sestero to the Mid-South Book Festival," Dean told me. "Cult film enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that his presentation at the festival will be free and open to the public, and we are working with Indie Memphis to have a screening of the film before the festival. Even more exciting is that the movie version of The Disaster Artist will open in theaters one month after our festival." That film version is directed by and stars James Franco.

The announcement of Sestero comes on the heels of the news that Lauren Groff, author of the bestselling Fates and Furies, will also be a part of the fall festival. In only its second year, 2015's event saw 80 authors and 5,000 attendees. And that's way more than attended the first run showing of The Room when it was released in 2003. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Author Ed Tarkington to visit story booth at Crosstown Arts

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 1:25 PM

Ed Tarkington will visit story booth at Crosstown Arts this Thursday for a discussion of his debut novel, Only Love Can Break Your Heart.

Welcome to Spencerville, Virginia, 1977. Eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. Sixteen and full of rebel cool, Paul spends his days cruising in his Chevy Nova blasting Neil Young, cigarette
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 dangling from his lips, arm slung around his beautiful, troubled girlfriend. Paul is happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick. Then one day, in an act of vengeance against their father, Paul picks up Rocky from school and nearly abandons him in the woods. Afterward, Paul disappears.

Seven years later, Rocky is a teenager himself. He hasn’t forgotten being abandoned by his boyhood hero, but he’s getting over it, with the help of the wealthy neighbors’ daughter, ten years his senior, who has taken him as her lover. Unbeknownst to both of them, their affair will set in motion a course of events that rains catastrophe on both their families. After a mysterious double murder brings terror and suspicion to their small town, Rocky and his family must reckon with the past and find out how much forgiveness their hearts can hold.

Praise for Only Love Can Break Your Heart:

“A lush mystery-within-a-coming-of-age-tale-within-a-Southern-Gothic. If a book could have an Instagram filter, Tarkington’s would be set on something called ‘Nostalgic’ . . . interesting, readable and beautifully written.”—NPR Books

“Tarkington’s writing is talky, devoid of flash, and calls to mind a young Pat Conroy . . . propulsion is its primary attribute. Not mere plot propulsion—though there’s plenty of that, especially after the corpses turn up—but emotional propulsion: Tarkington’s fidelity to period and place is matched by his fidelity to human contradictions, to the gray area between heroism and villainy in which most of us reside. The gothic elements add spice, but the protein in this assured debut—the part that sticks to your ribs—is the beautiful but ever-threatened connection between Rocky and Paul. Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a novel about brotherhood, most of all, about the delicate fortress of that bond.” — Garden & Gun

“Well-written and observed  . . . Tarkington carefully lays out his elaborate storyline and sensitively depicts his troubled characters.” — Kirkus Reviews

Ed Tarkington
story booth
438 N. Cleveland Street
Thursday, February 11th
6 - 8 p.m.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Author Lauren Groff booked for this fall's Mid-South Book Festival

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 4:06 PM

The great thing about reading is that you never know just what you'll find with the turn of the next page. Well, I just turned the next page only to learn that Lauren Groff, acclaimed author of Fates and Furies and Arcadia, will be the presenting speaker at this year's Mid-South Book Festival presented by Literacy Mid-South, the organization whose mission it is to stamp out illiteracy in our area.
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"Literacy Mid-South is thrilled to welcome Lauren Groff to the 2016 Mid-South Book Festival," said Kevin Dean, executive director of the organization. "Ms. Groff's latest book, Fates and Furies, was one of the most highly recommended books last year, and it was even President Obama's choice for the best book of 2015. Lauren Groff is an engaging, personable speaker and will be an inspiration to up-and-coming writers and book lovers. We are so thankful to our sponsors who are ensuring that Ms. Groff's presentation is free and open to the public."

Indeed, it isn't just Obama who loves a good book. Fates and Furies was Amazon's number one book of 2015, and the New York Times said, “Lauren Groff is a writer of rare gifts, and Fates and Furies is an unabashedly ambitious novel that delivers — with comedy, tragedy, well-deployed erudition and unmistakable glimmers of brilliance throughout.”

Courtney Miller Santo, Memphis author of The Roots of the Olive Tree and Three Story House, began her review in the Winter Reading issue of The Memphis Flyer: "Deep into Lauren Groff's compelling third novel, where marriage is as much of a character as either spouse, the wife realizes 'that there is no such thing as sure. There is no absolute anything.' This knowledge is what makes Fates and Furies such a gripping story . . ."

Last year's festival saw 80 authors and 5,000 attendees, and this year's is shaping up to be even bigger and better. Groff will be appearing on September 10th. Stay tuned here and in The Memphis Flyer for more updates and announcement as the event grows nearer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Author Stewart O'Nan at story booth in Crosstown Arts

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 at 2:19 PM

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Tonight at 6 p.m., I'll be talking with Stewart O'Nan, author of 15 novels including the highly acclaimed West of Sunset

The New Yorker said of this writer: “O’Nan’s adroitness with atmosphere and period detail makes Fitzgerald’s dreams of creating worthy work, even with his best days behind him, absorbing and poignant.”

And George Saunders says, “O’Nan is an incredibly versatile and charming writer. This novel, which imagines F. Scott Fitzgerald’s troubled time in Hollywood (with cameos by Dorothy Parker, Bogie, and  Hemingway), takes up (like much of O’Nan’s work) that essential conundrum of grace struggling with paucity. One brilliant American writer meditating on another–what’s not to love?”

Read about West of Sunset in The Flyer.

Stewart O'Nan
story booth @ Crosstown Arts
438 N. Cleveland Street
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.


Monday, December 21, 2015

What I've been reading: The 6:41 to Paris

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 3:27 PM

The first time I rode a train was from Chicago to Memphis. I’d made a car trip north with my aunt who had been visiting here and we gave little thought to how I might get back home. It turns out the train was the most convenient and inexpensive way to travel. So on the appointed day we made the drive from the suburb where she lived into the city and sprawling, spectacular Union Station; we said goodbye and I boarded the train alone. I was 13 years old.

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It was an important milestone in my life and one that most kids won’t get to enjoy, not these days, anyway. It was also the beginning of my love affair with train travel. I haven’t done as much of it as I would’ve liked to over the years, but I have traveled back and forth from Memphis to Chicago a number of times, as well as round trips from Memphis to New Orleans. My wife and I took the City of New Orleans for our honeymoon, and years later I took my then-3-year-old son to Chicago.

Travel and literature tend to be intertwined. There is little in plot structure more enduring or captivating than a book that takes the reader on the road. In The 6:41 to Paris (New Vessel Press) by Jean-Philippe Blondel (translated to the English by Alison Anderson), the two main characters travel from Troyes, France, to Paris on an early morning train. While the car is full of strangers pushed together for the two-hour ride, some doing work, most trying desperately to mind their own business and be left alone, Cécile Duffaut and Philippe Leduc find themselves seated side by side.

These two know each other. Their history goes back more than 20 years when they had a four-month love affair that ended badly. It ended very badly and, though they don’t speak, we are clued into the whole story through Cécile’s memories and then, in turn, Philippe’s memory of the same time period. “She doesn’t remember me,” Philippe thinks to himself. “So much the better, in the end. I have to keep one thing in mind: most people have a ‘delete’ key which they will press at a given time, when their brain is about to overflow after all the misunderstandings and betrayals, all the hurt and disgrace . . .”

At times, it seems, this train is powered on depression. Cécile and Philippe have both changed, of course, and though the characters have moved on from their failed relationship, neither is particularly happy with where their lives have led them.

The Philippe of memory was a shallow man, at best, who describes the Cécile of his memory as “nothing to look at, with her ordinary face, slightly curly shoulder length hair, and clothes that came straight from a discount superstore.” And yet he has become nothing much to look at, this trifling man who works at an electronics store selling TVs and DVD players. He is the divorced father of two children who has gone soft, his once-impressive physique giving way to age.

Cécile, in the seat next to him, thinks to herself, though that inner dialogue reads as though shouted into his ear: “I’m talking to you, Philippe. This is a declaration, from twenty-seven years away, this is a

declaration even though you don’t look at all the way you used to, even though no one notices you anymore, and you’ve sunken into the anonymity of your fifties where we seem to go all gray and hazy — hardly anyone notices, except for the occasional cruel comment: ‘He must have been a handsome man,’ ‘I’ll bet she was stunning.’”After the end of their relationship during a trip to London, Cécile, by all rights, should have crawled away to live the life of Havisham. But she didn’t and is, instead, a wife and mother who runs her own business that is on the verge of taking off across Europe. She is on her way home after a weekend spent with her parents as they decline ever more quickly into their ages. “I thought about old age. About change. About the boredom of repetition.”

At 13 years old, for 10 hours, I was on my own on that train. I was independent and, instead of being scared (I was an anxious kid), I felt elated and light. Philippe, middle-aged now just as I am, considers travel and the larger sense of broadening horizons while on the train to Paris: “We were growing up in an era when flying was still the exception, and to wake up in New York or Tokyo would have seemed beyond our reach. Computers were at the experimental stage, and no one could imagine that one day we would no longer need phone booths. On the other hand, the future seemed wide open, and the planet, eternal.”

Despite their stations and the necessarily maudlin voices that are, for the vast majority of the time, limited to their own heads, the book is fascinating and fast moving, and the characters’ volley of memories

render them well-rounded. There is the brief glimmer of hope that travel affords all of us, the thought that maybe we won’t get off at the next stop, that maybe a new life will be waiting someplace else, and that maybe the person sitting next to us is who we were meant to be with all along.







Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Bear Hunter by James T. McCafferty

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 2:11 PM

James T. McCafferty grew up in the Mississippi Delta during the 1950s and 1960s and is the award-winning writer of hundreds of articles that have appeared in Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, and many other publications. His two children’s books, Holt and the Teddy Bear (the story of Holt Collier, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Mississippi Delta hunt that resulted in the naming of the Teddy Bear), and Holt and the Cowboys, each received Children’s Crown Collection designations. 
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In his latest book, The Bear Hunter: The Life and Times of Robert Eager Bobo in the Canebrakes of the Old South, McCafferty explores the life of bear hunter Robert Eager Bobo. Over a century ago readers of sporting journals in America and Europe relished the tales of Bobo coming out of the Mississippi Delta. Yet, in the years since, this famous bear hunter of the late 1800s has been all but forgotten. The Bear Hunter brings to the modern reader, not only the story of Bobo’s bear hunting, but a thoroughly fascinating and entertaining picture of pioneer life in the nineteenth century Delta wilderness. 

From the advance media package: "Come now with Bob Bobo and a variety of captivating characters – including the notorious outlaw Jesse James – on their quests for black bear in an environment that now exists only on the pages of history: the wild, trackless, Delta canebrake. Gallop at a breakneck pace through sloughs and swamps, where a horse’s stumble over a cypress knee could mean sudden disaster; thrill to the savage chorus of the hounds as they pursue their game; charge into the cane to knife the bear before it can decimate the pack; taste the fear when the tables turn and hunter becomes the hunted; relax by the campfire on a frosty November evening and listen to the tales of wolf and panther and gun and knife; laugh, too, at comical stories of old time Delta backwoods ways; and, perhaps, shed a tear, as the inevitable tragedies of life visit your newfound friends. The book will delight hunters, outdoors lovers, nature enthusiasts, southern history buffs, folklore fans, and anyone who just enjoys a good book. But let us not delay! The hunters are gathered; the horses are champing at their bits; the dogs are spoiling for a fight; Bobo is sounding his horn. It is time to ride!" 

McCafferty practices environmental and education law in McComb, Mississippi. The Bear Hunter is available for download at Amazon.com and in hardback at The Booksellers at Laurelwood.


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