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.”
Saturday, March 26th
2 - 4 p.m.
Burke’s Book Store
936 South Cooper Street
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 Straight, The Same River Twice, The Good Brother, Out of the Woods, and No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays, The Best American Short Stories, and many other anthologies. He lives near Oxford, Mississippi.
Thursday, March 24th
story booth @ Crosstown Arts
438 N. Cleveland
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.
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.
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.