Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wolf To Speak

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University, has for decades been a leader in her field: child development and especially as it pertains to the acquisition of language and to reading — how as a species we arrived at reading and how as individuals we learn to read and sometimes have difficulty. Those are the major topics Wolf addressed in her book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, the subtopic: dyslexia.

And so, what better fit could there be between scholar and institution when Maryanne Wolf is guest of the Bodine School, which for more than 40 years has been educating Mid-South students dealing with dyslexia?

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Laurie Halse Anderson: Guidance Counselor

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 12:17 PM

Honor Society members: stoners. Cheerleaders: cutters. Debate-team members: shoplifters. Mom's pills are there for the taking. Dad's vodka makes first period easier.

"High school is where the zombification process becomes deadly," according to senior Hayley Kincain, first-person narrator of Laurie Halse Anderson's latest young-adult novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory (Viking). But Hayley herself is no zombie. She's a reader's guide to the challenges she's facing and a voice for non-zombies everywhere facing the same.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lisa C. Hickman on the Brighter Side

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 9:05 AM

"I don't know how you were able to get through writing it without completely losing your mind with all the loose ends, mystery, and tragedy."

So ran the response of one reader of the book she'd just finished, Stranger to the Truth (published last fall by AuthorHouse), a reader who is also a friend to the daughter of the book's author, Memphian Lisa C. Hickman. As Hickman wrote of that response in a recent email: "Her comment is remarkably intuitive of how I often felt when I was working on this."

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Gatsby? What Gatsby?

Posted By on Sat, Jan 11, 2014 at 9:14 AM

"Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn't?"

That was a question put to writer Russell Banks in the "By the Book" feature in the Book Review of the Sunday New York Times of January 5, 2014.

Banks' answer to the Times: "'The Great Gatsby.' All of Fitzgerald, actually. Even the stories. It's not his fault; it's mine. I'm missing the gene."

But at least Banks had read The Great Gatsby. I'd never read it — until the last day of 2013 and because:

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Richard Alley Named Writer-in-Residence at Elmwood

Posted By on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 12:14 PM

Memphis' historic Elmwood Cemetery, the 80-acre site and final resting place for more than 75,000 individuals, has had photographers-in-residence for several years now. But Richard Alley is Elmwood's first writer-in-residence, and he's honored to be so named. The announcement appeared January 7th on Elmwood's Facebook page, but according to Alley, there'd been talk of a writer-in-residence for a while.

"Kimberly McCollum, the cemetery's executive director, and I started talking about it a year ago — just the idea," Alley said.

"On one occasion, we were standing inside the cemetery's visitor center, Phillips Cottage — me and Kimberly, Elmwood historian Dale Schaefer, and the cemetery's board president Dan Conaway — and they were talking about the monuments you can see from the windows of the cottage. They were telling stories of the lives marked by those monuments. Then we just started talking about how somebody should collect the stories of those buried in Elmwood and put those stories in narrative form — put their lives into context, the period they lived in, what they did, and how they died.

"Kimberly got in touch with me the other day and asked if that's something I'd be interested in doing. And I said 'certainly.' It pays nothing, but I jumped on it."

Elmwood had its first official writer-in-residence.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

CD Mitchell: Fighting the Good Fight

Posted By on Sat, Dec 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM

"It's a misconception that I lost my law practice because of drugs," CD Mitchell said. "I didn't get involved with drugs until after I surrendered my practice. I went through a real bad divorce, probably dealing with alcoholism … just went through a major depression.

"I wasn't taking care of business, lost focus, and pretty much lost everything. And then I did get involved with drugs, and, yeah, wound up arrested and inside 201 Poplar … spent eight months in federal prison.

"When my parents took me to begin serving the sentence, I said to them:

"'This day is not a sad day for me, don't be sad, because I'll go in, I'll take care of this, and when I come back out, I'm putting my life back in order, I'm going back to college, I'm going to write. Judge me on what I do from this day forward.'"

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Literacy Mid-South: Be Merry!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Kevin Dean was sounding a little out of breath on Wednesday afternoon, and he had good reason to be. Dean, executive director of Literacy Mid-South, was in the middle of unboxing books — more than 90 boxes containing somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 books for the "Art of Reading" party and book sale taking place this weekend at the Germantown Community Theatre to benefit Literacy Mid-South.

Those books — including children's books — by name-brand authors were ordered by and donated by The Commercial Appeal, which is co-sponsoring Friday night's event along with the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, and Berkowitz. The books are certainly priced to sell: Hardbacks are $5; paperbacks, $3; and oversized books, $10. Those sales directly benefit the programs run by Literacy Mid-South.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mark Greaney on the Move

Posted By on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 9:14 AM

"He'd spent months preparing for tonight, and his load out reflected this."

"He" is Court Gentry, aka the Gray Man, and "tonight" he is hanging by a rope ladder from a microlight hang glider that he's also piloting. Then he's breaking and entering the heavily guarded dacha of his target, Russian mob boss Gregor Ivanovic Sidorenko.

Gentry's "load out" consists of: a Glock 19 nine-millimeter pistol in a thigh rig with an attached silencer; two cables — one a climbing rope; the other a bungee cord — spooled around electric spring retractors attached to Gentry's climbing harness; two black-bladed combat knives on his utility belt; in Gentry's backpack: extra clothing and a medical kit; on his chest rig: ammunition magazines and a single-shot flare gun loaded with a smoke grenade; on Gentry's right ankle: a Glock 26 subcompact pistol; and in a freezer bag also inside his backpack: raw bear meat. Tonight, Sidorenko's quiet evening spent going over documents does not end well — for Sidorenko.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

From One Daughter of the White River to Another

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 9:01 AM

"Arkansas' Gun Moll and the Prison Love Nest" is how Daring Detective described the story on the cover of its September 1935 issue. And no wonder that magazine picked up on the Helen Spence story. This is the young woman who caught the attention of The New York Times too. As its front-page headline on January 20, 1931, declared, "Girl Kills Alleged Slayer of Father in Court; Fires as Arkansas Jury Is About to Get Case."

No two ways about it. That's what happened. That's what judge and jury and spectators saw: "river justice" in action. Helen, who grew up on Arkansas' White River, was just 17. But her story hardly stopped with that courtroom gunshot.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Darrin McMahon and the Question of Genius

Posted By on Mon, Nov 11, 2013 at 9:44 AM

"What do we mean when we throw around the term 'genius'?"

Good question and one posed by Jonathan Judaken, who holds the Spence L. Wilson chair in humanities at Rhodes College.

"Once reserved for those who were thought to be touched by the gods or privy to the secrets of the universe or those who changed the course of history or culture, today anyone can be a genius for 15 minutes. How did this come about?"

Another good question, and Judaken was posing those questions in connection with an author who will be visiting Rhodes on Wednesday, November 13th, as part of the school's "Communities in Conversation" lecture series.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Festival at the MJCC: An Update

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 5:19 PM

It's been a successful fall so far and all signs point to continued success for the first-ever (but by all accounts annual) Jewish Literary and Cultural Arts Festival at the Memphis Jewish Community Center at 6560 Poplar.

As Amy Israel, the center's cultural arts director, recently reported in an update by email, close to 200 attended the luncheon in October with guests Rachelle Bergstein and Jane Weitzman. Later in the month, Moshe and Goldie Monzon drew collectors from the MJCC and larger Memphis community to the sale of their artwork and jewelry. (The couple, according to Israel, will be returning to Memphis "for sure.") And a stormy night didn't deter a good-size crowd to hear reporter Geoff Calkins put the questions to former prosecutor and author Marcia Clark.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Party for "The Pinch"; Fiction Rules

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Founded in 1980, The Pinch is a literary journal featuring fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and visual art produced by the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Memphis. That 1980 date makes The Pinch one of the longest-running literary journals in the country, and in terms of contributors, it has a nationwide reach. But it draws on local writers and artists too. The cover art for the latest issue? It's, as it has been for years, the distinctive work of graphic designer Gary Golightly, assistant professor in the U of M's art department.

Celebrate with food, cocktails, and readings when The Pinch hosts a release party for its fall 2013 issue. The place: the Dixon Gallery & Gardens (4339 Park) on Friday, November 1st, 7-9 p.m. And you're invited.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scott Gill Resurfaces

Posted By on Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 6:34 AM

Lucky for Scott T. Gill, there's word of mouth. Because of it, his novel Goliath Catfish is enjoying a second life after Glass Page Books, which published the book last year, notified the author that the press was considering closing its doors. So the owner of Glass Page offered Gill the option of returning his rights to the book. Glass Page didn't close, but he took the option. And thanks to word of mouth, Goliath Catfish is already with a new publisher, Crickhollow Books of Milwaukee.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Madeline Sees a Ghost!

Posted By on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 3:18 PM

"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines …"

So begins each of the Madeline stories by children's author/illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans, who died in 1962. So begins Madeline and the Old House in Paris (Viking), written and illustrated by John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of Ludwig and inheritor of his grandfather's style of storytelling and artwork. In this latest Madeline story, she's in the company of a ghost — the centuries-old ghost of an astronomer upset by the loss of his telescope. Pepito, Madeline's friend, is on hand. So too: Miss Clavel and Lord Cucuface.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ericka Blount Danois Takes the Hippest Trip in America

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 7:08 AM

"The Asian chick with the long hair."

That's how many viewers in the 1970s thought of her. That's how she's described more than once in Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America's Favorite Dance Show (Backbeat Books). And that's how the author of that book remembered her in a recent phone interview with the Flyer.

The author is Ericka Blount Danois. The "chick" was dancer Cheryl Song. And the TV show was Soul Train, the longest-running first-run syndicated show in television history — 1,100 hours of what was billed as "the hippest trip in America." Meet Danois and have her sign your copy of Love, Peace, and Soul when she's in Memphis on Saturday, October 19th, at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music from 2 to 5 p.m. Former Stax Records chairman and owner Al Bell, who wrote the book's foreword, will be there too, with the book for sale in the museum's gift shop.

Danois, who lives in Baltimore and teaches journalism at the University of Maryland, isn't used to giving interviews. She's more comfortable conducting them. But with the publication of Love, Peace, and Soul and with a recent Q&A (and excerpt from the book) on the Huffington Post, she's getting used to answering rather than asking the questions. Don't ask her, though, about the chances of there being a line dance, Soul Train-style, at her Memphis signing. That question's been posed, and it has been answered:

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