What’s the most important school supply this new school year? A library card, and it doesn’t cost a cent.
That’s the message of the American Library Association, which is partnering with public libraries across the country in September to celebrate National Library Card Sign-up Month. Snoopy, in a “Joe Cool” T-shirt, is national honorary chair for the monthlong campaign.
How many 140-year-olds do you know asking for a bike to celebrate nearly a century and a half of doing business? In Memphis, that would be Burke's Book Store, which was founded in 1875 by Walter Burke on North Main, and it’s been operating at different locations ever since. That makes Burke’s one of the oldest businesses in Memphis still operating (now at 936 S. Cooper) and one of the oldest independent book stores in the country.
Memphian Pat Morgan has made it her mission to work on behalf of the homeless both locally and nationally, and she wrote about that mission in The Concrete Killing Fields: One Woman’s Battle To Break the Cycle of Homelessness, published in early 2014.
In that book, Morgan described her days directing the Calvary Street Ministry in downtown Memphis. She wrote about her government work in Washington, D.C. But she also wrote engagingly about her difficult past and need for personal healing, both of which she handled with candor and surprising humor. The Flyer was impressed. Others have been impressed.
Joshua Hood had already gone through QueryTracker.com, a database of literary agents, and gotten a slew of rejections in answer to his query letters. He’d exhausted WritersMarket.com too in search of an agent. But through the annual conference known as ThrillerFest, an agent got interested in Hood’s manuscript, a contemporary military thriller set in today’s worn-torn Middle East, and she got interested in Hood himself.
He told her about being a decorated war veteran and former member of the 82nd Airborne division in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after reading his manuscript, she had two things to say. The good news was: Hood had a story to tell. The bad news: Hood didn’t know how to write a book. There were rules to storytelling in general and added rules to writing a successful thriller in today's market, and Hood needed to learn them. She gave him the name of a “story doctor.”
In a blog post on the website of the Booksellers at Laurelwood, where he works, Matt Nixon called it “a book talk, a discussion, a presentation, a convocation.” He also named it Grawl!x, which Nixon headed this past May as “a sneak-peek and the low-down on a hand-picked selection of upcoming and recent off-beat literary fiction” for Memphis book lovers.
It’s that time again — time for Grawl!x to meet and the public's invited. The location is Muddy’s Grind House (585 S. Cooper) on Saturday, August 1st, at 4 p.m. Come with new titles (offbeat’s okay) that you’d like to share with other readers. Nixon will be there with his own recommendations.
The Literacy Summit at Playhouse on the Square on September 9th will be an all-day event for those, working outside the traditional classroom, who want to improve the reading skills of young people in Memphis — and better their chances of success later in life. Organized by Literacy Mid-South and co-sponsored by International Paper and the Bodine School, registration for the summit (at a cost of only $10) is officially open.
Wait and see. That seems to be the case today among Memphis booksellers.
July 14th is the official publication date of Go Set a Watchman (published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins). The book is Harper Lee’s first novel and the one written before To Kill a Mockingbird but only now seeing its way into print and into the hands of readers. Locally, though, the morning was a quiet one, with no great rush when three area bookstores opened.
Do you have a book manuscript? Need some professional advice on it? And you’d like to help out a good cause? Make an online bid — or bids — by 5 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, June 29th. The winning bid will receive 20 minutes of sound advice, by phone, from a New York literary agent.
Delta ’Shine isn’t the first time we’ve read of a Memphis “tinner.” Author Joe Werner introduced us to the world of sheet metal workers and to Memphis’ skid row in his autobiographically based The Tinsmith’s Son in 2006. But Hoyt Jackson, in Werner’s new novel, Delta ’Shine (AuthorHouse), is not a tinner any longer. After serving as a captain in the Air Force during World War II, he’s back in Memphis and worse for wear, because he can’t shake the guilt he feels after sending his men — on order of Hoyt’s superiors — to their deaths over Germany.
In a town a lot like Memphis, Tennessee, Baker Davis, private investigator, is having a tough time. His license has been suspended and he's under suspicion after the money in a drug ring that Davis helped bust goes missing. Plus the rent on his second-floor office inside a downtown building known as McDermott Center is due.
On the 20th floor of that same building, lawyer Richard McDermott, Esquire is having cash-flow problems too. So is the bank on the ground floor, which has obligations to its investors.
More money problems: McDermott’s half-sister, Gloria ... she’s just discovered that Orion Pallet Company is close to bankruptcy, and the head of the company, Karl Orion (Gloria’s much older husband), knows why. He’s been paying a woman named Mira Ogilvy $20,000 per month for several years.
Mira has it worst. She’s been murdered, her body discovered in a weed-infested lot in a neighborhood called Sloetown, “where bad news is no surprise.” It’s a crumbling, crime-ridden neighborhood not far from the big river in this unnamed city.
“You ain’t so special. Is alive, the Pinch, with people used to be dead.”
That’s Pinchas Pinsker talking to his nephew, Muni, who was beginning to feel like a spectacle, what with everyone in the Pinch wanting to see the new arrival. Thanks to his uncle’s help, Muni’s made it to the Jewish neighborhood north of downtown Memphis after crossing Siberia — where he’d been held for his anti-czarist sympathies — on foot.
Muni and his brethren were hardly the first Jews to arrive in Memphis. Nearly 400 years before, Rodrigo (born Ruben) da Luna of Portugal was one of the small army of men led by the conquistador Hernando de Soto, who was in search of cities of gold. But Rodrigo wasn’t a lancer or musketeer. He was a tailor. How do we know all this? Because Muni Pinsker went on to write about Rodrigo in his chronicle called The Pinch. It’s where we read the earliest known instance of what would become a Memphis trademark: its entrepreneurial spirit. For a fuller description of the enterprising and peace-loving Rodrigo, go to a brand-new book, also called The Pinch:
Barbecue: What could be more Memphis? Promoting literacy in Memphis: What could be better for the city? Combine the two and you get the first annual “Books & BBQ,” which will be at the Agricenter on Saturday, June 6th, from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s only $3 for adults, but children 12 and under get in free. Parking too is free. And the food: It’s from Baby Jack’s BBQ and Central BBQ.
Queen of the Fall is the name of a variety of apple, but Queen of the Fall (subtitled “A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses”) is also the title of a book — a collection of autobiographical essays by Sonja Livingston (assistant professor in the MFA program at the University of Memphis) and part of a series of books, called “American Lives,” published by the University of Nebraska Press.
On a July day in 2001, the temperature in Memphis at 5 in the morning was already in the high 70s, and for breakfast, Bill Hancock had toast, a banana, then a cinnamon roll, followed, for lunch, by cheese crackers and Vienna sausage. The carbs didn’t stop there.
Dinner consisted of a hamburger, a hot dog, onion rings, tater tots, and peach cobbler. To wash it all down, Hancock went through six quarts of water, three quarts of Gatorade, and a root beer. He had to to keep hydrated, because he was on a bike, and he was pedaling cross-country — from Huntington Beach, California, to Tybee Island, Georgia.
And no, that wasn’t Memphis, Tennessee, Hancock was passing through that July day. It was Memphis, Texas.