Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eric Barnes: In His Own Words, On His Debut Novel

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 12:30 PM

620a/1246371283-1932961674.jpg First there was the fall of the dot-coms. Then there was the fall of Enron. Yesterday, there was the sentencing of Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison. But now, it's time for the fall of Core Communications: the fictionalized big-business scam at the heart of Memphian Eric Barnes' debut novel, Shimmer (Unbridled Books).

Barnes is discussing and signing copies of Shimmer at Davis-Kidd Booksellers today, June 30th, starting at 6 p.m. Just don't expect the author to be quitting his day job anytime soon. (He's publisher of the Memphis Daily News and the Memphis News.) And don't think of Shimmer as another corporate thriller. Barnes doesn't see it that way. Here's why. And here's more.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Sam Haskell: "Gomer Pyle in a Suit"?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 3:22 PM

b415/1245701501-dolly_sam.jpg "I thought I knew you better than anyone, but after reading your book, I realize I didn't know you at all. Now I love you even more."

That's Dolly Parton speaking to her agent, Sam Haskell, and she's referring to Haskell's book (written with the help of David Rensin), Promises I Made My Mother (Ballantine Books). But Parton was far from being Haskell's only and biggest client at the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles, where he worked — from the mailroom fresh out of Ole Miss to heading the company's worldwide television division — for 26 years.

Count, among Haskell's clients and in no particular order: George Clooney, Bill Cosby, Kathie Lee Gifford, Ray Romano (the Gomer Pyle reference above appears in Romano's foreword to the book), Whoopi Goldberg, Nell Carter, Debbie Allen, Delta Burke, Martin Short, Kirstie Alley, Tony Danza, Lily Tomlin, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Swoosie Kurtz, Lucie Arnaz, and His Royal Highness the Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (youngest son of Queen Elizabeth).

And count, among the TV shows Haskell is most proud to have been behind and in no particular order: The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Mad About You, Everybody Loves Raymond, Lost, Murphy Brown, Sisters, Suddenly Susan, Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, King of Queens, and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?.

What's a guy from Amory, Mississippi (pop. 7,000, not far from Tupelo) doing in such company and behind such shows? He's doing his best to honor the lessons taught by his mother, as promised in the title of his book. Haskell will be signing at Davis-Kidd Booksellers on Monday, June 22nd, at 6 p.m.

And note: All proceeds from the sale of the book go directly to the author's favorite charities, among them the Rotary Foundation of America. Why the Rotary? Because, as Haskell said with a laugh in a recent phone conversation, "I was Rotary Boy of the Year in 1973!"

Here, in his own words: Sam Haskell.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

King for a Day: Joy "Deja" King Tells It Like It Is

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 3:34 PM

db43/1245444115-pic_2006_ala_king.jpgL.R. Clothier on Union is known for its cut. But Saturday it'll be all about the "cutthroat world of publishing" when author Joy "Deja" King heads a meet-and-greet writers' workshop on how to publish, how to market, and basically how to make it in today's challenging book business.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Dream Date: James Joyce Meets the "Bride" of Frankenstein

Posted By on Mon, Jun 15, 2009 at 12:10 PM

e37b/1245086570-joyce.jpg 8b1c/1245086738-mary-shelley1.jpg

June 16th: It's Bloomsday, the day that admirers of James Joyce meet to celebrate Joyce's novel Ulysses, which takes place in Dublin on that date. And starting around 5 p.m., it takes place in Memphis when Celtic Crossing, the Irish bar/restaurant in Cooper-Young, celebrates too with music, food, and costumes inspired by the novel and readings drawn directly from the book.

Thanks to local actors Eddy Thornton, Michael Vale, and Rick Crowe, Memphians can watch a scene out of Ulysses set, appropriately enough, in a Dublin pub. Thanks to Rhodes College student Alicia Queen, Memphians can hear as Molly Bloom rhapsodizes stream of consciously in the novel's famous (and infamous) closing chapter.

Reginald Moore "channels" Molly's husband, Leopold Bloom, in another reading from the book. And thanks to husband-and-wife Ron Evans and Mary Lowe-Evans, we'll hear from husband-and-wife Molly and Leopold in a reading drawn from the novel's "Calypso" episode.

"Bloomsday" in Memphis is thanks to Celtic's owner, DJ Naylor, and Mary Lowe-Evans, who have worked to organize this first citywide celebration of Joyce. What's this got to do, though, with the "bride" of Frankenstein?

Lowe-Evans, a Joyce scholar, has also written on Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, which was based on a "waking dream" Shelley had on the shores of Lake Geneva. She was in the company of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, and they spent their vacation time telling ghost stories and talking late into the night — talking, among other things, about the possibility of animating dead matter. But as Mary Shelley later recalled: "It proved a wet, ungenial summer and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house." (You want rain, thunder, lightning, and Byron at his looniest? See here.)

Sounds like the ungenial summer Memphis is having, what with last Friday's winds, rain, and power outages. But there's good reason to remember Mary Shelley's "waking dream." The year was 1816. The day was June 16th.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rob McGowan: Writer/"Shooter"

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Who he? 3157/1244821550-rob_nam_69.jpg

He's Memphian Rob McGowan, circa '69, in a pic taken at Oakland Army Base on his return from Vietnam, and he wore the "PEACE NOW" button under the lapel of his uniform. The Savage Kick, a British journal specializing in murder and mayhem, is running that photo, along with one of McGowan's more gruesome stories, "Worse Feeling There Is" — uncharacteristically gruesome, he'd like it known — a story from McGowan's yet to be published NAM: Things That Weren't True and Other Stories. (For the title story from that collection, see the summer 2007 issue of South Dakota Review.)

Less gruesome: McGowan's art-world short story "A Clutter of Old Papers" (from his yet to be published UNTITLED: Artist Stories), a story that will appear this fall in the Connecticut Review.

What else is there from McGowan, who's been writing like mad and getting published like crazy the past few years?

A personal essay in Etchings, an Australian journal, is already out, and there's another personal essay in Wild Apples (out of Massachusetts).

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Q & A With Daniel Wolff

Posted By on Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 3:43 PM

The author is Daniel Wolff. He wrote You Send Me: The Life and Times of Sam Cooke, and he’s collaborated with Memphian Ernest Withers in Withers’ collections of photographs, Negro League Baseball and The Memphis Blues Again. And he’s currently producing a documentary on New Orleans, called Right To Return, with director Jonathan Demme.

But today we're talking to Wolff about How Lincoln Learned To Read: Twelve Great Americans and the Educations That Made Them (Bloomsbury USA). The last of those 12 is Elvis Presley, and Wolff’s chapter is an insightful and, yes, moving look at the boy who became the man who would be King.

Q: There’s a whole library of books written about Elvis Presley. How does your 20-page portrait compare to his education covered in book-length biographies?

A: I've read (and kept) too many books about Elvis. (Just ask my wife.) And in order to write this profile in How Lincoln Learned To Read, I dug up even more information.

A couple of obvious comparisons to previous books: I look at Elvis only till he's 18. So, it's before he's a star and even a professional musician. It's about his coming up and ends as much more a portrait of a kid out of Mississippi who moves Memphis than it is the future King.

Second and in answer to your question: How Lincoln Learned To Read is a book about a dozen Americans, most of them supposedly well-known: Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Sojourner Truth, Henry Ford, etc. But the way these people are "known" depends on what we ask about them. I'm asking how they learned the things they needed — whether it's machinery in Ford's case or public speaking in Lincoln's — and then I'm looking to the subjects themselves to answer the question through what they've written or said. That gives you a different kind of portrait than we may have seen before.

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