Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Jeffrey Stayton's Civil War

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 6:27 AM

It took Memphian Jeffrey Stayton 18 years of background research but only six weeks or so to compose This Side of the River (Nautilus Publishing), a novel that takes place following the end of the Civil War in 1865. That puts publication of This Side of the River 150 years after Appomattox, but it’s unlike any Civil War novel you’ve read, and the author, who teaches modern American literature at the University of Mississippi’s satellite locations in north Mississippi, knows it.

“It used to be a big tangle of baroque language where you couldn’t even find the verb,” Stayton said of the manuscript that led up to this, his debut novel. “Two-thirds of the way through that manuscript, widows started showing up — widows who were irate and on horseback with guns. Every time they showed up, it would kick things up a notch or two. I thought: Okay, here’s where the ‘life’ of the story is. As a writer, you follow the ‘life.’ Now the story is lean, more minimalist, more of a page-turner, and I’m like, thank God.”

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Crossing Genres: Beard, Ruden, and “Greenhorn”

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 9:11 AM

If you’ve never read "The Fourth State of Matter," read it right now or real soon. If it’s been years since you read it (reprinted in the collection The Boys of My Youth, 1999), read it again. It’s must-read, and it’s been impressing writers and readers for nearly 20 years.

"The Fourth State of Matter" is by Jo Ann Beard, and, as Amy Day Wilkinson reminded us last year, it was first published in The New Yorker’s June 24, 1996, issue — the magazine’s fiction issue. But Beard’s piece isn’t fiction. It’s based on real life, Beard’s life, which is why the magazine headed it “Personal History.” The New Yorker ran it because of its high artistry, and you’re welcome to argue over genres all you want.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Reading Roundup

Posted By on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 at 5:22 PM

The weather may not be the best this week, but Wednesday and Thursday are just fine in Memphis for writers and signings.

Native Memphian Alan Lightman (right), whose new memoir, Screening Room (subject of the Flyer’s book column that appears on Wednesday), will be at story booth (438 N. Cleveland) to read from, discuss, and sign his book on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m.

And the same night, Tim Johnston, of the creative writing program at the University of Memphis, will be doing the same: reading from, discussing, and signing his critically acclaimed debut novel, Descent.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tara Mae Mulroy: Work in Progress

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 1:25 PM

Memphis poet Tara Mae Mulroy, author of the chapbook Philomela (Dancing Girl Press), teaches middle school Latin at St. George’s Independent School, so it’s no surprise that she’s often inspired by the gods and goddesses of classical mythology: Persephone and Hades, for example, in Mulroy’s poem “A Letter” or Hera and Zeus in “On Our Anniversary.”

Those two poems are from Mulroy’s nearly four dozen poems in her unpublished collection called Swallow Tongue, and she’ll be reading from her work on Friday night at story booth on North Cleveland.

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