Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wailing Wall

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 at 10:34 AM

It isn't the sort of book I'd normally read. I have a lot of books coming across my desk and I buy more books than I have shelving for at home. I get even more press releases emailed to me from publishers and publicists trying to entice me into pleading for a review copy of their latest offerings. The vast majority of those fall in the genre of "self-help" or someone telling a story of suffering and redemption and how you, too, might be redeemed if you only follow these 800 simple steps. No thank you. I'm a very slow reader, the father of four kids, am working to write my own novel, have a full-time job, and, therefore, am very choosey about the time I have to read.

So when I received a copy of Wailing Wall: A Mother's Memoir by Deedra Climer in the mail yesterday, I was ready to resign it to that shelf of redemption that I would never go back to. But I read the first page. And then I read the second. And then I finished the book a couple of hours later.

At only 86 pages, it is slim enough even for me to have finished in one sitting, but its brevity doesn't take away from its punch — this is a firecracker of a book filled with raw emotion.

Climer grew up in North Memphis to a family besotted by drugs and neglect. The daughter of a teenage mother, she would go on to become an unwed, teenage mother as well. But Climer rose above that, eventually getting married (though it ends in divorce), working to support her children, and learning along the way that there is more to life than the fragile web of abuse she grew up in. Tragedy strikes when her son Joshua is thrown from his motorcycle and killed at the age of 23. By this time, Climer is living in Michigan, making a new life with a new husband on an organic farm the couple owns. The book is the tale of her coming home, coming back into the fold of an extended family she'd loved and left, and coming to terms with the death of her only son (she has four daughters as well). 

Climer's storytelling is economical and well-paced as she takes the reader from the past to the present day. It is a heartbreaking tale that searches for redemption, a search that we get the sense is ongoing. It's also the story of family — those we're born into and those we choose — and the unconditional love we call upon in our darkest moments.

Wailing Wall is published through Inkshares, a process I wasn't familiar with. Explaining in the back of the book that they aim to "democratize publishing by having readers select the books we publish," the house has taken up the crowd-funding torch already being carried by independent filmmakers and musicians to have their visions brought to the screen and airwaves. And why not? Without such a vehicle, we may not hear stories like Climer's, which is all of our stories whether we've lost someone dear or not.   

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2015 National Book Awards finalists named

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 10:42 AM

The finalists for the 2015 National Book Awards have been named. How many have you read?


Karen E. Bender, Refund

Angela Flournoy, The Turner House

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies

Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles

Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life


Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Sally Mann, Hold Still

Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus

Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran

Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light


Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn

Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus

Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things

Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine

Young People's Literature

Ali Benjamin, The Thing About Jellyfish

Laura Ruby, Bone Gap

Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep

Noelle Stevenson, Nimona

The winners will be announced on Nov. 18 at a ceremony in New York City. 

Last year's winners were:

Fiction: Phil Klay, Redeployment
Nonfiction: Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China
Poetry: Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night
Young People's Literature: Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Man Booker Prize for 2015 announced

Posted By on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 4:23 PM

A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications) by Marlon James was named as the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction today.

The Man Booker Prize was launched in 1969, and aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom. Winners receive a prize of £50,000.

From the Man Booker Prize website:

The 44-year-old, now resident in Minneapolis, is the first Jamaican author to win the prize in its 47-year history.


A Brief History of Seven Killings is a 686-page epic with over 75 characters and voices. Set in Kingston, where James was born, the book is a fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976. Of the book, the New York Times said: "It’s like a Tarantino remake of 'The Harder They Come,' but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner . . . epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal, and dizzyingly complex."

Referring to Bob Marley only as ‘The Singer’ throughout, A Brief History of Seven Killings retells this near mythic assassination attempt through the myriad voices — from witnesses and FBI and CIA agents to killers, ghosts, beauty queens and Keith Richards’ drug dealer — to create a rich, polyphonic study of violence, politics, and the musical legacy of Kingston of the 1970s. James has credited Charles Dickens as one of his formative influences, saying, "I still consider myself a Dickensian in as much as there are aspects of storytelling I still believe in — plot, surprise, cliffhangers.'" (Interview Magazine).

In addition to this year's winner, the 2015 shortlist included: 

Tom McCarthy (UK)              Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)    The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)

Sunjeev Sahota (UK)             The Year of the Runaways (Picador)

Anne Tyler (US)                     A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)

Hanya Yanagihara (US)         A Little Life (Picador)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Upcoming book events in Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2015 at 3:16 PM

Pat Morgan
Tuesday, Oct. 13
 5 p.m. (reception), discussion and book signing begins 5:30 p.m.
Blount Auditorium in Buckman Hall, Rhodes College

Pat Morgan will discuss her book The Concrete Killing Fields: One Woman's Battle to Break the Cycle of Homelessness at Rhodes College in Blount Auditorium in Buckman Hall. Free and open to the public, the event is hosted by the college’s Department of Political Science. The event will be followed by a book signing.

From Goodreads: With her gift of story-telling, deep sense of compassion, and rich Southern sense of humor, Pat Morgan takes you on a ride . . . a kaleidoscope of adventures that few ever experience. From the cotton fields of Arkansas to the concrete killing fields of Tennessee to the Presidents box at the Kennedy Center you will open your eyes, your heart and discover that it is never too late to live out your dreams.

Pat Morgan found her calling in the basement of Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, where she discovered the invisible people the homeless. She hadn't set out to become an expert on homeless people; she hadn't planned on working in Washington D.C.; and she hadn't planned on finding the missing healing ingredient that she needed. As a political insider, part policy maker and confessed political activist and junkie, Pat Morgan was the fly on the wall with a ringside seat. Failing at picking cotton as a young girl, she discovered that what she was good at picking was smart people and mentors to guide her.

The Memphis Jewish Community Center is celebrating its 3rd-annual Jewish Literary & Cultural Arts Festival. The festival will begin on October 15th and run through November 18th, showcasing world-renowned artists and authors. The schedule through October is as follows:

Thursday, Oct. 15
Artist talk and Shainberg Gallery opening with Keron Psillas
7:30 p.m.
Free event

Saturday, Oct. 17
Author talk with Faye and Jonathan Kellerman
7:45 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 19
Author talk with Alan Lightman
7:30 p.m.
Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill
$15, general; $12, members

Wednesday, Oct. 21
Artist talk with Shirel Horovitz
7:30 p.m.
Free event

Thursday, Oct. 29
Author talk with Dani Klein Modisett
7:30 p.m.
$15, general; $12, members

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit or contact Amy Israel, or 901-259-9209.

Leigh Anne Tuohy

Thursday, Oct. 22
6:30 p.m.
The Booksellers of Laurelwood

Leigh Anne Tuohy, whose family inspired the hit film The Blind Side, will be at The Booksellers of Laurelwood signing her new book, the devotional Turn Around.
Giving isn’t always about money, much less a lot of money, and Tuohy challenges us to re-think what giving really means. Turn Around is a five-day-per-week devotional that uses scripture as a springboard to reconsider what it means to give sacrificially, generously, and immediately — many times, without having to leave your own community. We encounter opportunities to give every single day; what may seem like a small gesture to us may make a world of difference in someone else’s life. Make your next step one that causes you to turn around and meet a need.

Leigh Anne grew up in Memphis and attended the University of Mississippi, where she met her future husband; she now owns an interior design company. The Tuohys live in Memphis but travel all over the country speaking to thousands of people about their family, their faith, and how each of us can make a difference.

Linda Lee Patterson
Tuesday, Oct. 27
6:30 p.m.
The Booksellers of Laurelwood

Linda Lee Peterson is at The Booksellers of Laurelwood to read from and sign her new novel, The Spy on the Tennessee Walker, an enthralling tale of hidden secrets, the Civil War, restrained love, and intelligent women of the past and present.


This is the third in the acclaimed Maggie Fiori mystery series, but it’s not quite like the others. Yes, Maggie is still the smart-mouthed magazine editor in San Francisco whose curiosity leads her to become (or so says her long-suffering husband) over-involved in other people’s business, especially if a crime is involved. But this time the trigger is not a dead body — it’s a cache of journals, letters, and photographs of her great-great-great-grandmother Victoria, Maggie’s 19th-century doppelganger and a woman of much mystery. She was a nurse in a Confederate hospital during the Civil War, but why did she still have a horse, her beloved Tennessee Walker, long after all other horses had been conscripted for the war? What was her relationship with Walt Whitman? Who was Gabriel, the man she exchanged love letters with? And, most of all, why did she end up imprisoned under charges of treason and bigamy?

Linda Lee Peterson is the author of two previous Maggie Fiori mysteries, Edited to Death and The Devil’s Interval. She has also written several nonfiction books, including The Stanford Century, On Flowers, and Linens and Candles, and has written for many national publications, including the Chicago Tribune. A longtime San Franciscan and an alumna of Stanford University, Peterson now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Corey Mesler: Poet, author, entrepreneur, podcast fodder

Posted By on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 3:14 PM

Our friend, the prolific writer and co-owner of Burke's Book Store, Corey Mesler, is being feted on the October 2015 podcast from Poetry Magazine. His poem, "Let the Light Stand," is featured in the recent issue of the magazine and editor Don Share, assistant editor Lindsay Garbutt, and consulting editor Christina Pugh have gathered to discuss it.

The trio jumps right into the fun at the 00:38 mark with Pugh reading. But first, Share shares that he grew up in Memphis and, while he doesn't know Mesler personally, he "grew up going to Burke's Book Store, which was pretty much the only place you could see real books like poetry books when I was a kid, so I'm very fond of Burke's."

You can listen to the podcast here.

Pugh says beforehand, "I really liked the mood of this poem, it's very upbeat and playful." After reading, she calls it a poem "in the litany tradition" and compares it to the English poetic tradition while pointing out that it isn't religious but, instead, a celebration of the body. 

Share, however, points out that, "It is suffused with something spiritual enough to raise us above and outside that lovely world he outlines . . ."

"I think it has sort of a plain-spoken sexiness about it," Garbutt adds.

"One of the things I really like about the poem," Pugh says, "is the way it does this kind of interesting dance with metaphor, wanting to resist it and yet letting it in, almost against its own will in certain ways, and I like the push/pull aspect of it."

Mesler is the author of numerous poetry chapbooks and novels, most recently Memphis Movie.
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