Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Burke's Book Store welcomes Corey Mesler to read and sign his new novel

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 2:45 PM

"If you could see the writer’s mind as a living, breathing thing, it might look like Ishmael wandering the narrow streets of New England before climbing aboard the ill-fated Pequod. Or perhaps like Sal Paradise passing a bottle among Okies on a flatbed bound for California. It might look like Captain Nemo diving 20,000 leagues below the surface of the sea. Or it might look like Robert Walker, the aptly named protagonist of Corey Mesler’s latest novel by the same name, as he walks the streets of Memphis from Overton Park to the Mississippi River, to the University of Memphis and back again."

That is the opening to my review of Robert Walker in the September 2016 issue of Memphis magazine. Since reading Corey's newest offering, I feel as though I've seen this traveling man, Robert Walker, at every turn — as I ride my bike through Overton Park, stop into Memphis Made for a pint, or even visiting Burke's Book Store, the 140-year-old shop that Corey and his wife Cheryl own in Cooper-Young. This will be the site Thursday, September 29th, of a reading and signing by Corey.

From Goodreads: "Robert Walker is homeless. He awakes one morning in his box to find half his face paralyzed. In anguish, he walks to mimic normality. He also walks because walking for him is life. Eventually, in opposition to his dedication to desired anonymity, he is forced to rejoin the world. The novel follows two crucial days in his journey while he traverses Memphis, encountering the familiar, the foreign, the desolate, and the joyous."

Corey has published more than 30 novels and poetry collections. He's been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His fiction has received praise from John Grisham, Robert Olen Butler, Lee Smith, Frederick Barthelme, Ann Beattie, Peter Coyote, Steve Yarbrough, and Greil Marcus, among others. If you stop by Thursday evening, be sure and pick up one (or all!) of Corey's other books, I'm sure he'd be happy to sign those for you as well. 

Corey Mesler
Burke's Book Store
936 S. Cooper Street
Thursday, September 29th
5:30 p.m.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Memphis author Lisa Turner to read and sign at Booksellers

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Memphian Lisa Turner splits her time between her hometown and Nova Scotia working on police procedurals such as The Gone Dead Train and A Little Death In Dixie. Her new novel, Devil Sent The Rain (William Morrow), once again featuring Detective Billy Able, will be released on Tuesday, September 27th, with a reading and signing at the Booksellers at Laurelwood.

"Fresh from solving Memphis’ most sensational murder case, Homicide Detective Billy Able and his ambitious new partner Frankie Malone are called to a bizarre crime scene on the outskirts of town. A high society attorney has been murdered while dressed in a wedding gown. Billy is shocked to discover he has a very personal connection to the victim. When the attorney’s death exposes illegal practices at her family’s prestigious law firm, the scandal is enough to rock the southern city’s social world.

In a tale of the remnants of Old South aristocracy and entitlement, twisted by greed and vengeance, Billy must confront the secrets of his own past to have any chance at solving the murder of the girl he once knew. But as he seeks the truth, he’s drawn closer to an embittered killer bent on revenge— and eliminating the threat Billy poses."

Kirkus Reviews: “A well-wrought procedural that takes a hard look at the old South’s influence on the new. ” 

Publishers Weekly: “[A] shifting narrative, a keen sense of place, and a steady stream of suspects and red herrings propel the mystery to a satisfying conclusion.” 

Lisa Turner
The Booksellers at Laurelwood
Tuesday, September 27th
6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Memphis Reads hosts discussions and screenings, and welcomes author Jesmyn Ward

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 10:56 AM

I’ve written quite a bit about the upcoming Mid-South Book Festival in this space and in the print edition of the Flyer, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the events surrounding Memphis Reads. The program touting itself as “the city’s largest book club” this year chose Salvage the Bones by award-winning author Jesmyn Ward.

Jesmyn Ward
  • Jesmyn Ward


Memphis Reads, with its first event of 2016 on Monday, Sept. 12th, comes on the heels of the Book Festival, which has its last event the day before. Now, I don’t understand the politics and inner workings of promoting reading and literacy, but it seems to me that the organizations in charge of these two book-loving affairs should get together — maybe have a little affair of their own — because the Book Festival is timed perfectly to be the opening event to a month-long celebration of books, reading, and literacy. Bringing nationally regarded authors into town to speak with school-age kids and would-be writers only ensures that future generations will make reading and education a priority. The sheer marketing power behind presenting organizations and sponsors such as Literacy Mid-South, Christian Brothers University, the Memphis Public Library system, Rhodes College, MLGW, Hilton, the National Civil Rights Museum, and Shelby County Schools, among many, many others could ramp city-wide reading up to a whole new level.


But I digress.


Christian Brothers University associate professor, and the planner of Memphis Reads, Karen Golightly, said, “We hope to break down the physical and metaphoric walls that exist between Memphians by giving them a common reading experience. Through the events scheduled in September, attendees can learn about the issues addressed in the book through art exhibits, documentaries, films, panel discussions, and author/expert talks. The point is to find a way in which Memphians can participate in different aspects and viewpoints of the issues at hand, in order to build community one book at a time.”


Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood awards for essays, drama, and fiction. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford, from 2008-2010, she has been named the 2010-11 Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, was an Essence magazine Book Club selection, a Black Caucus of the ALA Honor Award recipient, and a finalist for both the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.


From Salvage the Bones: “A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting.


“As the 12 days that make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family—motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce—pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.”

Memphis Reads 2016 events:


Purchased Lives: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave Trade, 1808 – 1865

National Civil Rights Museum (State of Tennessee Gallery)

September 12 – mid-November 2016 (Free with museum admission; Tennessee residents may enter free of charge on Mondays after 3 p.m.)


Screening: Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke (Parts 1 – 2)

University of Memphis (304 University Center, Bluff Room)

Thursday, Sept. 15th

5:30 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. film screening (Free and open to the public)


Screening: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (3030 Poplar Avenue, meeting room C)

Monday, Sept. 19th

5:30 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. film screening (Free and open to the public)


Panel Discussion: My Whole City Underwater – Race, Trauma, and Surviving Katrina

University of Memphis (342 University Center, Shelby Room)

Thursday, Sept. 22th

5:30 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. discussion (Free and open to the public)


Jesmyn Ward discussion and book signing

Christian Brothers University (650 East Parkway South, CBU Theatre)

Wednesday, Sept. 28th, 7 p.m. (Free and open to the public)


Q & A with Jesmyn Ward and book signing

Rhodes College (2000 North Parkway, Bryan Campus Life Center)

Thursday, Sept. 29th, 6 p.m. (Free and open to the public)


Great Conversations with Rhodes Professor Ernest Gibson

Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (Memphis Room, 4th floor)

Thursday, Oct. 4th, 5:30 p.m. (Free and open to the public)


For more on Memphis Reads, visit memphisreadsbook.org.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Author Jacqueline Woodson is coming to story booth

Posted By on Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 2:42 PM

Listen up, readers, there is a lot going on this weekend with the Mid-South Book Festival. It kicks off Wednesday with the Literacy Summit, but Thursday night is the first literary event with a reading and signing by acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson at story booth.



Woodson, known and celebrated as a young adult writer, has just released her first work for an adult audience, Another Brooklyn (Amistad).


Another Brooklyn is a short but complex story that arises from simmering grief. It lulls across the pages like a mournful whisper. “For a long time, my mother wasn’t dead yet,” the narrator begins, which perfectly conveys the novel’s suspended sorrow. Now an anthropologist who studies the way different cultures honor their dead, August is an adult looking back at her adolescence in the 1970s. She came to Brooklyn with her younger brother two decades earlier when their father hoped they could all start a new life away from the tragedies that shattered their family back in Tennessee.

But August and her brother aren’t so much renewed as arrested in this alien, dangerous place. Unable to acknowledge her mother’s death, young August pines for her return while staring out the window, month after month. “If someone had asked, Are you lonely? I would have said, No,” August says. “I would have pointed to my brother and said, He’s here. I would have lied even as the empty street on rainy afternoons threatened to swallow me whole.”


The signing is presented by The Booksellers at Laurelwood and Nicole Yasinsky, marketing manager for Booksellers, was recently quoted about the novel for a story in Bookselling This Week from the American Booksellers Association, which chose it as last August’s “Next List” pick.


“Effortlessly weaving poetic prose, Woodson tells the story of the relationships young women form, their yearning to belong, and the bonds that are created — and broken,” said Yasinsky. “Brooklyn itself is a vivid character in this tale — a place at first harsh, but one that becomes home and plays a role in each character’s future.”


Author Ann Patchet has said, “Another Brooklyn is a sort of fever dream, containing both the hard truths of life and the gentle beauty of memory. The story of a young girl trying to find herself in the midst of so many conflicting and desires swallowed me whole. Jacqueline Woodson has such an original vision, such a singular voice. I loved this book.”


Woodson is the bestselling author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children, including the New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which won the 2014 National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation.


Jacqueline Woodson

story booth at Crosstown Arts

438 N. Cleveland

Thursday, September 8th

6 p.m.










Thursday, September 1, 2016

Jamey Hatley to receive a 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 2:19 PM

Jamey Hatley
  • Jamey Hatley
Memphis fiction writer Jamey Hatley has won a 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, given annually to six women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers, the awards are $30,000 each.

Jamey Hatley is working on her first novel, The Dream-Singers. It is the story of twins, one born at the moment Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his final speech and the other at the moment King dies. After the devastation of the assassination, the people in an all-black neighborhood of Memphis fixate on the babies as a symbol of hope. Their hope is short-lived when the boy twin dies under mysterious circumstances just three months later. Her nominator writes, “Reading her work is like witnessing past, present, and future on one page. She creates a very convincing community and voice through her use of fable.”

Hatley has recently returned to her hometown of Memphis to care for her elderly parents. She says, “So many of the themes that were already present in my novel have become starkly real since my return: dreams as debt, who gets to leave home and who must stay, the responsibility to home, and collective amnesia. It attempts to interrogate the cliché to ‘just follow your dreams’ and reveal what a complex proposition that is for a community where one of the most famous dreamers of all time is killed.”

Her work has appeared in CallalooThe Account, and Oxford American, among others. She has attended Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for the past five years and is the recipient of a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She received her B.S. from the University of Tennessee, her M.A. in journalism from the University of Memphis, and her M.F.A. from Louisiana State University. Hatley plans to use her award to cover living expenses during the next year so she can write full-time and complete her novel.

Novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) established The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program in 1995. Now in its 22nd year, the awards have helped women to build successful writing careers by offering encouragement and financial support at a critical time. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Since the program began, the Foundation has awarded more than $2 million to emergent women writers, including several who have gone on to critical acclaim, such as Elif Batuman, Eula Biss, Lan Samantha Chang, Rivka Galchen, Rebecca Lee, ZZ Packer, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Tracy K. Smith, Mary Szybist, and Tiphanie Yanique.

Set Warp to 1997

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 11:43 AM

Lev Grossman’s debut novel gets the rerelease treatment.

by Jesse Davis

As I selected my latest find from the ever-growing stack of Advanced Reader Copies that looms on my bedside table, I felt the tendrils of expectation reach into my stomach, anticipation pupating and breeding the butterflies of excitement. Not only was I going to make a dent in my to-read stack, but this time I was probably in for a real treat. Why? Because I was about to, at last, read Lev Grossman’s first



Though I had read and loved Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy (Viking/Penguin Books), I had never gotten around to scouring the library or Amazon for a copy of his long out-of-print debut, Warp, (originally released in 1997 by St. Martin’s Press). Based on the success of his recent work, or perhaps in celebration of the debut novel’s 19th anniversary, St. Martin’s is rereleasing Warp.

Why they chose to republish the novel a year before the more auspicious 20-year mark, I can only guess, but the whole rerelease — and the novel itself — feels a little underdone to me.  

Warp rests comfortably in the coming-of-age-tale category. It is replete with references to famous literary and cinematic wanderers, from Joyce’s Leopold Bloom to Picard’s Enterprise, suggestive perhaps that Hollis, the book’s protagonist, has become unmoored, never having found the tether that should have kept him grounded in adulthood. As the plot unfurls, there is no shortage of a conspicuous consumption of alcohol and resulting rum-soaked repartee, and the archetypal proto manic pixie dream girl shows up right on cue, leaning against a phone in an ATM vestibule, stealing long-distance calls from the bank, ready to rock Hollis’ world and waken in him something unnamed or unnamable.

The primary movement of the novel centers around Hollis’ decision to eschew the settled, office-bound career path and lifestyle his ex-girlfriend and most of his friends have chosen. Since Hollis’ friend, Peters, is housesitting for a wealthy couple, the irreverent pair set up shop, drinking down copious amounts of their unsuspecting host’s expensive wine. I remained uncertain as to why exactly the two cash-strapped loafers had to sneak into the house if Peters had been engaged as its temporary caretaker, but that small hurdle in logic was hardly the biggest thing troubling me as I read.

It wasn’t until about this point — page 166, the end of chapter 11 — that I realized I had read Warp when it was originally released, back at the tail end of the ’90s. Rarely do I find myself reading over half a novel only to have my memory jogged by an interesting plot device or some particularly memorable bit of dialogue. No, as such an avid supporter of Grossman’s later work, I find myself uncomfortably compelled to admit that the novel fails to significantly differentiate itself from any other bildungsroman.

It’s a decent first foray, but Hollis reads like little more than an early-model Quentin Coldwater, the hero of Grossman’s infinitely more mature and fully realized Magicians trilogy. Like Quentin, Hollis makes abundant references to popular culture, particularly to other flaneurs and antiheroes. Like Quentin, Hollis suffers from a post-collegiate ennui as he affects a halfhearted search for meaning and direction. The key difference is that, by the time he has written The Magicians, Grossman has something to say, and he has the polished skill and familiarity with his craft to get his point across. Warp finds him still searching for those tools, hanging lumpy dialogue on poor Hollis, making him a mouthpiece instead of letting him just be a character.

Warp serves as a portrait of an artist on the cusp of hitting his stride, still grappling with the ideas and methods that will propel the rest of his career. While it may not have been the most memorable novel, it was Grossman’s first step on what I sincerely hope will be a long career. And there is something to be said for first steps. Without them, the destination remains nothing more than a dream. 

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