The Thanksgiving leftovers are dwindling in the fridge and the holiday season is full swing. During this hectic time of year, I make a habit of setting aside a couple of hours every week to put everything else on hold and just read. Besides helping me prevent brown-outs of jolliness, it also gives me great ideas for gifts, and there are plenty of interesting titles in this month's round-up (for some other great Nashville-centric gift ideas, check out the 2014 Holiday Gift Guide in our Nov. 26 issue, as well as Lesley Lassiter's 2014 Bites gift guide).
At the Library, mysteries rule the roost in fiction, while a couple of fascinating titles join the nonfiction list — namely, a large-format book featuring reproductions of 90 paintings by illustrator Frank Frazetta (whose work appeared in comics, Ralph Bakshi films and Molly Hatchet album covers, among other places) and Walter Issacson's new collection of profiles of the people who made the computer what it is today, beginning with Ada Lovelace in the 1840s.
At Parnassus, top sellers include Husk chef Sean Brock's Heritage cookbook (if you didn't snag tickets to his conversation with Jason Isbell at POP tonight, check out Nicki Wood's interview with Brock in the forthcoming Scene), Pulitzer Prize-winner Marilynne Robinson's latest novel (a National Book Award finalist), Rick Bragg's biography of Jerry Lee Lewis and Andrew Maraniss' biography of Perry Wallace, the Vanderbilt student who in 1966 became the first African American basketball player in the SEC (if you missed Maraniss' appearance at Parnassus, he and Wallace will be in conversation together at the Library's Main Branch on Church Street at 6 p.m. tonight).
Full lists after the jump.
Before we get going, I'd like to thank everyone for sharing some great spine-tinglers in this year's Scary Story Open Thread. In my haste, I failed to mention that you can find the titles that aren't available online at your local bookstores or at the library — including Mr. Tall, the anthology where I first read "The Cloak," books by Dan Chaon, Joe R. Lansdale (who also wrote Bubba Ho-Tep, fun fact), Joyce Carol Oates (daily double: her H.P. Lovecraft anthology is the first search result) and so on.
Across the whole month of October, contemporary detective stories continued to rule the fiction shelves at the library, while biographies stood strong in nonfiction. Héctor Tobar's in-depth reporting on the lives of the 33 miners trapped beneath a mountain in Chile for over two months in 2010 and Husk executive chef Sean Brock's first cookbook were top sellers at Parnassus.
Stucky will read at the event. He's a Boston-based poet and publisher of Black Ocean, a literary curatorial enterprise similar to Third Man Books. His contributions to Language Lessons: Volume 1 are fiercely evocative using few elements, the kind of skill you'd expect from a guy who once earned a publishing deal in an impromptu haiku battle. He'll be joined by eminently lyrical MC Openmic, whose For the Rebels 2 was our pick for Best Hip-Hop Album this year; Kendra DeColo, whose pitch-perfect pair-up with Patricia Lockwood at SFOB I've been kicking myself for missing; and TJ Jarrett, whose Zion studies the Civil Rights movement as it ripples through generations of a family and won the prestigious Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition last year.
The event is free, there's a cash bar and DJ Rap Castle will man the decks and stimulate the low frequencies. Mark your calendar!
One of my favorite short stories is actually set on Halloween — it's "The Cloak," by Robert Bloch, perhaps better known for Psycho. Besides being a setup for a good scare, the first page and a half stands alone as a reminder of what Halloween is all about. But there's a competitor vying for the top spot: I recently picked up Mr. Tall, a collection of short stories by Vanderbilt professor Tony Earley, one of which is set on a Halloween night in East Nashville. It's called "Have You Seen the Stolen Girl?" and it's available online from its initial publication in The New Yorker. Take a 20-minute Reese's break and give it a whirl.
So, dear Country Lifers: what are your favorite tales of terror, Halloween-themed or otherwise? Tell us in the comments! And have a very happy Halloween.
Their plight commanded the world’s attention for an agonizing 69 days, and in his new account Deep Down Dark, Tobar draws upon interviews with all 33 survivors while detailing the rescue effort racing the clock on the surface. In a treat for fans of nonfiction narrative and true-life adventure, Tobar makes a stop on his nationwide book tour 6:30 tonight at Parnassus Books for a “Wine With the Author” event and signing.
Freya West, founder of Delinquent Debutantes and performer extraordinaire, says that the series is in the spirit of burlesque, which turns tradition on its ear. Naked Girls Reading was started in Chicago by West’s own teacher, Michelle L’amour, and has since spread to over 100 cities worldwide, as close to home as St. Louis and far away as Tasmania. Performers read everything from Dostoevsky to David Sedaris to The New Joys of Jell-O Recipe Book.
West is all about body-positive performance and living. She says that the reception of burlesque performance in Nashville has been overwhelmingly positive: “Culturally, we’re sick of being spoonfed. With burlesque, you get to decide for yourself what looks great and see people enjoying their bodies.” Pairing nude bodies with something as ordinary as reading should be stimulating on many levels, and West plans to make the risque, pop art performance a monthly event. In the coming months, L’amour herself will read naked in Nashville and the Debutantes will honor banned books — naked!
The event takes place Friday, Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. for a limited, intimate audience, so get your tickets now and head over to the studio at 3723 Charlotte Ave. General seating is $20 and front row VIP is $30.
Considering this, it might seem counterintuitive for Weise & Co. to host something called Literary Death Match on behalf of the 26th Annual Southern Festival of Books and the Porch Writers' Collective. But the silly part of the premise — four writers have seven minutes each to read their work aloud and convince a panel of judges that they are "the most intense" — effectively stamped out the pretentious connotations of the word "literature." With that out of the way, we were left with a dazzling, vital presentation of contemporary work that was as engaging as the best concerts, plays and stand-up comedy sets I've ever seen, all rolled into one.
She appears at noon in Nashville Public Library's Conference Room II — prompting another tough choice among Jasper Fforde at War Memorial, Michael Sims at Nashville Public Library Auditorium, and best-selling Someone Else's Love Story romance novelist Joshilyn Jackson (noon, Room 12, Legislative Plaza). A wild card that sounds fascinating is the talk by musicologist Annegret Fauser (noon, Room 31, Legislative Plaza) on Sounds of War, her study of music during World War II, which makes the case that classical more than jazz or big-band was the form that defeated the Axis.
You'll need fortification for the day ahead, which features perhaps the toughest choices of the entire schedule. Avail yourself of strong coffee and bracing company at the festival's popular annual Women's National Book Association Coffee with Authors (9 a.m., Nashville Public Library Auditorium), with Gabrielle Zevin and Nadia Hashimi returning from the previous day. Joining them are the authors of two novels arriving at the festival on a groundswell of buzz, both concerning love triangles set against a historical backdrop: Lily King's Euphoria takes off from an incident from the early life of anthropologist Margaret Mead, while Ann Weisgarber's The Promise places a new wife and her husband's pining housekeeper in the path of the unimaginably devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane.
To understand a maelstrom of man's making — the War on Terror — see Wall Street Journal correspondent Anand Gopal (10 a.m., Room 16, Legislative Plaza) discuss how the U.S. military unwittingly revived the Taliban as a force in Afghanistan. His book No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes is regarded as one of the essential texts to date on military missteps in the region.
Alas, his slot is directly opposite one of the festival's favorites, novelist Ron Rash (10 a.m., Room 12, Legislative Plaza), as well as poet Richard Blanco the Wild Things! panel on the continued uses of enchantment in children's literature (10 a.m., Room 29, Legislative Plaza), Huey "Piano" Smith biographer John Wirt leading a panel of veteran music historians (10 a.m., Room 30, Legislative Plaza), and respected Yummy/Chess Rumble YA author G. Neri reading from his verse biography Hello, I'm Johnny Cash (10 a.m., Nashville Public Library, Third Floor Program Room).
Let us help. Below, we offer a day-by-day, hour-by-hour guide to the festival's offerings. After that, you'll find reviews and interviews — supplied by the heavy-lifting literary site Chapter16.org, which, like the festival, is sponsored by Humanities Tennessee — that provide more depth on this year's many remarkable guests.
Even with this much room, we still couldn't include every worthwhile panel or event. Go to humanitiestennessee.org and peruse the author list and the schedules for additional information — and use the guide below to help you get started.
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