Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary deserved better, and in the hands of novelist Mary Gordon perhaps they'd have gotten it. Speaking about her 1998 novel Spending, an extravagant sigh of women's erotica, Gordon said, "My radical act is that a woman has good sex and nobody dies."
Gordon is a feminist, make no mistake about it, but her abiding themesdesire and guilt, religion and sin, ambition and uncertaintyknow no boundaries of gender. Her stories are richly interior and psychologically acute. They are narrated for the most part by women who seem bemused about themselves, and frequently confused, as they review the awkward courses of their lives. They are not always strong women, but they are survivors. They maintain their footing in an unsettled world, and they wear their failures as ribbons of hard-earned growth.
Gordon is an intelligent and serious writer, but she can also be wickedly funny. At the memorable crux of Spending, an artist in search of a male muse paints a pieta of the "post-orgasmic" Christ. Holy Mapplethorpe!
Besides Spending, Gordon has published three other best-selling novels and a collection of novellas called The Rest of Life. Several of her many short stories have been collected in Temporary Shelter, and she has published two family memoirs, The Shadow Man (an investigation into the life of her anti-Semitic father) and Seeing Through Places: Reflections on Geography and Identity. Gordon is equally accomplished as a critic and essayist. In Good Boys and Dead Girls, she conducts a feminist survey of the icons of American literature and finds few writers, men or women, who are capable of rendering realistic portrayals of women. In the same volume are essays concerning her Catholicism and her pro-choice views.
Gordon will read 8 p.m. Oct. 27 in Wilson Hall, Room 126, on the Vanderbilt campus.
John T. Edge is a man dedicated to his craft. He once stood before a crowd in Oxford, Miss., and with little hesitation threw a pig's lip into a bag of potato chips, smashed the bag, ate the chip-covered lip, then chased it with a beer. Here's a fearless man truly devoted to all things gastronomic.
Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, author of A Gracious Plenty: Recipes and Recollections From the American South, and a contributor to Gourmet, Edge has a discerning eye and an enthusiastic appetite. With Fried Chicken: An American Story (Putnam, 180 pp., $18.95) and Apple Pie: An American Story (Putnam, 162 pp., $18.95), he begins the first in a series of books that will celebrate "America's iconic foods." He canvases the country, drinking apple pie shakes and eating Latin-influenced fried chicken, and he even spends time in Tennessee researching the hot chicken phenomenon and discoursing on the merits of Mr. Boo's vs. Prince's vs. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken in Mason, Tenn.
Neither cynical nor sentimental, Edge truly believes in the importance of certain foods and their ability to "transcend interregional variation" and "evoke the culinary and cultural fabric of our nation." Fried chicken and apple pie may be the most familiar of dishes, but behind them are stories, truths forever present yet seldom seen. He appears 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at Davis-Kidd Booksellers.
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AGGGHHHH that last picture!