With all the ongoing controversy over "legitimate rape" and the legislation of women's bodies by lawmakers who clearly don't understand them, many online commenters have invoked the dystopian landscape of Margaret Atwood's classic speculative (or so we hope) novel The Handmaid's Tale. That makes the choice of Atwood as the recipient of the 2012 Nashville Public Library Literary Award unusually timely.
Atwood will be in Nashville Oct. 26 and 27 to accept the honor, previously bestowed upon luminaries such as John McPhee, John Irving, Ann Patchett, Doris Kearns Goodwin and the late John Updike. (The first was awarded in 2004 to the late David Halberstam.) The events, sponsored by the Nashville Public Library, typically include a patrons party, a public reading and a gala awards presentation, this year to be accompanied by a citywide reading, at Mayor Karl Dean's urging, of The Handmaid's Tale.
We would have been happy with Atwood's ingeniously structured The Blind Assassin — but for topicality's sake, it'd be tough to beat the mayor's choice. Alas.
Sept. 13: Nikky Finney
When poet and University of Kentucky professor Nikki Finney won the National Book Award last year for her collection Head Off & Split, she accepted by delivering a rousing performance that was part sermon, part history survey and all poetry. Awards show host John Lithgow called it the "best acceptance speech for anything I've ever heard in my life," and no one could have accused him of exaggerating. Finney's poems jump off the page, and her readings make language sing, swerve and burn. 7 p.m. at Sarratt Cinema, Vanderbilt University
Sept. 15: East Side Story Grand Opening
The local-centric bookstore run by Chuck Beard, also the editor of Number arts magazine, celebrates with music by Carolina Story and more.
Sept. 21: Stephen Mansfield
The New York Times bestselling author discusses his most recent book, The Mormonizing of America: How the Mormon Religion Became a Dominant Force in Politics, Entertainment and Pop Culture. A timely topic, indeed. 10 a.m. at Neely Hall, Belmont University
Sept. 29: Kat Zhang and C.J. Redwine
Zhang, a 21-year-old senior creative writing major at Vanderbilt, is the author of What's Left of Me, a speculative piece of fiction about two intertwined souls. Redwine's novel Defiance is set in a walled city where every girl must, by law, have a male Protector. 1:30 p.m. at Parnassus Books
Oct. 1: Colin Meloy
The author, perhaps more familiar to older fans as frontman of the band The Decemberists, known for its expansive and vocabulary-rich lyrics, reads from and talks about Under Wildwood, his new children's novel. 6:15 p.m. at Nashville Children's Theater
Oct. 2: Michael Chabon
Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon's newest novel Telegraph Avenue focuses on a record store in Berkeley, Calif., riffing on jazz, the '70s and the black culture of the time. 6:15 p.m in the auditorium at the Nashville Public Library downtown
Oct. 9: Louise Erdrich
Author of 13 novels, plus numerous poetry volumes and children's books, Erdrich will discuss her latest novel, The Round House. 6:15 p.m in the auditorium at the downtown library
Oct. 12-14 The Southern Festival of Books
It's worth noting that of CNN.com's list of highly anticipated summer books, four will be represented at this year's festival: Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles, David Maraniss' Barack Obama: The Story, and Ben Fountain's "Catch-22 of the Iraq War" Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.) Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger and Atlantic senior editor Ta-Nehisi Coates are also among the many notable writers scheduled to attend. Various times, at Legislative Plaza, downtown library and War Memorial Auditorium
Oct. 18: Acclaimed Native American poet and novelist Sherman Alexie reads from his work. 6:15 p.m. at the Dead Poets Society Room, Montgomery Bell Academy
Oct 25: Poetry Sucks! returns to East Nashville with poet Wayne Miller. 8 p.m. at Dino's
Nov. 1: Adam Zagajewski
The Polish-born poet is probably best known for his post-9/11 poem that appeared in The New Yorker, which instructs us: "Praise the mutilated world / and the gray feather a thrush lost, / and the gentle light that strays and vanishes / and returns." Like his countryman Czeslaw Milosz, he narrates a world both haunted and emboldened by history. 7 p.m., Buttrick 101, Vanderbilt University
Nov. 13: Emma Donoghue
The author of Room discusses her new story collection Astray. 6:15 p.m. at the downtown library
Nov. 15: Justin Torres
The novelist and author of We the Animals — which The New York Times called "the kind of sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel that may soon be extinct from ... mainstream publishing" — reads from his work. 7 p.m. at Buttrick 101, Vanderbilt University
Nov. 27: Barbara Kingsolver
Author of 14 books, among them seven novels, poetry, essay collections and poetry, Kingsolver comes to Nashville to discuss her newest novel, Flight Behavior, which takes an unexpected path toward that sometimes-messy contemporary issue, climate change. 6:15 p.m. in the auditorium of the Main Library
Dec. 13: Jon Meacham
The Pulitzer Prize winner discusses his book Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. 6:15 p.m. at the Main Library —STEVE HARUCH
For more book events, visit the Scene's arts and culture blog, Country Life: nashvillescene.com/countrylife.
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