Friday, December 21, 2007
Beginning in January, Cover to Cover will become a weekly show. It will still air at 8PM Sunday evenings but will be heard each week rather than just the last Sunday of the month.
Since the show debuted in January 1998, it has always been a monthly production. Now, GPB is increasing its commitment to arts and cultural coverage across the state with this expansion of Cover to Cover.
The show will be essentially the same as it has always been; each week a Georgia author will join me live in the studio to talk and take listener calls about one of his or her books. Given the increased frequency of the broadcast, I will be expanding the show’s remit slightly.
One thing that has been clear over the last ten years of Cover to Cover is that there are many people across the state who listen to the show because they themselves are writers, whether amateur or professional. We often get calls from listeners asking the authors about how they write, how to go about finding an agent, or how to get their book published; with a weekly show I will now be able to devote time to discussing the craft and mechanics of writing.
You can also expect to see Cover to Cover out and about more often in the future. From time to time in the past we have recorded shows in front of an audience at venues in different parts of the state. We’ve been to Columbus, Macon, Hawkinsville and Augusta, and these traveling shows have proved a great way for us to get out and meet Cover to Cover listeners and raise GPB’s profile in the community. Obviously the opportunity to do this more often is very welcome.
If you would like to see Cover to Cover come to your community, email me at the address at the end of this blog entry.
We will continue to videotape each show and archive them on the GPB website for on-demand viewing. The Cover to Cover podcast will also continue, as will this blog.
Another new feature you’ll see come January is a daily 5-minute segment airing at 12:54PM each weekday called the Cover to Cover Footnote.
Designed to increase our cultural coverage and promote each weekly show, the Cover to Cover Footnote will be a literary daybook with segments focusing on a wide range of topics all concerned with Georgia writing and writers.
I know what you’re thinking, how can St.John do all this on top of everything else he does at GPB?
Well, I no longer have the management responsibilities I had before and so have the opportunity to devote myself almost exclusively to the show which was my brainchild all those years ago and which I have nurtured like a child. I could not be happier than spending my energies in a more creative way and immersing myself in the readers and writers of this state.
Here is the Cover to Cover schedule for January:
January 6: Terry Kay, The Book of Marie (Mercer University Press, 2007)
January 13: Julie L. Cannon, The Romance Readers’ Book Club (Plume, 2007)
January 20: Steve Berry, The Venetian Betrayal (Ballantine Books, 2007)
January 27: Man Martin, Days of the Endless Corvette (Carroll & Graf, 2007)
I hope you’ll make Sunday evenings at 8 a time to sit down and listen to Cover to Cover on your radio or at your computer (the GPB broadcast signal is streamed live at gpb.org), and don’t forget to catch the Cover to Cover Footnote weekdays at 12:54PM.
More Cover to Cover, more great books, more great authors. It’s all on your GPB station. I hope you’ll tune in.
[Comments and questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Monday, December 17, 2007
I lived in France for two years before coming to the U.S. to attend graduate school at UGA. I taught English for a year in a middle school in the small town of Cluses in Haute Savoie, about 30 miles southeast of Geneva. The second year I was teaching in the English department at the Université de Nancy in the northeast, close to Strasbourg and the German border.
I had recently completed my B.A. in French at the University of Liverpool and so spoke the language with a certain fluency. Armed with my spoken French, I was able to make the most of my two years among the natives, and they were two of the happiest years of my life.
Although I never lived in Paris during my Gallic sojourn, I made a point of visiting often. This was a relatively easy thing to do since the French have a marvelous national rail system, the SNCF, and the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse), a high-speed train that flies cross-country and delivers you in just a few hours to the City of Lights.
Paris has always held a certain fascination for me. In 1969, when I was seven, my sister and I were sent by our parents to spend a couple of weeks with my aunt and uncle who were then living in the northern Paris suburbs (Enghien-les-Bains). It was during this visit that I first went up the Eiffel Tower, first saw Sacré Coeur, and learned my first words of French.
Since then, I have been back to Paris on many occasions and each time my feet touch Parisian soil, I feel as if I’ve just walked through the gates of Heaven. I become Baudelaire’s flâneur walking the streets of my city taking in the sights, the sounds and the smells. It is indeed a special city and one which I would love to call home.
This paean to the French capital is my way of introducing a book that was brought to my attention recently.
You will remember from a recent blog entry that a couple of weeks ago I narrated the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke at the Christmas Candlelight Celebration held in Rome, Ga. Afterwards I was approached by a lady who did something I dread; she thrust a book into my hand.
Now you have to understand that, given what I do, one of the hazards of going out in public is that people give me books they think I should feature on Cover to Cover. I can attend an event and come away with an armful of books given to me by their authors who would love to be on the show.
While I admire these authors’ passion, I usually cannot consider most of the books for a number of reasons: they are self-published; they are poetry; they are of very limited appeal; or they are not of the necessary quality to recommend to the Cover to Cover audience.
The book I was given at the Rome event, however, was different. It’s about Paris!
Nancy Griffin, the lady who put the book in my hand, is not its author. She was simply bringing a book to my attention she thought I would be interested in. It’s by a Georgia author and concerns a city I know well.
The book is Tea with Sister Anna: A Paris Journal, (Golden Apple Press, 2005) by Rome visual and performance artist Susan Gilbert Harvey.
When their mother died in the 1990s, Susan and her siblings were faced with the task of disposing of their parents’ accumulated possessions. In the attic Susan had to unpack the last unopened container: Sister Anna’s steamer trunk. Sister Anna was Susan’s great aunt, sister to her maternal grandmother.
Anna McNulty Lester was born in Conway, SC, in 1862. The family moved to Rome, Ga., in 1868. Anna studied art and in 1887 she became head of the art department at Rome’s Shorter College. In 1897 she left for Paris where she studied art before returning to Rome in December 1898. She died of tuberculosis in Rome on October 17, 1900 at the age of 37.
In the journal and letters of her great aunt, Susan finds a kindred spirit. As she points out in the book’s first pages,
Anna taught art in women’s colleges, and her oils, watercolors, and painted china are family heirlooms. I construct art from junkyard objects, but despite our different media, Anna and I have things in common. We left Rome, Georgia, to attend colleges in Virginia, and sixty years after Anna packed this trunk to study life drawing in Paris, I enrolled in the Hollins Abroad-Paris program.Susan was an undergraduate at Hollins College in Virginia from where she graduated with a degree in art history in 1959. In 1957 she had traveled to Paris on the college study abroad program, and 50 years later, to mark the anniversary of the founding of that program, Susan published Tea with Sister Anna.
In 1998, having poured over Sister Anna’s journal and letters, Susan returned to Paris, in part to relive her year on the Hollins Abroad-Paris program, but also to retrace her great-aunt’s steps through Montparnasse, find her boarding houses and studios, and thus connect with her spirit.
In Tea with Sister Anna, which Susan points out is a work of creative non-fiction, she interlaces her life and experience of Paris in the late 20th century with those of Sister Anna almost a century before. She uses many of Sister Anna’s letters in the book as well as many of her own, written home in 1957, which her mother had kept.
Sister Anna’s letters paint a wonderful picture of fin-de-siècle Paris, and Susan Harvey’s story is a paean not just to the eternal enchantment of Paris, but also to the creative spirit and the women who possess it.
[I always welcome your comments and questions at email@example.com.]
Monday, December 10, 2007
This year, the biennial award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the literary life of Georgia, went to Terry Kay, author of some of the finest Georgia novels ever written such as To Dance With The White Dog, The Valley of Light and The Book of Marie.
Making the presentation to Kay in front of a crowd of over 100 fans and literati was his longtime friend and fellow novelist Anne Rivers Siddons.
I was the M.C. for the event which was followed by a buffet reception.
Here are some photos from the evening as proof that we all had a good time!
Anne Rivers Siddons (center) and Terry Kay (right) talk to one of the guests after the award ceremony
Terry Kay poses with some of his fans after the ceremony. (The man on the right in the background is one of Terry's brothers).
William Starr (Executive Director of the Georgia Center for the Book) and I discuss who has the nicer red tie. (I do!)
At the reception, Dr. Pearl McHaney (English professor at Georgia State University and a Eudora Welty specialist) and I discuss the symbolism of animals in the works of Terry Kay! (In the background, wearing the tuxedo and bowtie, is Tom Bell, co-founder of the Decatur Book Festival).
Judy Long (center), Editor-in-Chief at Hill Street Press in Athens, swoons after I pay her a particularly nice compliment. Terry Kay (right) looks at me thinking "I don't believe he just said that!"
Myself with Judy Long (left) and Pearl McHaney (center), the co-chairs of my international fan club!
I have no idea what I've just said here. I obviously thought it was very funny, but neither Judy Long nor Terry Kay thought so. Oh well!
(All photos: JB Belonio)
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I have one such opportunity tonight. I will be in Rome (Georgia, not Italy!) to take part in a new community-wide event the city’s organizing for the first time.
[I always welcome your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Friday, November 30, 2007
I am a huge fan of the Review and the small but extremely talented staff that are the force behind the publication’s success. Within the last 21 years the Review has taken home two National Magazine Awards, the industry equivalents of the Oscars©—a phenomenal feat when one considers that the little old Review is perennially up against such behemoths as The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s and The Atlantic.
Recently, while reading my copy of Columns, the UGA newspaper for faculty and staff, I came across a small article about another success for the Review.
Here is that article, from the November 19 (Vol. 35, No. 17) Columns:
The Georgia Review, the internationally distributed literary quarterly published at UGA since 1947, has been honored by inclusion in The Best American Magazine Writing 2007 anthology, compiled by the American Society of Magazine Editors and published by Columbia University Press.It seems as though The Georgia Review is to be congratulated yet again on another feather in its cap. How much more of this can we take?
The Georgia Review’s contribution to this volume is Michael Donohue’s “Russell and Mary,” which won the 2007 National Magazine Award in the essays category—beating out entries from The New Yorker, Smithsonian, Foreign Affairs and New Letters by such well-known authors as Paul Theroux, Thomas Friedman and Calvin Trillin.
“Russell and Mary” is an account of a Brooklyn renter who attempts to piece together the lives of his elderly landlady and her long-deceased husband using a box of personal effects the couple left behind. The essay was originally published in the Review’s special 60th-anniversary double issue (fall/winter 2006).
Best American Magazine Writing will be published in December, and is available for pre-order and purchase from Columbia University Press and all major retail and online booksellers.--Reprinted with permission
Seriously though, the Review is a shining beacon for Georgia letters; not because it publishes Georgia writers (although it certainly does feature many), but rather because it continues to bear testimony to the fact that Georgia is a place where letters are celebrated, encouraged, and even revered.
If you get the opportunity to see The Best American Magazine Writing 2007 (pictured above), take a look at Michael Donohue’s essay and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback at email@example.com.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Queen of Broken Hearts is the story of Clare Ballenger, an Alabama divorce therapist who works wonders for her clients but can’t seem to work the same magic for herself or those closest to her.
From the book jacket:
"It’s not easy being the Queen of Broken Hearts. Just ask Clare, who has willingly assumed the mantle while her career as a divorce coach thrives. Now she’s preparing to open a permanent home for the retreats she leads, on a slice of breathtaking property on the Alabama coast owned by her mother-in-law. Make that former mother-in-law, a colorful eccentric who teaches Clare much about love and sacrifice and living freely.
When Clare’s marriage ends in tragedy, her work becomes the sole focus of her life. While Clare has no problem helping the hundreds of men and women who seek her advice to mend their broken hearts, healing her own is another matter entirely. Falling in love again is the last thing she wants.
So when Lex -- a charismatic, charming, burly sea captain -- moves to town to run the marina, Clare insists they remain friends and nothing more. But even though she fights it, she begins to fall for him -- and then finds she has a rival, his estranged wife Annalee.
A story infused with all the flavors, textures, and intrigues of a small Southern town, with a rich, resonant center, Queen of Broken Hearts is a bold step forward for Cassandra King."
Now, I hear some people objecting to, or at least questioning, my choice of Cassandra King for November’s show. Not because she’s not a good writer (which, of course, she is), but because she’s not a Georgia writer.
My answer is “Quite correct.” However, she was born in Alabama, lives in South Carolina, has spent a lot of time in Georgia, and is married to a Georgian. Furthermore, there are readers all over Georgia who love her books, and (and this is the crucial one) she really wanted to be on the show!
Now, when an author as accomplished and as popular as Ms. King wants to spend an hour in the Cover to Cover studio taking listener questions, who am I to say “no”? Add to that the fact that she’s married to another famous Southern author by the name of Pat Conroy, and you can see how difficult it would have been for me to refuse.
Truth be told there have been other “non-Georgian but Southern” authors on the show in its 10-year history; Elizabeth Cox (Night Talk) and Tommy Hays (In the Family Way) to name just two. So there is ample precedent for inviting Cassandra King to join us Sunday evening at 8PM. [Pictured right: Cassandra King. Photo credit: Andy Anderson]
I’ve heard King read from Queen of Broken Hearts on several occasions this year. She was one of the featured authors at the Dahlonega Literary Festival back in February, and I then attended an event she did at the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum in June. I was thrilled when she signed my copy of Queen of Broken Hearts for me and wrote “It’s such an honor to sign a book for you!” Flattery, Cassandra, will get you everywhere!!
King is the author of three previous novels, Making Waves (2004), The Sunday Wife (2002), and The Same Sweet Girls (2005), as well as numerous short stories. She lives in the South Carolina Low country with her husband, Pat Conroy.
Here’s what reviewers have said about Queen of Broken Hearts:
• “King delivers what her fans want—strong bonds, strong women characters and triumph over tragedy.”—Publishers WeeklyI know Sunday’s program will be a good one, and I hope that, wherever you may be in the world, you’ll tune in to listen and maybe even call in. We always use a toll-free number, 1-866-RADIO GA (1-866-723-4642), and the show is streamed live on the GPB website.
• “King's vivid and charming portrayal of southern small-town life enriches this moving and genuine story of midlife revelations.”—Booklist
• “Cassandra King has written a wonderful and uplifting tale, about women helping other women in a small Alabama town. Full of romance and surprises along the way.”—Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe
• “Queen of Broken Hearts is an absolutely fabulous story of healing and hope, filled with irresistible characters that are beautifully drawn and have great insights into life. I laughed and cried, and you will, too… I absolutely adored this book.”—Dorothea Benton Frank, author of The Land of Mango Sunsets
So join Cassandra King and myself on the radio or online Sunday evening at 8 for an hour that will focus on Queen of Broken Hearts.
Hope to hear from you.
[If you have comments or questions about this, or any other, Cover to Cover blog entry, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.]
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The Stanley W. Lindberg Award is presented every two years “in acknowledgment and celebration of an individual’s contribution to the rich literary arts in Georgia.” As such it is a “lifetime achievement” award given to someone judged to have made a significant contribution to Georgia letters. That person may be an author, but may also be a teacher, an editor, a publisher, or even a public radio host ;-).
Stanley Lindberg was, from 1977 until his premature death in 2000, the editor of The Georgia Review, and a UGA professor of English. Under his guidance, the Review became one of the nation's most respected literary magazines; its circulation jumped 250 percent during his first 10 years as editor, and today stands at nearly 6,000 worldwide.
In the 23 years of his editorship, the journal received numerous awards, including a prestigious National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1986. It has won widespread praise for publishing fine writing by famous authors and promising newcomers.
The Lindberg Award was established in the late 1990s by a group of noted writers and members of the Athens literary community who wanted to honor Lindberg's superb editing skills and keen eye for literary talent. The first award was presented in 1999 to author Pat Conroy.
Other recipients of the award include longtime UGA English professor and writer Marion Montgomery (2001), former Georgia Poet Laureate Bettie Sellers (2003), and acclaimed novelist and Macon native Tina McElroy Ansa (2005).
Now, I know you’re all waiting for this year’s recipient to be revealed, so in order to tease you, here are a few clues:
1. Georgia novelist
2. Former newspaper theater critic
3. Several of his books have been turned into TV movies
4. He has been my guest on Cover to Cover on four different occasions
5. In an earlier posting to this blog, I described him as “arguablyGeorgia’s greatest living writer”
The 2007 winner of the Stanley W. Lindberg Award is Terry Kay (pictured above with myself in the Cover to Cover studio).
Kay has published ten novels, a book of essays, and a children’s book; he was a 2006 inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame; he won the 2004 Townsend Prize, Georgia’s highest fiction award, for The Valley of Light; and he is a readers’ favorite all across this state and beyond.
One thing about Terry Kay that the average reader doesn’t know is that he is a firm believer in the community of writers and will go to great lengths to encourage emerging writers and support others in their craft.
Kay was one of the Lindberg Award directors when I joined the board back in 2000. Besides him, the other directors included such literary luminaries as James Kilgo, Philip Lee Williams, Judy Long, editor-in-chief at Hill Street Press in Athens, and Charlotte Mealor who was for many years the business manager of The Georgia Review.
The discussions we would have about potential nominees were fascinating, and the communal knowledge of Georgia letters collected in whatever room we met in was incredible.
Terry Kay is no longer a Lindberg Award director. One of our stipulations has always been that no director can be nominated; that would (rightly) seem incestuous.
I can think of no other person in this state who deserves this award than Terry Kay. His contribution to the literature and literary life of this state is almost immeasurable, and I stand by my earlier statement that he is as “arguably Georgia’s greatest living writer.”
The 2007 Stanley W. Lindberg Award will be presented to Terry Kay at a celebration at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens on Saturday, December 1 at 8PM. I will be hosting the event, and Terry Kay will be introduced by his old friend Anne Rivers Siddons.
This is sure to be a great occasion and I hope you’ll be able to join us for a very special evening.
And finally, congratulations to Terry Kay!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Now there’s a new one to add to the list: Andy Harp.
“We wanted to release this book in a big way. While it is fiction, A Northern Thunder exposes some mind-blowing military satellite and other technology that is little known, but certainly in existence…. Even more than being a page-turner, I wanted this book to be realistic.”
“The secondary characters aren’t nearly as convincing as Harp’s descriptions of satellite technology, submersible suits, and the like. But Parker has resilience, foresight, and fortitude to spare, and North Korea’s repressive regime and rugged terrain make for deadly opponents.”
[I welcome your comments and questions about this or any other Cover to Cover blog entry. Email me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.]
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Regular readers of this blog will remember my August 28 post titled “Three Women Poets from Georgia.” One of the three, Natasha Trethewey, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her third collection Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006).
A graduate of the University of Georgia and now on the faculty at Emory University in Atlanta, Natasha Trethewey might therefore be considered Georgia’s greatest living poet.
Since 2000, when he was appointed by Governor Roy Barnes, David Bottoms has been the Georgia’s Poet Laureate. The Georgia State University professor garnered national attention when his first book of poetry, Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump, was chosen by Robert Penn Warren from a pool of more than 1,300 as the winner of the 1979 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets.
Bottoms has published a further five collections of poems and two novels. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and was awarded the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine. His poems have appeared in such publications as Harper’s, the New Yorker, the Atlantic and Poetry.
David Bottoms, therefore, might be considered Georgia’s greatest living poet.
And let’s not forget Bettie Sellers, poet of the North Georgia Mountains, who for many years taught at Young Harris College. She received a Governor’s Award in the Humanities in 1987, and in 1997 she was named Poet Laureate of Georgia by then Governor Zell Miller. In 2003 she received the Stanley W. Lindberg Award which recognizes outstanding contributions to the literary life of Georgia.
Sellers has published four collections of poems and a study of the life of Byron Herbert Reece, another North Georgia poet who taught at Young Harris until his suicide in 1958. Now in her early 80’s, Sellers has been a longtime influence on the poetic life of this state.
Bettie Sellers might then be considered Georgia’s greatest living poet.
But now I’d like you to consider another name, one you might be familiar with as a novelist rather than a poet.
Judson Mitcham is the only Georgia novelist to have won the Townsend Prize, Georgia’s top fiction award, twice; in 1998 for The Sweet Everlasting and again in 2006 for Sabbath Creek.
Recognized as a superb fiction writer, Mitcham is actually primarily a poet. His first collection, Somewhere in Ecclesiastes, was published by the University of Missouri Press in 1991 and won the Devins Award. In 2003, This April Day came out from Anhinga Press.
His poems have appeared in such publications as Harper’s, the Georgia Review, the Chattahoochee Review, the Gettysburg Review, Poetry and the Southern Review.
Mitcham, who for thirty years taught psychology at Fort Valley State University before retiring in 2004, now has a third collection to his name.
The University of Georgia Press has just published A Little Salvation: Poems Old and New.
The “old” poems are from his previous two collections, but the “new” poems refer to forty-two new pieces, each with one-word titles and arranged alphabetically from “Art” to “Zero,” in the book’s first section Oblique Lexicon.
There follow twenty-three pieces from Somewhere in Ecclesiastes in section two and thirty-two from This April Day in section three.
Writing in The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature, UGA English professor Hugh Ruppersburg encapsulates Mitcham’s writing in the following way:
Examining basic human themes within the specific landscape of Georgia, Judson Mitcham’s writing is both poignant and powerful…. In both his novels and his poetry, Mitcham’s elegiac voice looks backwards with fondness and discernment on a personal and regional past slipping rapidly beyond reach.That sense of loss Ruppersburg identifies, a sense that what has passed meant something but what is to come has no meaning, is easily noted in poems in Oblique Lexicon such as “Never,” “Lyric,” and “Dead.”
The press materials accompanying the review copy of A Little Salvation, describe the collection with these words:
Wise, witty, and deceptively plainspoken, Mitcham’s poems show how the moments that truly save us—that make us human—are necessarily the most fleeting. It is up to us, he reminds us, to create meaning from those moments, and in doing so to create our own salvation.
The transitory nature of human experience is both the boon and the bane of the existence of the speakers in these poems, and every poem seems to recognize its own temporality, trying to find meaning rather than a definitive answer to the questions it raises. The tone of these poems combines a strong sense of humor with a pervasive feeling of loss, both celebrating and mourning that “a true note is still so hard to hit.” These voices revel in the human condition even as they are often saddened by it.
[Comments and questions about all these blog entries are encouraged. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.]
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
If you prefer your Civil War fictionalized there are three museums devoted to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum in Midtown, the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square, and the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro.
[I always welcome feedback to my blog entries. If you have comments or questions about this entry, please email me at email@example.com.]
Monday, November 5, 2007
I recently received the fall 2007 issue in the mail and it is as exciting and as cutting edge as ever.
“Cutting edge” is not a phrase many would think of attributing to the journal. It has always maintained a somewhat staid persona, but this has always been deceptive. The contents have always brought new, bold and progressive authors and artists to the attention of the literati. The current issue is no different. The cover is a striking image that, with a casual glance, you might think is a Vermeer painting. In fact it’s a photo image by the photojournalists Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson whose work is the featured art in this issue.
In 2005 both Alford and Thorne, along with two other photojournalists, produced a book that includes some of the photos that appear in The Georgia Review. The book, published by Chelsea Green Publishing, is called Unembedded: Four Independent Journalists on the War in
It’s not just the Review’s art that is “edgy.” The literary stuff is too. For me, one of the highlights of this issue is the first published fiction of
Ray has made an impression with such nonfiction works as Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home. She has appeared on Cover to Cover, March 2000, and certainly made an impression on me.
Her contribution to the Review is a fiction piece entitled Pilgrimage. Ray proves that she’s a literary heavyweight by conquering both literary nonfiction and now fiction. She’s a
Ray is not the only
In the Review, Johnson contributes an extended critique of five recently published short story anthologies entitled The Best and the Briefest.
The issue contains the usual mix of fiction, essay, art, poetry and reviews, and it also marks a milestone. For thirty years, Gerald Weales has contributed his annual fall American Theater Watch. Weales is an octogenarian who completed his Ph.D. at
I noticed on the title page of this issue that there’s a new member of the Review’s editorial board. Sarah Spence is a professor of Classics at UGA. Her research interests focus primarily on Vergil’s Aeneid, but she is also an expert on the literature of Medieval France. (She was also my major professor when I was working on my Ph.D. at UGA. I’m embarrassed to say that I never completed my dissertation and I know this must have been a great disappointment to her).
For eight years Spence was the founding editor of Literary Imagination, the official journal of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. Both the ALSC and Literary Imagination began as a reaction to the trend in American literary studies away from the beauty of the text itself to the social contexts of such art.
Spence is one of those critics who believes in the primacy of the literary text above all else. Her addition to the editorial board of The Georgia Review can only mean good things.
The Chattahoochee Review is published by
The spring/summer 2007 issue of The Chattahoochee Review features a special focus section on
The special section also includes articles by Hugh Ruppersburg and Terry Kay. Ruppersburg is the Senior Associate Dean in the
Terry Kay’s contribution is “Some Thoughts on Reece, Religion and the Dramatic Moment.” While unusual to see a critical rather than literary piece from Kay, no one is more familiar with or more qualified to comment on Reece’s work. Both authors share a common heritage and a developed literary vision, and both come from
Mildred Greear, a member of the Byron Herbert Reece Memorial Advisory Board and resident of
There are other
There are also poems by two faculty members teaching literature and creative writing at the
Robert Parham, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at
Even though The Chattahoochee Review is a national, even international, review, this issue is well-represented by
I hope the preceding shows you the breadth and depth of the literature that is published in this state and spurs you to rejoice in
[Comments? Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.]
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This is something I know many people around the state have been waiting for. Harris’s first two novels, Delirium of the Brave (1998) and No Enemy But Time (2002) were both exceedingly popular; but for the last five years there’s been nothing, nada, rien, niente!
But now the drought is over…well it will be in March 2008 when Wassaw Sound is published by Frederic C. Beil of Savannah (the original publisher of Delirium of the Brave).
Harris has appeared on Cover to Cover twice before. In April 2000 the show focused on Delirium of the Brave, and in October 2002, No Enemy But Time was the topic of conversation.
Harris is a wonderful man. Savannah born and bred, he sets his books in that fair city and along the Georgia coast that he loves dearly. He enjoys nothing more than cranking up the Admiral Graf Spee, his boat, and sailing along the waterways and inlets that feature prominently in his books.
Harris is the type of author that I admire in a special way. He, and Sandersville’s William Rawlings, are what I would call “gentleman authors"; their writing is an avocation and they have a “real” job which takes up most of their time. Both Harris and Rawlings are doctors-the former a podiatrist, the latter an internist-and might therefore be compared to the doyen of Georgia physician/gentlemen authors, Ferrol Sams.
In fact, Harris retired from medecine several years ago, and Rawlings has as many different occupations as there are gators in the Okeefenokee: physician, author, historic preservationist, estate manager, world traveler, to name those that I know about.
I remember the first time I met Harris. I was interviewing him at our studios here in Atlanta when Delirium came out. He told me that writing a novel was something he just decided to do one day when he’d become bored with a succession of hobbies and his wife warned him it wasn’t healthy for him to sit around in front of the TV every night without anything to do. So, having grown tired of clay pigeon shooting, painting model soldiers, and researching local history, he sat down at his computer and began what was to become Delirium of the Brave.
What Harris writes are not so much novels as sagas. His narratives range over decades and centuries as he tells the stories of the Irish-Catholic families who have been leading lights in Savannah for so long.
Delirium for example begins during the Civil War and concludes in the present, while No Enemy opens during World War II and travels up to the present.
Wassaw Sound spans almost 60 years of Savannah history, from the 1950’s to the present. At the center of the story is an historical event; a hydrogen bomb was jettisoned into Wassaw Sound in February 1958 by a damaged B-47 bomber. Despite an exhaustive search by the military, the bomb, nicknamed the “Tybee Bomb,” was never found.
Once again this story is structured around historical fact. As Harris says in the book’s Prologue,
Although it is fiction, Wassaw Sound is historically and technically correct; the locations in the story are all real and accessible. Most of the characters are, at least to some degree, based on actual people I have known. With some of the lesser characters, I have used their real names.As with Harris’s previous books, Wassaw Sound may revolve around the story of the Tybee Bomb, but it’s about much more than just that; as the publisher’s letter that accompanied the ARC states, the book is about “the power of lifelong friendships, the pain of unrequited love, the fruitlessness of unfettered hatred, and the magnificence of faith and its power to overcome.”
As I mentioned earlier, the Georgia coast in the environs of Savannah has a special place in Harris’s heart. In his earlier books, readers are treated to vistas of the built environment of Georgia’s First City. Now in Wassaw Sound he reveals the beauty and splendor of the marshes, rivers, and islands that lie to the east of the city.
So be prepared for March 2008 and the publication of Wassaw Sound, William C. Harris’s new and much-anticipated novel. He is a masterful storyteller, and another three hundred plus pages of his writing are sure to please readers both in Savannah and elsewhere.
[As always, if you have comments or questions about this blog entry, please email me at email@example.com. Thank you for your feedback.]
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
My guest was Clark Atlanta University professor and novelist Daniel Black and we talked and took audience questions about Black’s second novel, The Sacred Place (St. Martin’s Press, 2007).
The Sacred Place tells a different kind of story, one that focuses on a community rather than an individual.
Unfortunately, Black...stocks his novel with stereotypes—from the downtrodden
blacks to the dumb, bigoted rednecks—who speak in phonetically rendered
dialogue.... The clumsy, heavy dose of Christianity and rudimentary portrayal of
racism will also limit appeal.
If you missed the program, don’t worry, it will be rebroadcast this Sunday, November 4 at 10AM on GPB Radio. Tune in to your local GPB station (except WUGA/91.7FM in Athens), or listen online at www.gpb.org. The program will also be archived on the Cover to Cover pages of the GPB site.
[As always, if you have comments or questions about this blog entry, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your feedback.]
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
[Pictured: The Flynn family at home in 2004. Caroline (my sister), me, Dad and Mum]
Life has been something of a whirl since the day my father died, and only now am I finally getting back to some sense of normality.
I hope you will indulge me. I gave the eulogy at my father's funeral and I'd like to share the text of what I said with you so that you may get some sense of the man he was.
Charles Edward Flynn
4th May 1934 to 27th September 2007
Delivered at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
Friday, October 5, 2007
There are things in life we pray we never have to do; important things we know will be beyond our capabilities, like resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example; or little things we know will just disgust us too much, like shaking hands with a politician; or significant things that no sane person would agree to tackle because of the sheer complexity of the task at hand, like giving the eulogy at Charles Flynn’s funeral.
The only reason I’m doing this now is because I was in Atlanta last week when Dad died and they asked for volunteers to give his eulogy. I was the only person who didn’t take a step back.
My father was, to quote Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” and no one in their right mind wants to try to unravel and make sense of the layers of that puzzle in front of a church full of mourners.
However, as his only son, I feel it is my duty to talk to you about Charles Flynn because I loved him and that love drives me to bring understanding to a life that otherwise some might not appreciate.
There is an adjective used often in America to describe a certain type of person. That adjective is “ornery.” It might be used in the following way, “Boy, Charles sure is ornery today,” meaning “Charles sure is acting like a complete curmudgeon today.”
I was actually quite taken aback when I first heard “ornery” used in Georgia. I had never heard the word before and so, like the good literature graduate student I was, I went to look it up in the dictionary. Imagine my surprise when I turned to the appropriate page, traced my finger down the column of words and, when I got to “ornery,” saw a picture of Dad.
One of the things I want to tell you about my father today is that he was a fun person. Humor was something that was tremendously important to him. He loved classic English comedy, first on the radio and then on television. He soaked up The Goons, Tony Hancock, Morecombe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, and Dave Allen. He read the books of Spike Milligan; he had a fined-tuned appreciation for the piano playing of Les Dawson. And he never failed to laugh when Ernie told Eric about the latest play what he wrote.
A few years ago, in anticipation of this eulogy, and knowing that I would need proof to convince the congregation at his funeral that my father was not completely ornery, I put together a set of questions and asked him to write down his answers. You know the kind of thing, those celebrity Q & As you see in OK! or Hello!
Here are the questions and my father’s answers:
Q: Favorite music? A: Anything in plainchant. It used to be Madonna until I found out it wasn’t the Madonna I was thinking of
Q: Favorite drink: Gin? Beer? Wine? Whiskey? A: All of the above
Q: Favorite wine? A: Red
Q: Favorite pastimes or hobbies? A: Performing my ablutions
Q: Heroes? A: Benson & Hedges and Johnnie Walker
Q: If you could meet one famous person from history, who would it be? A: Sir Walter Raleigh
Q: Favorite sayings? A: Semper in excremento, sole profundum qui variat [I’m always in the crap, it’s just the depth that varies]
Q: Boxers or briefs? A: Neither. I go commando!
Inscrutable. You could never exactly pinpoint what was going through his mind at any given moment. He was not a man given to wearing his heart on his sleeve. His modus operandi was much more subdued; there were emotions he felt very comfortable with – humor and anger, for example – but others were rarely evidenced as they were feelings he found difficult to process.
I always wished he would be more demonstrative and I spent a long time lamenting what I saw as his deficiencies. But as I grew older and experienced my father in more detail, I came to understand why he was the way he was. And I came to appreciate that, like all of us, he was a man shaped by his environment. In his case, however, I think the environment that shaped him was not as gentle as it might have been.
Born in 1934, Charles Edward Flynn was the only child of old parents, both of whom were well into their 40s when he was born. He always spoke fondly of his years as a pupil with the Sisters of Mercy at Crackley Hall outside Kenilworth. As it was wartime, the school was evacuated to Stoneleigh Abbey and Dad often used to tell us of the time he and some of the other pupils and nuns were strafed by gunfire from a German plane as they ran to take cover.
He went on to be educated at Bablake School in Coventry (as all the best and brightest are!), and was then sent to boarding school at Sacred Heart College in Droitwich. He always had many great stories to tell about his time there, and how much trouble he got into, and the friends he made, and the priests who taught him.
These stories always spoke of a zest for life. Here was someone for whom the world was an oyster, someone who came from good working-class stock and would take the very best traits from his family and parlay them into a more comfortable existence.
That he did, although not necessarily easily. The difficulties he experienced, and there were many, came from within.
In order to understand my father we have to understand that he was someone that time left behind. He spent so much of his life looking backward at what had passed and hankering for the time it would return. He was not a great lover of change and he did not adapt to it well, and while not a Luddite, he clung to modes of being and thinking that he thought would preserve that past for him.
You will have by now picked up on his love of Latin. To him this language of a long-gone age was the essence of the world he had once known and lived in comfortably. It was the language of the Church as he was growing up, and as such, it was the language of praise and worship. It was also a mystical entity, not understood by all and not appreciated by all; but for him it was the language that expressed the mysticism of faith and the nature of God. The Tridentine Mass was the rite of worship he had grown up in, and when, in the early 1960s, the Second Vatican Council promulgated a new form of mass celebrated in the vernacular, Dad was lost.
He stayed away from the Church for several years, and when he did return you could see in his bearing that he was yearning for the intimacy and refinement of the Latin Mass.
Latin continued as one of the threads of his life. When I was 11, I was one of the cast members of the Coventry Scouts’ Gang Show. Dad was away working in Scotland on opening night, but I remember arriving at the stage door before the show and being handed an envelope addressed to me. Inside was a telegram from Dad wishing me and the rest of the cast best wishes for opening night. He signed it “Pater Tuus,” “your father.”
There were other examples of his taste for the past. July of 1985 saw two family celebrations fall on consecutive days. July 16th was Mum and Dad’s 25th wedding anniversary and the 17th was my graduation from university.
At home Dad had been collecting 20 pence pieces. I can’t remember how long he’d been collecting the coins, but several weeks ahead of these celebrations, Dad said he thought we should cash in the coins and use the proceeds to buy bowler hats for each of us to wear at the anniversary and graduation.
The bowler hat had never been an integral part of my wardrobe, but it had for Dad. As a young, newly married accountant, he was working in Birmingham and took the train every morning to work. He wore the standard work uniform of the day: dark suit, white shirt with starched collar, furled umbrella, briefcase…and bowler hat. Of course, 25 years later the bowler hat had been eclipsed by, well, nothing. While I was not in the habit of wearing a bowler to lectures every day, I thought Dad’s idea was quaint.
He cashed in the coins and off we went to Dunn & Co. in the Coventry city centre. They had bowler hats and we selected the appropriate sizes. Dad then asked about getting them fitted. The young sales assistant looked at Dad like he was from Mars; he had absolutely no idea what Dad was on about. When the Manager came over and explained that there wasn’t much call for hat fitting these days, Dad was furious. He marched out of the shop, without the hats, and I was left to apologize.
We eventually bought the hats from a Dunn & Co. store in Birmingham.
Another of Dad’s throwbacks to the past was the pair of pince-nez he bought, presumably from an antiques shop or estate sale. For those who may not know, pince-nez were the precursor to spectacles as we know them today. Instead of two bars either side of your face that hooked over your ears, the nose grips were spring-loaded and could be pressed open and placed on the bridge of the nose where they sat. Pincer is the French verb meaning "to pinch," and le nez is the French for “nose”. This device literally “pinched your nose.”
The family went out for a meal at a restaurant one evening and Dad insisted on taking his new pince-nez with him. The frame and lenses were attached to a small gold chain which had an ear piece on the end so you could hook them over your ear and leave them dangling when they weren’t on your nose. When the waitress came to take our order, Dad took the dangling pince-nez and perched them on his nose and began to look at the menu. Not being used to wearing such an item, he couldn’t keep them on his nose, and the lenses weren’t his prescription either.
That waitress must have gone back to the kitchen with our order and said “You should see the guy at table 3. He thinks he’s Prince Albert or something.”
Dad was a faithful letter writer. He wrote to me very often when I was at university and then when I moved to the States. I still have his letters, and reading them over again I am struck by just how funny he could be, and also touched by his persistence; he would often begin by saying something like “Not that much has happened to your Mum and I since I last wrote but…” and he’d go on to mention anything he thought might interest or amuse me.
He often used to cut things out of The Times and include them in his letters. It might be a letter written to the Editor, or some piece of trivia, or an amusing anecdote. Here’s one that I’ve kept. It’s the text of a notice behind the bar at the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England, on Tan Hill, Yorkshire. It reads:
“The landlord smokes, his wife smokes, all the staff smoke, most of the locals smoke, those that have made it up the hill need a smoke. If the wind is in the east the pub smokes. So if you want a smoke-free zone, go outside.”
“Capsellarum magnetoscopicarum theca - the Latin for video rental store as given in the Vatican’s new Latin dictionary.”
Dad would suddenly disappear from functions so he could go outside to smoke. He smoked for almost 60 years, and although he paid a physical price for it, he enjoyed it. So much so that when Mum, Caroline and myself went to see Dad at the funeral director’s earlier this week, we put a new pack of 20 Superkings in his jacket pocket in the coffin, so he’d have what he needed for the journey to Heaven or across the Styx.
In fact, it would not surprise me in the least if Dad were outside the church right now smoking a cigarette and thinking to himself “I never brought St.John up to be so prolix.” Would someone please check for me?
I’m just waiting to hear, through some divine prophecy or a Marian vision, about Dad’s reaction when he gets to the Pearly Gates and he’s waiting in line with his bowler hat and pince-nez and the ever-present cigarette between his fingers, and just as St. Peter opens the gate for Dad to enter, the Great Saint looks at Dad and points to a sign in Latin on the gate post which reads: Tibi gratias agimus quod nihil fumas, “Thank you for not smoking.”
I said earlier that Dad was a man that time forgot, and I think throughout his life he sought to recreate bygone eras as a way of once more getting to grips with a world he could know and understand. There were events in his life that I think left an emotional scar on him and destabilized the world as he understood it.
When he was 17 he was diagnosed with pleurisy and was confined to bed for 6 months. This obviously had an impact on his education, and perhaps on how he was treated by his parents, as there were great suspicions that “pleurisy” was a code word for tuberculosis.
Dad’s mother refused to attend his wedding to Mum. I can’t imagine what affect that must have had on him.
Several years later he found out that, despite all he’d been told, he was not an only child but indeed had a half-sister, someone he’d always been led to believe was his cousin.
These were things that shook his confidence in a world he’d been led to believe was his for the taking. The hurt he inevitably suffered he internalised, but he clung to those things that he felt could bear him up: the Church and its Latin, articles that had once been commonplace in his world such as the bowler hat or pince-nez, and of course his family.
He loved us in the best way he knew how. He wasn’t given to sentimentality, but he’d make us laugh, let us laugh at him, share in our sorrows and our celebrations, and do little things to put his stamp on things in our lives.
As a final tribute to this great man laid out before us in his coffin, I want to dig into the past to celebrate all that he was and all that he gave to me.
I know Dad was proud of the fact that I did so many years, too many years maybe, of Latin.
When I was preparing for Latin A-level, one of the prescribed texts we had to study was the poems of the first century B.C. Roman poet Catullus. To this day he remains one of my favorite poets. I have even taught him in translation to my undergraduates at the University of Georgia.
One Catullus poem has always stood out for me because of the depth of sorrow it expresses. Catullus’s brother had died while on a foreign civil service posting and his funeral had to be carried out in the absence of any family. Later Catullus himself takes a post in that same region and visits the grave where his brother’s ashes are buried.
Here is that short poem, in English translation:
Carried over many seas, and through many nations,
Brother, I come to these sad funeral rites,
to grant you the last gifts to the dead,
and speak in vain to your silent ashes,
since fortune has stolen from me your very self.
Ah alas, my brother, taken so shamefully from me.
Yet now, receive these sad gifts
which by the ancient custom of our fathers,
have been handed down as offerings to the dead,
take them, soaked deeply with a brother’s
tears, and forever, brother: ‘Hail and Farewell!’
And so I say to you Dad,
In perpetuum, pater, ave atque vale.