Every so often a book comes in that, as soon as I pull it from the envelope, I know I have to read.
The latest book by Philip Lee Williams, In the Morning: Reflections From First Light (Mercer University Press, 2006), is one of them.
It came into the office toward the end of last year but, due to my hectic reading schedule, I haven't been able to get to it until now. It is one of those rare books that sat on a shelf in my office and glared at me every day as I sat at my desk; its spine nagged me constantly, reminding me that I had told myself I have to read it.
Philip Lee Williams is a friend. Regardless, he is one of Georgia's most underrated writers, IMHO (that's blog(g)ese for "in my humble opinion"), and has yet to be as widely recognized as he deserves for the excellence of his writing.
As an author he has both breadth and depth. His 2004 Civil War novel, A Distant Flame, won the 2005 Michael Shaara Award for Civil War Fiction for the Best Civil War novel published in the United States; his first novel, The Heart of a Distant Forest, won the 1986 Townsend Prize, Georgia's highest fiction award; The Song of Daniel won him the Georgia Author of the Year for Fiction in 1991; and just this year In the Morning garnered Phil the Georgia Author of the Year award in the Essay category (beating out President Jimmy Carter!).
Phil has also been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize by the Chattahoochee Review; his poetry has appeared in numerous journals; and, to cap it all, his memoir, The Silent Stars Go By, is one of this radio host's best-loved books by anyone!
What strikes me about In the Morning is the originality of its theme. As the book jacket (pictured above) proclaims, "Morning is a part of everyone’s life. But relatively little has been written directly about morning itself because it is a background rather than a major theme." And Williams, in his opening pages, explains his attraction to the subject:
Morning. Each day the world yawns with light as the planet comes out of its spin away from the sun. It heralds the wedding day of two lovers, the funeral of a beloved father or mother, the hope of good news, the punishment of a hangover, or the start of a journey.In the Morning is a series of what might be termed meditations on this transitional time of day, and it showcases many of the facets of Phil Williams writing that make him one of our best. It's a touching, insightful memoir; it's highly-observed nature writing; and it's pure poetry in it's use of language, metaphor and juxtaposition. All in all, this book is writing at its very finest, by one of Georgia's finest.
And yet morning has had few books all its own.
Philip Lee Williams has been a guest on Cover to Cover on three occasions. The August 1998 show featured his first novel The Heart of a Distant Forest; in November 2000 we discussed his memoir The Silent Stars Go By; and in March 2005 his award-winning Civil War story A Distant Flame was the topic of conversation.
There is so much more to say about Phil, but I hope I've given you a brief taste of the wonders this man's writings contain. To find out more about him, visit his website, www.philipleewilliams.com.
And, of course, look for Phil to return to Cover to Cover in the not too distant future, when we might be talking and taking your calls about all things matitudinal!