Cover To Cover is the anchor program for GPB’s literary coverage. Cover To Cover features a collection of distinctive Southern voices interviewing Georgia writers, Southern writers, and writers dealing with the South. The GPB Southern Lit Cadre will provide you with a varied, weekly glimpse at fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, and even the occasional ‘old school’ nod to Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three Women Poets from Georgia

There was an interesting article on the front of the Living section in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution about the Emory University poet Natasha Trethewey, whose third collection of poems, Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The article, titled “A father reflects on his Pulitzer-winning daughter,” was based on an interview with Natasha’s father, Eric Trethewey, himself a very accomplished poet.

Eric is a professor of English at Hollins University in Virginia where he teaches in the creative writing program. He is the author of five poetry collections and numerous stories, essays, and reviews that have appeared in prestigious magazines and anthologies such as The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The Hudson Review, Poetry, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, The New Republic, and The Southern Review.

Obviously then Natasha is a chip off the old block. Both father and daughter share similar poetic philosophies and a love of traditional forms such as sonnets, ballads, etc. And they read each others work closely.

Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1966 to interracial parents (her mother was black and her father is white) who had to leave the South to avoid anti-miscegenation laws, Natasha earned a BA in English from the University of Georgia.

After graduate study at Hollins University (MA in English and Creative Writing) and at the University of Massachusetts (MFA in poetry), and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, she taught at Auburn, UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke Universities before joining Emory where she holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry.

Besides Native Guard, Natasha has published two other collections of poems:

Domestic Work (Graywolf Press, 2000), which won the inaugural 1999 Cave Canem poetry prize (selected by Rita Dove), a 2001 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize, and the 2001 Lillian Smith Award for Poetry.

Bellocq's Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002), received the 2003 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize, was a finalist for both the Academy of American Poets' James Laughlin and Lenore Marshall prizes, and was named a 2003 Notable Book by the American Library Association.

Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry 2000 and 2003, and in journals such as American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and The Southern Review, among others.

Natasha (above right) is a member of the Dark Room Collective, a group of African American poets who first got together in Boston in 1988 with the mission of establishing a community of established and emerging black writers.

Among the most influential members of the DRC, besides Natasha, is fellow Emory poet Kevin Young. Young is the author of five poetry collections and editor of a further four. His poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Callaloo, and many other journals.

Originally from Louisiana, Young has an AB in English and American Literature from Harvard University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University. He was a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, and he has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and the NEA.

Kevin has also taught at the University of Georgia and Indiana University, where he was the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry. Currently he is Atticus Haygood Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing, and Curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory.

It’s no hyperbole then to say that one of Georgia’s own is among this country’s premier poets. It’s also comforting that Natasha Trethewey is now teaching in Georgia and sharing her talent with students in this state.

I know you’re thinking “but what about the other two women poets from Georgia?” so here we go…

When I was a graduate student in the Comparative Literature department at the University of Georgia in the early 90s, I used to rub shoulders with members of the Classics department as we shared the same digs in Park Hall. One of the undergraduate Classics majors I knew was Alicia Stallings, a winsome blonde girl who is the second of our Georgia poets.

A. E. Stallings (her nom de plume) was born in 1968 and grew up in Decatur, Georgia. After graduating with a degree in Classics from UGA she crossed the Atlantic to study at Oxford. She now lives in Athens, Greece, with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and young son.

Her poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry series (1994 & 2000) and has received numerous awards, including a Pushcart Prize, the Eunice Tietjens Prize (1997) and the Frederick Bock Prize (2004) from Poetry, the James Dickey Prize from Five Points, and the Nemerov Sonnet Award from The Formalist.

Her first poetry collection, Archaic Smile (University of Evansville Press, 1999), was awarded the 1999 Richard Wilbur Award by judge Dana Gioia. Her second collection, Hapax (TriQuarterly, 2006), takes its name from the Ancient Greek word meaning "once, once only, once and for all."

She composed the Latin lyrics for the opening music of the Paramount film, The Sum of All Fears, and she has completed work on a verse translation, due out later this year, of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura [The Nature of Things] for Penguin Classics.

Alicia’s life is marked by a strong classical strain; from her education to her husband (John is of British and Greek origin and I used to know him when he worked as a journalist and producer at CNN headquarters in Atlanta in the mid/late 90s) to her son, whose name is Jason, to her country of residence.

And yet, despite how far removed she might appear from UGA and Decatur, this up and coming poet is still a Georgia girl.

Our third and final poet is Chelsea Rathburn whose poetry collection, The Shifting Line, was published by the University of Evansville Press in November 2005.

Chelsea earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas and is a native of Miami, Florida. Her poems have appeared in The New Criterion, The Hudson Review, The Formalist and Pleiades, among other journals and anthologies.

Although a Florida native, she is a marketing writer by trade and lives in Atlanta with her husband Brandon Arnold who works as a producer for GPB TV's Georgia Outdoors.

The Shifting Line was chosen by poet Tim Steele as the winner of the 2005 Richard Wilbur Award.

Chelsea (pictured left) will be reading at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend in downtown Decatur (Saturday, September 1, at 1:45PM).

These three young poets are among the finest in the country and have very strong ties to Georgia. It’s encouraging to see such vibrancy in what is produced in our great state, and to consider what affect these women might have on future generations of Georgia children.

Poetry of a female persuasion is alive and well in the Peach State, and for that we all should be grateful.

[If you have comments or questions about the blog entry, please email me at . I look forward to hearing from you.]

Friday, August 24, 2007

Memory’s Keep on Cover to Cover this Weekend

Sunday evening at 8 this month’s Cover to Cover airs on all 16 GPB radio stations around Georgia, as well as online via our streamed on air signal.

I hope you’ll be able to tune your radio in or listen online for what is sure to be an insightful program.

My guest this month is University of Georgia English professor James Everett Kibler (pictured left) who’ll join me to talk and take listener calls about his latest novel, Memory’s Keep, the second of his Clay Bank County trilogy (see my August 8 blog entry).

I’ve been out of state since last Monday and haven’t been able to post anything to this blog until today. I’ll be back in Georgia Sunday in time for Cover to Cover, and will be able to resume regular posts at that point. Forgive me in the meantime!

A few words about Memory’s Keep ahead of Sunday’s show: Southern critic James Cantrell, author of How Celtic Culture Invented Southern Literature, says of James Kibler,
He stands with Wendell Berry as an inheritor of Caroline Gordon’s mantle for pre-eminent Agrarian novelists. Like Berry, Kibler explores the relationships among life on the land, family strength, individual sense of self-worth and self-restraint, sense of community predicated upon place and history rather than cash nexus, the inextricable ties of past-present-future, and the incessant narcotic tug of American materialism.
It is the primacy of the relationship between man, a spiritual being, and the land that lies at the heart of the writings of the literary group known as the Southern Agrarians. They flourished in the early 1930s with the publication of a collection of essays entitled I'll Take My Stand, which became the de facto Agrarian manifesto.

Associated with Vanderbilt University, the Agrarians developed out of a group known as “The Fugitives,” or the “Fugitive Poets,” whose number included John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, Randall Jarrell, and Robert Penn Warren.

Setting themselves against modernism and the growing industrialization of Southern life, these writers advocated a return to the earlier ideals of an agriculturally based existence where that closeness to the land fed men’s souls. Inherent in what the Agrarians believed was a profound distrust of the “instant gratification” complex that was one of the by-products of an ever-increasing capitalism, and of what Cantrell terms “the incessant narcotic tug of American materialism.”

Such a conservative view of society inevitably looks back to an earlier time of relative idyllicism, but there is also the realization that the past cannot be separated from the present or the future. Tradition, that wonderful Southern shibboleth, only remains so to the extent it informs the future.

Kibler talks about the meaning of his novel’s title, and the significance of memory, in his Preface to Memory’s Keep:

Like the keep of a castle, the memory is the most interior and sacred of places, the inviolate, unassailable centre that best protects our humanity and says who we are. Scientists don’t like memory very much. It’s the province of art, and, in an age when science has come to dominate, it must be defended above all. Momentary man, living for the gratification of the now, doesn’t care much for memories. He finds them instead a threat, an inconvenience, and a hindrance besides—something inefficient and impractical, and best to be rid of. The folks of the Clay Bank County series, whatever their shortcomings, are not momentary women and men. Provincials of place, they might certainly be, but never provincials of time. They do not inhabit a
throwaway world.
Join James Kibler and myself Sunday evening at 8 for look at that mystical bond that has always tied the true Southerner to the land. As the great contemporary Southern author Fred Chappell says about Memory’s Keep,
Anyone who likes the smell of newly turned April dirt, of green fields simmering in summer heat, of freshly planed walnut, will love every page of this fondly authored book.
Even if you have no idea of what these smells are, you can still listen to the show on Sunday, and call the toll-free number to be part of the live discussion (1-866 RADIO GA or 1-866-723-4642). The first five callers with questions or comments for James Kibler will receive a signed copy of Memory’s Keep.

I hope you can join us.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Loosening Corsets

As a transplant to Georgia, I still find myself discovering things about my adopted home that I find truly fascinating; things that constantly make me proud to be living here in the largest state east of the Mississippi (that's one of those things!).

The latest fact to catch my attention is that the first woman senator of the United States was from Georgia. Not many people know that. In fact I'd go so far as to say not many Georgians know that! But it's absolutely true.

If I had been a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Regis had asked me "The first woman senator of the United States was from which state?," I would have expected my four answer choices to include a) California b) A couple of New England states, maybe Massachusetts or Vermont and then c) A wild card choice, like the District of Columbia or North Dakota. If I'd seen Georgia as one of the choices, I'd have dismissed it immediately...and I'd have lost $32,000 in the process.

The new book from Macon, Georgia, author A. Louise Staman is a biography of the first U.S. woman senator.

Loosening Corsets: The Heroic Life of Georgia's Feisty Mrs. Felton, First Woman Senator of the United States (Tiger Iron Press, 2006) tells the story of Rebecca Latimer Felton who was born in 1835 and died in 1930, and became the first woman U.S. senator at the age of 87.

Mrs. Felton was a woman before her time and led a full and extraordinary life. As the book's website proclaims:
Although the book is nonfiction, the life of Rebecca Latimer Felton reads like a novel, revealing the nearly forgotten story of one of the most remarkable woman in history. A Georgian born before the Civil War, Felton became the first woman Senator of the United States in 1922, at age 87. A tireless crusader, her attempts at political and civil reform are set against the backdrop of a state in violent chaos. Sherman’s matches, Reconstruction’s graft, one-party corruption, the KKK, lynchers, hallelujah evangelicals, chain-gang convicts, the sneering H.L. Mencken, “unsexed” suffragists, WCTU crusaders, and something possibly worse than anything else – a tiny insect called the boll weevil – all strut or crawl or sweep across the pages of this work.
Staman's authoritative biography, which took four years to research and write, has garnered several prestigious awards. It took first runner-up prize in the Reference category of the 2007 Eric Hoffer Award (for short prose and independent books); it also won the Southeast region non-fiction category of the 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; and it was also a nominee in the History division of this year's Georgia Author of the Year Awards.

Loosening Corsets is an important book; it focuses on someone who played a significant role in Georgia history but has been largely overlooked because of her sex. Louise Staman has done us all a great service by setting down Rebecca Latimer Felton's story so that it will no longer be overlooked. As Staman notes on her website (
Four years ago I was working in the archives of the University of Georgia when I found an old picture of an ancient woman, dressed to the nines, staring straight at me – almost as if to say, “I dare you to discover my story.” All I had was a name, Rebecca Latimer Felton. What I discovered was one of the most remarkable women in American history, and a story so turbulent and filled with drama, it seemed like fiction. The result is a book: "Loosening Corsets: The Heroic Life of Georgia’s Feisty Mrs. Felton, First Woman Senator of the United States." I hope to make the story of this nearly forgotten woman known once again, along with all that she did in her beloved state of Georgia.
Incidentally, as I was looking through the many books on the shelves in my office today, I came across an earlier publication by A. Louise Staman. I have a small library in my office because I like to hold on to books that come in from publishers about Georgia or by Georgia authors in case I should ever need them in the future. I like to think of my office space as a sort of reference library for Georgia literature. My colleagues think of it as a mess!

In 2002, Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, brought out With the Stroke of a Pen, a literary true crime book with the subtitle A Story of Ambition, Greed, Infidelity, and the Murder of French Publisher Robert DeNoël. On the night of December 2, 1945, the famous publisher, and three lawyers met together on a deserted Paris street corner. That meeting went very well for the lawyers. But the publisher received a bullet in the back.

Here's how the jacket describes the book:
Using sensitive documents recently unsealed by the French government, Staman explores the life of Robert DeNoël from his dramatic rise in publishing to his mysterious murder in 1945. A man of contradictions, DeNoël published the works of anti-Semitics alongside the works of Jews and Marxists. In fact, during the same month that he went on trial for Nazi collaboration, he won the most prestigious prize in French literature, the Prix Goncourt, for his publication of a work by Elsa Triolet, a Russian Jew and an ardent supporter of the Nazi Resistance movement. How DeNoël's company was acquired after his death by his nemesis, Gaston Gallimard, involves a riveting tale of crime, murder, betrayal, and cover-up not often found even in fiction. Set against the colorful backdrop of Paris from the roaring 20s through the turbulent Nazi occupation years in the 30s to the post-war investigation, this is a riveting story of a fascinating man.
With the Stroke of a Pen was Louise Staman's first book. As with Loosening Corsets, she rescues a significant person from the tomb of oblivion and reveals to the world a glimpse of greatness that ought not go unnoticed.

I hope Louise Staman's books will not go unnoticed.

[Please email your comments or questions about this blog entry to me at I hope to hear from you.]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Burbank with a McGregor: Bleistein with a Cigar?

I guess that technically it's now late summer as children all over the state have returned to school after the summer vacation. However, with the elevated temperatures most of us in Georgia are currently experiencing, it doesn't seem too preposterous to claim that summer is still well and truly with us.

I need it to be so for today's blog entry. Two European city guides were quite recently brought to my attention by their author. James H.S. McGregor is professor and co-chair of the department of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. He is an expert on Renaissance Italian literature (Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch etc.) and is one of this country's leading authorities on all things Roman.

The latest additions to McGregor's long list of publications are two "travel guides": Rome from the Ground Up (2006), and Venice from the Ground Up (2006), both published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Unlike the usual travel guides you might find in your local bookstore, both of these works are for the more erudite traveler. They might be described as "literary" walking tours for the intellectually curious who want not just the high points but also the history of those high points in context.

As McGregor says in his introduction to the Rome guide:

Rather than sorting through the city layer by layer, vertically, this book explores an ideal journey through times and places that for the most part lie side by side. That ideal journey is at the same time an itinerary through the present-day city of Rome.

One of the distinguishing features of McGregor's guides is that they are so much more than just travel guides; they can be read as histories too. And when you consider that one of the author's most influential publications is his 1993 translation of Luigi Guicciardini's The Sack of Rome (Italica Press), you can appreciate that McGregor knows whereof he speaks.

The sack of Rome was one of the defining moments of Roman, and Western, history. As the translator says in his Introduction:

On May 5, 1527 Spanish, German, and Italian troops under the banner of the Holy Roman Emperor swarmed into Rome. Until December, when they were finally dispersed by plague, these troops plundered, tortured, raped, and murdered in the defenseless capital of Christendom.
The sack of Rome in 1527 was an event of tragic and decisive importance. It brought the Renaissance, the greatest period in Italian history, to its sudden and catastrophic end.

Adding authority to McGregor's guide is the fact that he lived in Rome for a year in the early 1980s as a fellow at the American Academy. I'm sure he could take the Spanish Steps five at a time!

What McGregor shows us in Rome from the Ground Up is how Rome recovered, prospered, and developed from its Etruscan origins through the beginning of the 21st century. As Booklist said of this guide and its author, "Where history, architecture, and travel find common ground is where this author dwells."

Turning now to Venice from the Ground Up, McGregor shows the same excellence as he does when writing about Roma. This is "a thinking person's guidebook" (Kirkus Reviews), and while I have never (to my great shame) visited Rome, I have a strong connection to the City of Canals; my parents spent their honeymoon in Venice, staying at a hotel on the Venice Lido, and in 1973 our family spent several days there seeing the breathtaking sights, marveling at the vistas, and looking for the honeymoon hotel (which had been converted into something else).

I can't think of Venice without being reminded of Luchino Visconti's superb 1971 film adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella, Death in Venice. Dirk Bogarde's Gustave von Aschenbach is luminous, and the movements from Gustav Mahler's 3rd and 5th symphonies give the film a depth and pathos appropriate to the location.

Venice is romance. Venice is history. Venice is beauty. Venice is art. When I made arrangements to return there with a companion a few years ago, I was hell bent on a grand time. I had booked flights, a hotel on the Lido, and was looking forward to taking the vaporetto over to Murano to visit the glass factories. Imagine my disappointment when we had to cancel the entire trip because my traveling companion, who is Asian, was required to apply for an Italian visa, which meant he would have to go in person to the Italian consulate in Miami. This was too much and too expensive. We went to Edinburgh instead!

Fortunately, McGregor's guide is perfect for the armchair traveler too. But those lucky enough to get there would be well advised to consider throwing Venice from the Ground Up into their suitcase before leaving. As the author states in his Introduction:

This book explores the culture of Venice that is imprinted most distinctly on its urban form--the webwork of canals and the counterpoint of bridges and walkways, soaring churches and crumbling palaces, the grand ceremonial Piazza San Marco and the peaceful neighborhood campi.

Unless you have a copy of John Julius Norwich's A History of Venice, I doubt you'll find anything as authoritative as McGregor's tome.

In T.S. Eliot's 1920 poem "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar," the American tourist Burbank has equipped himself with a Baedeker (a famous series of popular travel guides named for the man who first published them) for the City of Canals. James McGregor's two volumes are not your run-of-the-mill Baedekers; they are works of literary finesse for those who want to get below the well-known surfaces of these two Italian cities to understand them in a special way.

If Eliot's Burbank had equipped himself with a McGregor instead, he might not have fallen.

[Comments or questions about this blog entry? Please email me at I look forward to hearing from you.]

Cover to Cover on

Recently I was contacted by an NPR web producer named Trey Graham who wanted to know if I'd be interested in being part of the lead-off installment of NPR's member-station Summer Books package on

The debut of this Web-exclusive feature focuses on shows that celebrate local or regional authors, and Trey (who incidentally described himself
as "a proud raised-in-Augusta, worked-at-WACG-in-college boy) told me that three carefully selected member-station book shows were being invited to participate.

As the host and producer of Cover to Cover, I was asked to contribute short reviews or essays, of 150 to 200 words each, about three recently published (or soon-to-be-published) books or authors that I was considering featuring on the show this summer.

I was flattered by the invitation and said I was certainly up for the challenge. The deadline for the content NPR required was pretty tight so I set about deciding which books to showcase. I wanted to focus on books by Georgia authors that truly give a taste of the South and began sorting through the shelves in my office.

Besides writing a short review for each book, I also had to record myself reading a short excerpt from each, and provide a bio of myself and a description of Cover to Cover.

Well, I got everything done and sent up to Trey at NPR, and last Friday I got an email from him saying the
whole package "is up and live and out there." It looks really good, and so I invite you to take a look at what book lovers around the country and the world will see when they come to

And in case you're wondering, the three books I chose are:

Man Martin, Days of the Endless Corvette (Carroll & Graf, 2007)

Patti Callahan Henry, Between the Tides (NAL, 2007)

Ferrol Sams, Down Town (Mercer University Press, 2007)

Follow this link to see Cover to Cover in the Book Talk From NPR Member Stations section on

I'm grateful to NPR for the chance to show Cover to Cover off to a much wider audience, and I'm excited to showcase these three excellent Georgia authors to book lovers all around the world. I hope it pays dividends and reminds book lovers what an impressive literary heritage we have here in the Deep South.

Remember, if you have comments or questions about today's blog entry, please email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

All Over the Radio

At the risk of sounding terribly conceited, I want to alert you to some of my upcoming "appearances" on a radio near you.

Fridays with Jackie
Tomorrow morning (i.e. Friday, August 10) you can hear me and Jackie Cooper in our regular segment Fridays with Jackie. Airing at 6:35 and 8:35 across the GPB network during NPR's Morning Edition, tomorrow's entertainment conversation will feature much literature-related chat, so be on the listen-out!

Fridays with Jackie is a fun thing for me. I get to work each week with Jackie Cooper, one of my favorite fellows (, and swap information with him about books and authors. Someone actually asked me this week how much we rehearse before taping the segment. She was quite surprised to find out that we don't rehearse at all; the only preparation we do before rolling the tape is to decide the three or four topics we're going to talk about. Once the tape's rolling the magic just happens.

Joyce Carol Oates on Georgia Gazette
Also tomorrow, my recent interview with Joyce Carol Oates is scheduled to air during Georgia Gazette (Friday at 3PM, repeating Sunday at 10AM). The entire conversation lasted almost 45 minutes; what you'll hear tomorrow is a much-reduced 8-minute version. I hope to have the entire interview posted on the GPB website soon.

Oates came in to discuss her recently published novel The Gravedigger's Daughter (Ecco, 2007) pictured above. This is her 36th novel and is a command performance. The book's 582 pages tell an epic story that is at times as morally dark as any Thomas Hardy novel. In protagonist Rebecca Schwart, the gravedigger's daughter, Oates has created a character as attractive and yet as cursed as Tess Durbeyfield of Tess of the D'Ubervilles. While both characters are strong in a non-assertive way, Rebecca is able to triumph against her surroundings in a way that Tess is not.

Arthur Honegger's King David
Earlier this evening, as I was driving home from the studios, I had the dubious pleasure of listening to myself on the radio.

Today's Studio GPB featured a recent recording of the oratorio King David as performed by the Piedmont Chorale, Orchestra and soloists in the Center for Worship and Music at Piedmont College in Demorest under the direction of Maestro Wallace Hinson.

Before you start laughing at the thought of me singing in front of an audience, let me tell you that I was the narrator, the non-singing narrator! My family will understand what I mean. I may have perfect face for radio...I definitely have the perfect voice for non-singing parts.

The rehearsals and performances of King David at Piedmont College were great fun. This region of Northeast Georgia has a wonderful community, most of whom seem to listen to GPB (thank you!). Habersham County is one of those "best-kept secrets"; from midtown Atlanta it takes only 75 minutes to get there (traffic willing).

I absolutely hate listening to myself on the radio or watching myself on TV, so once I got home I didn't make King David a driveway moment. I put the car in the garage and went into the house without a second thought.

If you didn't get to hear Studio GPB this evening, don't worry. It repeats Sunday evening at 10.

And, of course, there's this month's Cover to Cover Sunday, August 26 at 8PM featuring UGA English professor James Everett Kibler who'll be in the studio with me to talk and take your calls about his novel Memory's Keep (Pelican Publishing, 2006), the second in his Clay Bank County trilogy. I hope you can tune in.

As always, if you have comments or questions about this blog entry, please email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Georgia Books & Georgia Authors

Tuesday I had lunch with Mary Robinson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Indigo Publishing. Based in Macon, Indigo is a custom publishing house that is beginning to amass an impressive catalog of titles.

Over plates of homemade ricotta and spinach ravioli at Osteria del Figo on Howell Mill, we talked about books and authors, and Mary shared with me some of the most recent titles from Indigo. Here are the highlights:

Bill Osinski, Ungodly: A True Story of Unprecedented Evil.

While society turned a blind eye for more than three decades, Dwight York - a.k.a. Dr. Malachi Z. York, Imam Isa - devolved into a sexual predator of unprecedented proportions. Arriving in Putnam County, Georgia, in the 1990s, he established "The Egypt of the West," which served as the base for his empire known as the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.

He became the target of what prosecutors believe was the largest child molestation prosecution in United States history, in terms of numbers of victims and potential numbers of crimes, ever directed at a single person. When he was finally indicted, state prosecutors literally had to cut back the number of counts listed - from well beyond a thousand to slightly more than 200 - because they feared a jury simply wouldn't believe the magnitude of York's evil."

For sixteen years Bill Osinski was a journalist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Half the author's royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to a fund for the assistance of York's victims.

For more on this revealing book, visit the website,

Jaclyn Weldon White, Mockingbird in the Moonlight.

What does a rising young homicide detective do when she inadvertently causes the death of a loved one?

In this unsentimental Southern novel, Jaclyn White tells the story of Dixie McClatchey, who leaves her position with the Atlanta Police Department in an attempt to put her past behind her, and build a new life in a quiet Southern town. She makes some friends, opens a bookstore, and works as a volunteer with Friends of the Library.

When one of the volunteers is killed behind her shop and evidence points to members of the library group, Dixie is reluctantly drawn into the investigation. Complicating the situation is the mutual attraction between Dixie and police lieutenant Steve Ballard, whose team is searching for the murderer. As the story unravels, Dixie must face the consequences of her decisions, while learning that she is not the only one with a past.

Jaclyn Weldon White was my guest on Cover to Cover in August 2004 when we talked and took calls about her debut novel Distant Hearts (Mercer University Press, 2004). To listen to the program, click here.

My friend Jackie K. Cooper says of this book, "Jaclyn Weldon White is recognized as a master of the true crime story. With Mockingbird in the Moonlight she proves her talent and extends just as richly into the area of fictional mysteries."

To find out more about Jaclyn, visit her website,

Richard Jay Hutto, Crowning Glory: American Wives of Princes and Dukes.

Americans have heard of King Edward’s Wallis Simpson, “the woman I love,” for whom he gave up the throne of England. Many recall the beautiful wedding fifty years ago when Grace Kelly became Princess of Monaco. But there are more than one hundred marriages of American women to princes and dukes.

Some were calculated business arrangements designed to secure a title while replenishing the bank accounts of destitute royal and noble families. Others were true love affairs.

With never-published photographs, excerpts from correspondence, and interviews with descendants, author Richard Jay Hutto has painted a fascinating picture of money, beauty, power, and palaces—the lifestyles of the rich and famous—a lifestyle not entirely ended.

Richard Jay Hutto is an attorney, writer, and published authority on America's Gilded Age. He served as White House Appointments Secretary to the Carter Family, and was Chairman of the Georgia Council for the Arts. He lives in Macon with his wife and children and is an elected member of the Macon City Council. His other books include Jordan Massee: Accepted Fables, An Autobiography and Their Gilded Cage: The Jekyll Island Club Members.

Richard is Associate Publisher of Indigo Publishing.

Anne B. Jones & Sidney R. Jones, Brave at Heart: The Life and Lens of Atlanta Braves' Photographer Walter Victor.

Walter Victor, official photographer of the Atlanta Braves, shares memories of the storied franchise through nearly 150 photos from the days of Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, and Dale Murphy to the record-setting run of fourteen straight National League division championships with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, and manager Bobby Cox.

Indigo Publishing is continuing to expand. It has entered into an arrangement with Macon's Wesleyan College to form Wesleyan College Press which will publish a small number of titles each year; and Mary told me of plans to form an imprint geared specifically toward African American authors.

Indigo Publishing has already made its debut on Cover to Cover. In June 2005, Rick Maier was on the show to talk and take calls about his debut novel, Exit South which was published by Henchard Press, one of Indigo's imprints. Click here to listen to Rick Maier on Cover to Cover.

Indigo Publishing is doing a great job of showcasing Georgia authors and Georgia stories and it's a pleasure to acknowledge its contribution to Georgia letters.

To find out more about Indigo Publishing, visit its website,

My thanks to Mary Robinson for being a delightful lunch guest, and for keeping me up-to-date on what's happening publishing-wise in Macon, a city that is fast becoming the powerhouse of Georgia publishing.

(On an ethical note, I paid for lunch. No quid pro quo here!)

If you have comments or questions about this blog entry, email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Can't Touch This

Earlier today I was wondering what I was going to write about in today's blog entry. I had no ideas until the mail was delivered at work and, miracle of miracles, my concern was alleviated.

Included among today's crop of review books was the latest edition of The Georgia Review, one of this country's top literary magazines.

The Review has undergone a redesign fairly recently giving it a more contemporary look. The Review logo has been reconceived (by the talented Rick Fiala, who works at UGA), and the traditional covers have been replaced by more striking layouts. All in all the Review now has more visual appeal on the outside, while of course maintaining its usual appeal on the inside!

The cover of the Summer 2007 edition (pictured above) is a scene from Through the Woods with Mr. M, the "visual novel" by San Francisco artist John Bankston whose characters have a comic book or cartoon-like quality; they are drawn with bold colors and defined outlines almost like coloring book projects. Bankston is the featured artist in this edition of the Review, and there's more of his work inside.

2007 was a banner year for the Review. It won a Governor's Award in the Humanities from the state of Georgia, and it won its second National Magazine Award for Michael Donohue's essay "Russell and Mary" from the Fall/Winter 2006 edition. The NMA is all the more prestigious when you consider that the other finalists in the Essay category were: The New Yorker, Smithsonian, Foreign Policy and New Letters.

The Review also won three 2007 gold awards from the Magazine Association of the South for Best Essay, Best Feature and Best Series.

One of the most astonishing things about this run of deserved success is that the Review is currently without an Editor. Stephen Corey, the longtime Associate Editor, has been Acting Editor (for the second time) since the middle of 2006 when poet T.R. Hummer left the Editor's position open and moved to Arizona State University. Stephen too is a poet, a very fine poet, and his long tenure at the Review under both Stan Lindberg and Terry Hummer makes him ideal to step into the empty shoes. It should be noted that the NMA won this year was for a piece from an edition that Stephen edited.

The current issue features the usual blend of essays, fiction, poetry, art and reviews. Among these are two poems by one of Georgia's pre-eminent contemporary writers, Judson Mitcham, and a fascinating essay-review by Ron Singer of the winners of the Caine Prize for African Writing. (Sir Michael Caine was the chairman of the global food company Booker plc and longtime chairman of the U.K.'s Booker Prize management committee). Also included is "Dizziness," a poem by Roswell, Georgia, resident Caroline Finkelstein.

The Georgia Review is one of this country's outstanding literary magazines and lovers of good writing would be well-advised to subscribe. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that the Review is undoubtedly one of the best things ever to come out of the University of Georgia (and there have been many great things).

The Summer 2007 issue is bound to speak to you at some level, and I recommend you find out for yourself by getting a copy.

To find out more about one of this state's greatest cultural institutions, check out the Review's website,

Happy reading!

If you have comments or questions about this Cover to Cover blog entry, please email me at Your feedback is very welcome.

Monday, August 6, 2007

August's Cover to Cover

This month's Cover to Cover features author James Everett Kibler. He joins me on Sunday, August 26 at 8PM to talk and take calls about his latest novel, Memory's Keep (Pelican Publishing, 2006), the second in his Clay Bank County trilogy.

Set in the mid-1970s in rural South Carolina,
Memory's Keep is the story of Mister Pink Suber, a 94-year-old black man who still tends the farm his family has worked on as servants since the 1800s. His children moved away after his wife died three years earlier, but he goes on tending his land and livestock alone while mentoring his young neighbor, 27-year-old Trig Tinsley in the ways of farming and of life.

Kibler is a professor of Southern literature at the University of Georgia. He has published extensively on the 19th-century South Carolina author William Gilmore Simms, as well as writing his own work.

In 1998, Kibler published
Our Fathers' Fields: A Southern Story in which he tells the story of the 1804 South Carolina plantation that he bought and renovated, and his reforestation of the surrounding acreage; the book won the Nonfiction Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 1999.

In 2001 Kibler published a collection of poetry,
Poems From Scorched Earth, and then his cycle of stories, Child to the Waters appeared in 2003. His first novel, Walking Toward Home, the first volume of his Clay Bank County trilogy, came out in 2004. The final installment of the trilogy, The Education of Chauncey Doolittle is set for publication soon.

Fellow Southern writer Walter Sullivan has said of Kibler that he...
...has developed a them that has long defined both Southern history and literature: the deep, metaphysical connection between the Southern character and temperament and the natural world...a graceful articulation of the agrarian vision.
Kibler now divides his time between residencies in Whitmire, South Carolina, and Athens, Georgia.

I hope you'll read
Memory's Keep and tune in for the next Cover to Cover, Sunday, August 26 at 8PM on GPB.

Remember, if you have comments or questions about anything you read on this blog, please email me at Thank you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to Do With Pigs

One of the things I find constantly intriguing in my work is the meaning and derivation of words. I am a true logophile, rejoicing in the unusual and obscure. I'm sure a large part of my attraction to writers and books is my love of words.

Growing up in Britain in the 1960s and 70s, I attended a private secondary school (grades 6-12) where I was obliged to study Latin. Although I have to admit the lingua latina was not the most exciting of the subjects I studied, it certainly proved to be one of the most useful.

I took Latin all the way to university entrance level, and even took a Medieval Latin class in graduate school. I never really appreciated how important it was to my education until I was a freshman at the University of Liverpool majoring in French. One of the first classes we all had to take was "History of the French Language" which began with classical Latin and traced the development of French up to the French Revolution.

It was during this year-long class that I first remember being grateful for all the Latin I had studied as we analyzed how the Latin word "pedem" became, many centuries later, "pied." There were so many of my fellow students who had never had a day's Latin in their life and who struggled through that class joylessly. I, and several others, on the other hand, understood from the get-go how it all fit together.

All this is to explain that I came by an appreciation of words and derivations, or "etymology," at a fairly young age.

I think the first time I can recall being struck by the use of particular words was when I was in 11th grade. I was studying English for university entrance and one of the assigned books we had to read was Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. This was the first Hardy book I had ever read and it struck me by its beauty, force, and language.

While not perhaps the most uplifting of authors, Hardy was a master when it came to his command and use of the English language. To this day, I remember a sentence from Chapter IV of Tess, when the Durbeyfield's horse, Prince, is killed by a speeding mail cart on a pre-dawn dirt road as Tess is driving to market. The horse is pierced through the breast by the pointed shaft of the mail cart and bleeds to death. Here's how Hardy describes the scene as Tess gazes upon the dead horse as the dawn breaks:

The huge pool of blood in front of her was already assuming the iridescence of coagulation; and when the sun rose a hundred prismatic hues were reflected from it.
I remember being blown away by one small phrase, "the iridescence of coagulation," in which Hardy seems to luxuriate in the breadth of the English language. There is so much expressed by his careful choice of nouns, one suggesting beauty, one denoting something much less poetic and more prosaic.

Since those carefree days of youth, I have continued my love of language, not merely as the means of writing great novels, but for the beauty of the words themselves; their sounds, their meanings, their origins.

When I was home during the university vacations in Britain I used to love to pour over The Times (of London) everyday, once my father had finished reading it. There was one daily feature that I particularly enjoyed; it was called WordWatch, and consisted of four highly unusual words with three possible meanings for each. The challenge was to choose the correct meaning.

The answers were always given a few pages later in the same edition, and so I liked to test myself. Of course, I was usually wrong. But from time to time I was right and I realized my classical education was not for nought!

All this talk of words and etymology is a way of leading up to this; recently a book came across my desk from Penguin that really caught my eye. It's title is Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to Do With Pigs (and other fascinating facts about the English language).

Written by Katherine Barber, who, since 1991, has been editor in chief of the dictionary department at Oxford University Press in Toronto, the book is an etymologist's dream. Divided into the four seasons, it looks at groups of words relevant to events in each. So, in summer for example, there's a section titled A Matter of Degree that examines words connected with graduation such as "degree," "diploma," "mortarboard" etc.

You're obviously thinking "but where do the pigs come in?" Good question. In spring, there's a section titled Down on the Farm, as so much happens livestockwise in the spring. Included here are six words that have something to do with pigs. These are: porcelain, screw, soil, porpoise, root, and swain. I'm not telling you anymore; if you want to know how these words have anything to do with pigs, you'll just have to buy the book!

Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to Do With Pigs (and other fascinating facts about the English language) now joins the other etymology books in the Flynn library (a real place!):
  • Joseph T. Shipley, ed., Dictionary of Word Origins. Philosophical Library, 1945; reprinted by Barnes & Noble, 1995.
  • William Morris and Mary Morris, eds., Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage. Harper & Row, 1975. (I acquired this book from the bargain bin of a used bookstore in Athens, GA, in 1993 for maybe $1. That was a dollar very well spent!)
  • William Safire, Language Maven Strikes Again. Doubleday, 1990. (Safire must be counted as one of my heroes!)
  • William Safire, Quoth the Maven. Random House, 1993.
Some folks read the phone book, I read the dictionary. Call me weird, but at least I'm not out every night spray-painting graffiti on walls across town. And, BTW, did you know that "graffiti" comes from the Latin noun graffio meaning "a scratch," which in turn came from the Greek verb graphein, "to scratch," and later "to write." Graph is an element in many English words connected with writing or recording such as "autograph."

Who ever said my education was a waste of time?

(Comments or questions? Email me at Look forward to hearing from you.)