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, September 4, 2007

George Singleton Replies!

Last Saturday I posted a blog entry (Decatur Book Festival – Day One Wrap) from the Decatur Book Festival in which I recounted my in vain efforts to get South Carolina author George Singleton (pictured left) to sign a copy of his new novel Work Shirts for Madmen (Harcourt, September 2007).

An ordering snafu on the part of a bookseller meant that copies of Work Shirts, which has just come out (I received my review copy in the mail last week), were not available at one of the festival venues where Mr. Singleton was scheduled to sign, despite having been available earlier in the day at another venue. When I got to the venue, Mr. Singleton had already left and my book remains unsigned.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when, on Sunday, I received an email from George Singleton who had read my blog entry from the previous day and wanted to explain what had happened. Here’s what he wrote:

Hey St. John--
I saw your comments on the blog, and I wanted to explain. My book Work Shirts for Madmen is, indeed, out. It has been for a good week. I signed 100 copies earlier in the day after the [Roy] Blount/Singleton reading. But the [bookseller] at that
Fellowship Hall…said to me, "Your book's not been published yet."
I said, "I just signed a slew of copies at noon. It's out."
[The bookseller] said, with a certain look of disdain, "Well we couldn't get it."
As it ended up, different booksellers worked different venues. […]
I hung out there for a while at the church signing old books, and trying to explain to people why my new novel wasn't there. And my blood pressure rose steadily.
So I'm sorry I missed you. […]
I'll be at the Georgia Center for the Book on Oct 2 at 7 o'clock. I'll be more than happy to sign your book. […]
All right. Again, I'm sorry we didn't cross paths.

All best--

Now, isn’t that a great email? Thank you, George, for taking the time to write and let me know what happened and how you felt. I understand your frustration.

This is so often my experience with authors, they have a genuine regard for their readers and will do all they can to satisfy them. I will certainly take George up on his offer to sign my copy of Work Shirts at the event at the Decatur Library on October 2. George is, IMHO, one of the best fiction writers in the South today.

NPR’s Morning Edition said of him “George Singleton writes about the rural South without sentimentality or stereotype but with plenty of sharp-witted humor…. A raconteur of trends, counter-trends, obsessions and odd characters.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called him the “unchallenged king” of the comic novel.

Singleton was raised in South Carolina and lives there still, with ceramicist Glenda Guion, eleven dogs and one cat, in Pickens County. He graduated with a degree in philosophy from Furman University and went on to receive his MFA from UNC Greensboro. He now teaches writing at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.

More than one hundred of his stories and articles have been published nationally in magazines and anthologies. He has written four collections of short stories: These People Are Us; The Half-Mammals of Dixie; Why Dogs Chase Cars; and Drowning in Gruel.

His first novel, titled quite simple Novel, came out in 2005. Work Shirts for Madmen is his second novel.

Here’s what the jacket says of Work Shirts:

Renegade artist Harp Spillman is lower than a bow-legged fire ant. Because of an unhealthy relationship with the bottle, he’s ruined his reputation as one of the South’s preeminent commissioned metal sculptors. And his desperate turn to ice sculpting might’ve led to a posse of angry politicians on his trail. With the help of his sane and practical potter wife, Raylou, Harp understands that it’s time to return to the mig welder. Yes, it’s time to prove that he can complete a series of twelve-foot-high metal angels—welded completely out of hex nuts—for the city of Birmingham.
Is it pure chance that the Elbow Boys, their arms voluntarily fused so they can’t drink, show up in order to help Harp out in a variety of ways? And why did his neighbor smuggle anteaters into desolate Ember Glow?
Is it true that there’s no free will?
The Harcourt PR materials that came with my review copy describe Work Shirts as “a memorable mix of the bizarre and the hilarious…the shotgun marriage of David Sedaris and the hit show “My Name is Earl.””

Lovers of Southern fiction, and lovers of great writing will fall in love with George Singleton as they read any of his books.

If you missed George at the Decatur Book Festival, or you missed a copy of Work Shirts, you should now be able to get your hands on the book online or at your local bookstore.

Thank you George for your email and your book!

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