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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Olympics That Changed the World

This week on Cover to Cover, Frank Reiss interviews David Maraniss about Maraniss's latest book Rome 1960. Here's a quick rundown from their conversation:

At the recently-ended Summer Olympics in China, the haul of gold medals by Michael Phelps, the otherworldly speed of the Jamaican sprinters and the fierce competition between American and Chinese gymnasts filled the airwaves for two solid weeks. As did talk of political propaganda, accusations of rule-breaking and other controversies large and small.

While it seems that the Olympics have forever been dominated in such a way, bestselling author David Maraniss argues in his most recent book, Rome, 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World, that it was at these particular summer games that the Olympics as we now know them first came into being.

That was the year when the world first became familiar with a clownish fighter from Louisville, Kentucky named Cassius Clay, who used the games as a springboard to become the most famous athlete the world has ever known: Muhammad Ali. But Maraniss goes to some lengths to restore Clay's proper place at the time: a definite second or third banana to the true heroes of that year, African-American track stars Wilma Rudolph and Rafer Johnson.

1960 was also the first Olympics for which an American television network purchased broadcast rights, and an unknown reporter named Jim McKay, working under the most primitive conditions imaginable, debuted in the role that made him as familiar as any Olympic performer.

And the Cold War politics of the day foreshadowed the political propaganda that continues to be inescapable in this quadrennial event that supposedly transcends politics.

But to Marannis--who has won the Pulitzer Prize and authored a string of bestsellers about both sports and politics--these political overtones and social developments don't detract from the games, they give them historical context and make for a fascinating read and a stimulating conversation.

Marannis' writing is unmistakably influenced by his friend and long-time mentor, the late David Halberstam. Interestingly, though, Marannis contrasts his attitude toward sportswriting and historical/political writing. Halberstam, Maraniss says in his Cover to Cover interview, wrote about sports to relax between his more "serious" books. Marannis on the other hand thinks sports can be every bit as significant as politics, and politics can be as trivial as sports. -Frank Reiss

Catch Frank Reiss's interview with David Maraniss Sunday night at 8:00PM, rebroadcast Thursday night at 11:30p on GPB Radio. You can also listen to Cover To Cover on demand at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tony Earley on Cover to Cover

Jesse Freeman weighs on in his interview with Tony Earley, which airs Sunday night at 8pm on Cover To Cover--

The Blue Star
is a sequel you can enjoy without having read its predecessor. However, if you consider yourself a lover of great contemporary fiction, you’ve probably already read Jim the Boy. Book two in this presumed trilogy places Jim in his senior year of high school in the Western North Carolina town of Aliceville. More to the point, it places our wide-eyed protagonist on the precipice of love, war and tragedy.

Tony Earley joins us to talk about Jim and his other wonderful characters that bring to life the Greatest Generation. He talks about the importance of his influences (Wila Cather!) and his own experience as a child in Appalachia. You’ll find Tony as humble as the avuncular Glass brothers (Jim’s surrogate fathers) and as witty as Dennis Deane (Jim’s loose-lipped running partner). Tony approaches an interview thoughtfully and we think you’ll appreciate the contemplative way he looks back at his works just as you will enjoy the earnestness of the works themselves.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jack Pendarvis Talks About Awesome

Jack Pendarvis left South Alabama about 15 years ago, settled in Atlanta, where he had a job for Turner Broadcasting, and where he wrote stories and received rejection notices for many years. A few years ago, he started having his often wacky stories accepted by such publications as McSweeney's, The Believer and The Oxford American. In short order, his work attracted the notice of the renowned author Barry Hannah, who was instrumental in Pendarvis' receiving the John Grisham Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where Pendarvis now resides. Pendarvis is also a recipient of the prestigious Pushcart Prize, which honors the best work published by small presses.

Macadam Cage, a San Francisco literary publisher with a thing for Southern writers, has published two collections of Pendarvis' short fiction: The Mysteriouis Secret of the Valuable Treasure and Your Body is Changing. This summer, they published his first novel, Awesome, a bizarre, and somewhat grotesque, tale about a ridiculously self-absorbed giant named Awesome.

Pendarvis celebrated the novel's publication in his old hometown of Atlanta in mid-August, and the following morning sat down in the GPB studios with Cover to Cover's Frank Reiss. The giddiness from the previous evening had not yet subsided, and what ensued was a weaving, over-the-center-line conversation that threatened to roll off the side of the road and over an embankment at any moment. And, perhaps to the ears of some, did.

Which, appropriately enough, is a perfect introduction to the fiction of Jack Pendarvis.

-Frank Reiss
Frank's interview with Jack Pendarvis airs Sunday at 8pm, repeats Thursday at 11:30 and can be heard on demand at

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Winners Have Yet to be Announced

This Sunday's Cover To Cover will be a "best of" issue. GPB Southern Lit Cadre Member Jeff Calder talks with University of Georgia Professor Ed Pavlic. Pavlic's new book is entitled Winners Have Yet To Be Announced: A Song For Donny Hathaway.

The book is Pavlic's attempt to see inside the life, music and untimely death of this elemental soul music artist, a man remembered for efforts as diverse as "Where Is The Love" with Roberta Flack or the theme to Norman Lear's 1970's sitcom "Maude." But Hathaway was highly influential in his own way, known as "your favorite soul singer's favorite singer." Pavlic tries to inhabit Hathaway, who left little in the way of legitimate biography or history after his jump from the 10th floor window of his room at the Essex House in New York City in 1979.

Writer and musician Jeff Calder and Pavlic talk about Hathaway, and Pavlic's approach to poetry. Listen in and you will also hear portions of Hathaway's songs "Give It Up" and "The Ghetto." We hope you enjoy this week's show. All comments, bouquets and brickbats to