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.


Monday, December 28, 2009

A Historical Novel of Transformation


Set in New Orleans in the years after the Civil War, A SEPARATE COUNTRY is a novel based on the incredible life of John Bell Hood, arguably one of the most controversial generals of the Confederate Army--and one of its most tragic figures. Robert E. Lee promoted him to major general after the Battle of Antietam. But the Civil War would mark him forever. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm. At the Battle of Chickamauga, his right leg was amputated. Starting fresh after the war, he married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children with her, including three sets of twins. But fate had other plans. Crippled by his war wounds and defeat, ravaged by financial misfortune, Hood had one last foe to battle: Yellow Fever.

A SEPARATE COUNTRY is the heartrending story of a decent and good man who struggled with his inability to admit his failures--and the story of those who taught him to love, and to be loved, and transformed him.

The book's author, Robert Hicks, came to fiction after a successful career in music publishing. His primary interest was to bring greater attention to his hometown of Franklin, TN, the scene of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The result was the bestselling THE WIDOW OF THE SOUTH. Hood's defeat at Franklin, and his controversial post-war reputation, made him an irresistible subject for Hicks' follow-up. As did Hood's ultimate home of New Orleans, a city with which Hicks has a long history and deep affection.

Listen to this episode

Monday, December 21, 2009

How is this night different from All Other Nights?



Considering she’s already published three novels, it might surprise you to hear that Dara Horn is in her (very) early thirties. Perhaps even more surprising is that she has also earned a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Add to that she’s raising three children, and well, you’ll just have to take my word that she’s a remarkable woman.

I can also attest that at least the latest of those three novels is a remarkable book. You might recognize All Other Nights from many of the ubiquitous year-end “Best Of…” lists. It certainly deserves to be there. The story follows Jacob Rappaport, a Union spy, through his travails from New Orleans to Richmond during the Civil War. Along the way he meets a whittling girl, a fetching pickpocket, a bloodthirsty Southern Belle and a child that speaks in palindromes…and that’s just in one family.

Some characters are actual historical figures. Perhaps the most enthralling of these is Judah Benjamin, Secretary of the State for the Confederacy. Horn brought a Confederate two-dollar bill to the interview, which features Benjamin’s profile, and we talked about Benjamin’s important but precarious place in the ill-fated Confederate nation. He was Jewish, and partly because of this, he drew the ire of both Northerners and Southerners. Of course, the idea of a man who was very much a minority holding high office in the CSA is rife for all sorts of literary exploration involving allegiance, identity and motivation. Horn does a remarkable job with this exploration by subsuming the discourse into a very captivating story line involving all sorts of espionage and intrigue.

Dara Horn’s work at Harvard focused on Hebrew and Yiddish literature, so she brings a wealth of understanding to the complexity of this subject. It’s a complexity germane to Southern literature and culture, I think, because it implores us to examine, through storytelling, who we are and why our history is important to us. And most of all, it’s a wonderful read.

Listen to this episode

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes


Michael Gray’s Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell (Chicago Review Press) is an exhaustive reconstruction of McTell’s life and times. It will surely stand as the definitive work on the man Michael Gray calls “the greatest blues singer Georgia has ever produced” and “The finest 12-string guitarist of his generation, barnone.”

Beginning in the 1990s, Gray made several trips to Georgia searching for information about McTell. His interest endured years of frustration. (He was even rousted by security officials while trying to photograph the Milledgeville state hospital where McTell died.) Nonetheless, he finally assembled a family tree which includes over 100 of McTell’s relatives, beginning with the singer’s white great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War under Robert E. Lee.

Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes is the portrait of a self-sufficient man who was blind from birth, a gifted black musician who moved freely about the American South during the mean years of segregation. When he died in Atlanta at the age of 56, McTell was just short of the early 1960s folk revival, which most certainly would have embraced him as a major figure. Despite this historical mischance, recognition for McTell would begin to grow within a months of his death. In 1983, Bob Dylan stepped forward to say, “Nobody can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.” McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” has become universally known as a Southern Rock anthem as played by the Allman Brothers. McTell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1990.

Michael Gray writes for the UK Guardian and many other publications. He’s the author of several books, including The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia and The Elvis Atlas: A Journey through Elvis Presley’s America.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Motel of the Stars


The novel, The Motel of the Stars is set in Kentucky and North Carolina. It takes place on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Harmonic Convergence, a new age event where the planets align signaling more peaceful times ahead.
The book tells the story of Jason Sanderson, a foreclosure expert working in the eastern part of Kentucky. He travels to a burned down motel in Kentucky to begin foreclosure proceedings. By chance he meets his son’s former girlfriend, Lory Llewellyn. The two of them are still dealing with the loss of Jason’s son and Lory’s boyfriend, Sam who died ten years earlier while in the military.
The book combines a sometimes satirical look at New Age philosophy with the very powerful emotion of grief and loss.
Author Karen McElmurray is on sabbatical from her job as a professor at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. Her other books are, Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven, which won the Thomas and Lillie D. Chafin Award for Appalachian writing in 2001, and Surrendered Child: A Birth Mothers Journey. The book is a moving memoir of McElmurray and her decision to place her son up for adoption.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Don't Leave Hungry: 50 Years of Southern Poetry Review


The idea of Southern literature rankles some writers. There are those who rather would disassociate with the region, saying there's more to their writing that the place they were born. Other writers embrace a Southern identity to the point of caricature. And just what defines Southern literature, anyway? Writer, subject or both?

This question of Southern literature is frequently talked about in terms of fiction, but Southern poetry is rarely discussed. In this conversation for Cover to Cover, GPB's weekly program about books, Orlando Montoya talks with the editor of a new anthology chronicling 50 years of Southern Poetry Review.

James Smith, the editor of "Don't Leave Hungry" and the associate editor for the venerable journal, makes the case for a journal that has staunchly stuck to a founding -- and some might say, provocative -- vision of Southern poetry. Namely, it doesn't always have to be about the South.

Smith reads three poems, including one by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. He also talks about the journal's founder, Guy Owen, and what made him tick. And he explains how the journal has -- and hasn't -- changed over the years. Smith also teaches at Armstrong Atlantic State University. "Don't Leave Hungry: 50 Years of Southern Poetry Review" is published by the University of Arkansas Press.
Listen to this episode

Monday, November 23, 2009

Poetry or Prose?



James Iredell’s Prose. Poems. A Novel. is a series of pieces that are impossible to classify – poetry? prose? vignette? – that when brought together along with haunting illustrations by the author and Christy Call create a loosely-woven narrative of a journey from the West Coast to the East, a journey – among other things – out of self-destruction.
Tom Franklin (Hell at the Breech and Smonk) writes of Iredell’s book, “Absorbing, fascinating, strange in the best way. This “novel” reinvents the novel, the short-short story and the prose poem, at the same time. Iredell’s spiritual uncle, Richard Brautigan, is happy in heaven, drinking with Raymond Carver, who’s happy too. A delightful book.”
This week on Cover to Cover Man Martin and James Iredell discuss James’ book, writing, life in California, Nevada, and Atlanta, talking cockroaches, and other topics you can’t afford to miss.
Listen to this episode

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Live Recording from the Bartow County Library in Cartersville


This week we present Lauretta Hannon who will read from her debut novel Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful LIfe. This interview was recorded in front of a live studio audience at the Bartow County Library in Cartersville.

Raised in the deep south but she's no southern belle, Lauretta Hannon exposes the underbelly of growing up poor in a broken family in rural Georgia. Her literary debut Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life is a knock-you-over-the-head testament to living graciously in the face of hardship.

Listen to this episode

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Live Recording from the Bartow County Library in Cartersville


This week on Cover to Cover we present a special live recording from the Bartow County Library in Cartersville, hosted by GPB's John Sepulvado. We are featuring award-winning novelist Terry Kay. He is a 2006 inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame and has been a sports writer and film/theater reviewer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Terry Kay is the author of ten published novels, including The Book of Marie, To Dance with the White Dog, The Valley of Light, Taking Lottie Home, The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene, Shadow Song, The Runaway, Dark Thirty, After Eli, and The Year the Lights Came On, as well as a book of essays, Special K, and a children’s book, To Whom the Angel Spoke.

The interview was recorded live in front of a studio audience. Terry Kay will read excerpts from some of his novels followed by questions from the audience.

Listen to this episode

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Campfires and Conundrums


This week we welcome back Philip Lee Williams to Cover to Cover. We’ll be talking about his latest book, The Campfire Boys. It’s a wonderful comedic novel about reluctant rebels during the American Civil War who moonlight as entertainers for their fellow soldiers. The Celebrated Blackshear Brothers are three siblings who honed their musical talents and their knack for comedic sketches by performing for the gentry of their well-to-do Southern town as youngsters. The town is modeled after Williams’ hometown, Madison, Georgia.

What Williams accomplishes in this novel is a seamless meld of sometimes opposing forces—historical fact with contemporary commentary, warm emotion with calloused characters, horrific battlefields with witty quips—all within the lives of Confederate soldiers who abhor the institution of slavery. It all works because Williams never compromises his role as a storyteller in order to make a point.

It was an absolute delight to talk with Philip Lee Williams. Like him, I am also from Madison, and I’ve followed his career for some time now. Not only is he a wonderful writer, he’s also an incredibly insightful man with a passion for the arts. I’ve interviewed Williams twice now and each time I’ve come away thinking I’ve just learned something invaluable about what it means to be a writer in the South.

In addition to the new book, we’ll also talk about Williams’ selection to the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. That honor was announced earlier this year and in my opinion they couldn’t have picked a more fitting inductee.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Mother-Daughter Road Trip


I first met Amanda Gable many years ago as a customer in my book store. She was, in the heyday of the used and out-of-print book business, the kind of customer that embodied the spirit of the whole enterprise. She couldn't ever satisfy her desire for more books. She bought a lot of books, sold a lot of books, traded a lot of books, and often came in to simply browse at books. She was, in the sense that I learned the phrase, a true "book person."

What I didn't know was that she was also a person who could create a fantastic book. All those books she'd been reading, much of them about the Civil War, helped her create one of the most precocious young fictional characters I've read in years, the heroine of Gable's debut novel, The Confederate General Rides North: 11-year-old Katherine "Kat" McConnell.

Growing up in Marietta, with a loving but very dysfunctional family, young Kat becomes a walking encyclopedia of Civil War history, like many kids her age are about baseball statistics or dinosaurs. When Kat's sensitive, artistic and unhappy mother decides to drive back to her native north for a fresh start, the two of them make an unforgettable duo on an emotionally moving road trip.

With her mother at the wheel, buying up antiques the whole way in hopes of opening her own business, Kat becomes the journey's navigator and ensures that they hit every Civil War battlefield and memorial along the route, and in Kat's mind, she is the commanding general at every stop.

The girl's imaginings combined with the mother's adult concerns combine for a bittersweet psychological family portrait that is completely convincing.

Gable's quiet, unassuming manner--the personality that allowed me to know her for years without imagining what a creative imagination she has--comes through in her Cover to Cover interview. But so does her seriousness of purpose and dedication as a writer and her desire to present her characters in the most realistic and sympathetic light possible.

In a year when so many debuts by Atlanta authors have been published, none that I have read is a more satisfying piece of fiction than Amanda Gable's The Confederate General Rides North.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crossing the Lines


Atlanta resident Richard Doster was in advertising for most of his career and currently edits a magazine published by the Presbyterian Church. Over the last several years, he has focused his writing and interest in spiritual matters, the South, race and culture in an intriguing approach to fiction.

His fist novel, Safe at Home, chronicled a fictional southern town in the 1950s experiencing the integration of its minor league baseball team.

Having covered that explosive story in his hometown newspaper, Doster's sportswriter hero Jack Hall caught the attention of editors in Atlanta and takes a job in the big city just as the Civil Rights movement was beginning to take shape. Thus the story of Doster's follow- up novel, Crossing the Lines, is set in motion.

Hall and others eventually start a magazine that celebrates all that is great about the South--its literature, its music, its culture-- while the region is being understandably ridiculed by the national media during the period for its racial intolerance. Through the journalistic travails, Hall, a man entirely of his times, experiences an evolution in his own race consciousness.

In his Cover to Cover interview, Doster talks about his inspiration for taking on such volatile subject matter and discusses his methods of bringing to fictional life such historical figures as Martin Luther King, Ralph McGill and Flannery O'Connor in his work.

Listen to this episode

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Heart of a Patriot


By the time he had reached middle age, Max Cleland thought he had nothing to live for. A grenade explosion in Vietnam had left him a triple amputee. He had lost his seat in the U.S. Senate, and in the grip of depression he had lost his fiancée, too. But instead of giving up, Cleland reaches deep into his soul and discovers that he has what it takes to survive: the heart of a patriot.

Born and raised in Georgia, Cleland came back from Vietnam missing three limbs and was confined for months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Doctors didn't give him much hope of living an active life, but through the bonds he formed with other wounded soldiers, and through his own Southern grit, he learned how to be mobile and overcome his despair. He returned to Georgia and pursued his passion for public service by becoming the first Vietnam veteran to serve in the Georgia state senate. Jimmy Carter appointed him head of the Veterans Administration. Later he became Georgia's youngest secretary of state and then in 1996 was elected to the U.S. Senate.

But during his reelection campaign he is singled out by Karl Rove and the Republicans, who campaigned against him as "unpatriotic." He lost the election and sank into deep depression. A long-dormant case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, awakened after 9/11 by the invasion of Iraq, pushed Cleland to the brink. Forty years after Vietnam, having reached -- and fallen from -- a pinnacle of power, Cleland returned to Walter Reed as a patient, this time surrounded by veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. There he found the faith and endurance to regain control of his life.

In a memoir in which he pulls no punches about the costs of being a soldier, Max Cleland describes with love the ties America's soldiers forge with one another, along with the disillusionment many of them experience when they come home. He spares no one his humiliations and setbacks in this gut-wrenching account of his life in the hope it will keep even one veteran from descending into darkness. Heart of a Patriot is a story about the joy of serving the country you love, no matter the cost -- and how to recover from the deepest wounds of war.

Listen to this episode

Monday, October 5, 2009

All Roads Lead to Rome (For the Georgia Literary Festival)


It’s been a good year for Raymond Atkins. After longing to be an author for much of his life, he finally published his first book in 2008. It was called The Front Porch Prophet, and won him recognition from readers as well as from the Georgia Writers Association. We were glad to have him on the show last year, and we’re even happier that we could welcome him back as he promotes his sophomore effort Sorrow Wood.

The back cover of Sorrow Wood brands the book as a murder mystery, though it reads much more like a congenial love story. Reva and Wendell Blackmon are the principals here, and Reva believes they have been lovers for many, many lifetimes. The book gives us glimpses into many of those lifetimes, taking the longest look at the late 20th Century edition. Atkins names the muse for this love story in our interview, even after mentioning on air that he is going to be in a load of trouble at home.

Atkins has also been busy lately planning to welcome literary lovers from around the south to his hometown of Rome, GA. Rome is the site of this year’s Georgia Literary Festival. (The folks at the Georgia Center for the Book put this on each year, and it moves around the state.) So please visit Rome for this fun and free event. I can almost promise you that one of your favorite Georgia authors will be there. You can find more details at: http://www.georgiacenterforthebook.org/Georgia-Literary-Festival/index.php.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta by Marc Wortman


2009 marks the 145th anniversary of the fall of Atlanta during the Civil War, so Mark Wortman's book is a timely look at this fascinating chapter (some would say dark chapter) in Georgia's history. Wortman has a journalist's flair for keen insight and detail, and above all he tells a good story.

Like most of my interviews, 30 minutes proved all too short to ask the author everything I was interested in. Some of the ones I posed to Marc Wortman: How does a guy with a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Princeton get interested in Atlanta and the Civil War?

One of the things in his book that most intrigued me was the fact that we now take it for granted that Atlanta is an important city, that it's the Gateway to the New South, the home of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the Atlanta Braves, Home Depot, CNN, Coca-Cola, etc., but the Atlanta he describes wasn't all that big or seemingly all that important as a city. Wortman writes, "Few people in the North or among Union military officials had heard of Atlanta before the outbreak of the rebellion." How then did two great armies find themselves in and around Atlanta in the summer of 1864? And why is Atlanta's fall directly credited with paving the way for Lincoln's re-election the following November?

A book like this is full of fascinating characters, among them of course William Tecumseh Sherman. He obviously plays a very prominent role in this book, and in fact Wortman gives him the very last word. Even today, his name evokes fierce passions and emotions in Georgia. And yet, when he returned to Atlanta in 1879, Wortman writes that "few people in Atlanta remained ill disposed toward Sherman." How is that possible? I'm quite certain that wouldn't be the case now, 145 years later. Last year the Georgia Historical Society had a public program about Sherman, and we received numerous letters and emails from people across Georgia (and the rest of the country) vehemently denouncing him. How was it possible that "few" of the Atlantans who actually lived through Sherman's siege were so forgiving in 1879?

Finally, with the Civil War's 150th anniversary fast approaching, there will be commemorative events across the country. One of the questions I like to pose to writers of Civil War history: What do the events in your book still have to teach us in the 21st century?

by Stan Deaton

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back to the Future (And to Wilcox County)

We featured James Braziel on Cover to Cover about eighteen months ago when we switched to the new format. We talked about his elegiac debut novel Birmingham, 35 Miles. He’s recently published a follow-up novel, Snakeskin Road, and we thought it would be nice to do a follow-up interview, of sorts.

Again, the setting is the near future wasteland of the U.S., roughly forty years after an environmental disaster brought about by the nation’s consumptive tendencies. The ozone layer has been ripped asunder and the inhabitants of the scorched earth fight for survival in what becomes a morbidly self-serving world. Mat Harrison was the hero of Birmingham, 25 Miles, but he didn’t survive for the sequel.

Instead, for most of Snakeskin, we follow his widow, Jennifer, and her reluctant charge, Mazy, as they try to make their way northward to the city-state of Chicago, where Jennifer’s mother lives and where life may or may not be more manageable. Braziel uses his future world as a canvas upon which to blend the hues of a handful of timely concerns, including human trafficking, the perils of dogmatic religious pursuit, and xenophobia. But chief among his foci is of course our stewardship of our natural resources.

Despite the poignant attention given the subject in each of the novels, I don’t think it really occurred to me until reading Braziel’s Southverve blog how much of a sacred space he gives to the environment in his life and in his writing. So maybe I should just direct you here: www.jamesbraziel.com/press.

But really, I want to direct you to his fine sophomore effort, Snakeskin Road, and to Cover to Cover this Sunday on the GPB Radio network. Remember, we’re on at 6 PM in the Athens area and at 8 PM in most other parts of the state. Please join us. (Oh, and if you’re from Wilcox County, where Braziel grew up, make doubly sure to tune in. During the interview James wondered aloud if anyone there read his books!)


Listen to this episode

Monday, September 14, 2009

Former AJC Reporter Tells Tale of Murder, Bridge and the Great Depression

Gary Pomerantz honed his skills as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and it was while he still lived in Atlanta that he wrote what is widely considered one of the best and most important books ever authored about the city: Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn: A Saga of Race and Family. With the same narrative skills that gave that work, and subsequent others, such vividness, Pomerantz, who now teaches at Stanford University, earlier this year published The Devil's Tickets: A Night of Bridge, A Fatal Hand, and a New American Age.
This latest work focuses on a once notorious Kansas City murder case. But, with the attorney for the defense being one-time presidential candidate Jim Reed, and the killing having taken place after a game of Bridge, a craze that would captivate the country during the ensuing decade of the Great Depression--thanks in large part to a larger-than-life impressario named Ely Culbertson, Pomerantz's tale is truly a panorama of the era, full of wonderfully colorful characters, significant historic detail and astute social commentary.
Like in his writing, Pomerantz in conversation is brimming with energy and finds intrigue and excitement in whatever subject he immerses himself. He is the sort of fellow with whom you could talk for hours. Alas, Cover to Cover only last 30 minutes. For a little more of Pomerantz, however, he will speak about his book at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta on Thursday, September 24 at 7 p.m.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Incomparable Voice of Pat Conroy


Pat Conroy's South of Broad, the Atlanta-born author's first novel in 14 years, raced to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List almost immediately upon its August publication, showing the enduring popularity of Conroy's distinctive Southern voice, lush prose, and inevitably wounded characters.

Despite his immense popularity, Conroy is as affable and self-effacing as any interview subject I've had the pleasure of hosting on Cover to Cover.

Deadpanning that his popularity was based on how "shallow" his stories are but also claiming that his editor, Nan Talese, destroys the magnificent 1000-page manuscripts he turns in ("she writes the checks"), Conroy understands the kind of writer he is--and how he connects with his audience--and the kind of writer he is not.

South of Broad is, as most Conroy novels are, many books in one. Primarily Conroy describes it as a "love letter" to Charleston, South Carolina. In the novel, though, Conroy takes his characters out to another favorite city of his--San Francisco--where the focus is the early years of the AIDS epidemic, which Conroy experienced first-hand. Another theme of the book is the power and workings of life-long friendships, and of course, he writes of dysfunctional families, abuse, mental illness, racial and class injustice and, the meaning of being Southern.

Ultimately, though, fans of Conroy cherish his books for his incomparable prose style, which he still renders in long-hand, and which, as he discusses in the interview, he plans to put to work next in a book focused on his long-time home of Atlanta.

And, he's pledging to try and finish that sooner than 14 more years.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Raven Lover, Poet, Novelist


I had the pleasure of first meeting George Dawes Green at The Moth in Savannah, Georgia. This one of a kind story-telling ensemble, was founded by Green back in 1997. It mimics evenings spent on his friend Wanda's porch in St. Simons Island. Green and his friends would gather there to drink and tell stories. Moths would find a way into the porch and flutter around the light. The Moth travels all over bringing story telling to life like never before. It has become such a popular event, that most Moth slams are usually sold out. They attract raconteurs from all walks of life with an occasional celebrity or three thrown in for good measure.

Green has published three novels to date. The latest, Ravens, just hit bookstores this summer. It is a thriller set in Brunswick Georgia about a family who has just won millions, but whose fate takes a twist downhill when two drifters from up north show up and hold the family hostage. It is a gripping, humorous, under the covers kind of read.

His other novels, both highly acclaimed - The Caveman's Valentine (1994) which won an Edgar Award and The Juror (1995) were both made into major motion pictures.

When Green isn't writing he is bringing The Moth coast to coast and across the ocean. The story-telling not-for-profit group has become a -not to be missed- sensation.

Listen to this episode

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Collin Kelley: Conquering Venus


Novelist Man Martin interviews Collin Kelley, the author of the novel, Conquering Venus (2009, Vanilla Heart Publishing). Conquering Venus is the story of young American writer, Martin Paige, who chaperones a group of high school seniors on their trip to Paris as a favor to his best friend, teacher Diane Jacobs. Martin finds himself falling in love with David, one of the students, and meets a mysterious Parisian woman, Irene Laureaux, who spends her days spying on the hotel guests across from her apartment.

Martin and Irene discover they have a logic-defying connection: a small tribal tattoo on their left hands that means equal but opposite. This is same tattoo that Martin's lover and Irene's husband had inked into their skin. All the characters' lives are irrevocably changed in a horrifying terrorist attack on a Paris metro station. Liberated by the blast, forced from her own self-imprisonment, Irene learns her husband's death was not an accident, and dares Martin to acknowledge the role he played in Peter's suicide.

Diane, harboring her own secrets and a hidden agenda, takes a drastic step to force David out of the closet and admit his feelings for Martin. From America to England to France, the globe-hopping story places fictional characters amidst historical events such as the Nazi occupation of Paris, the student/worker riots of 1968 and the terrorist bombings of Paris in 1995. Grounded in reality, Conquering Venus is a mystery, a love story and a journey of self-realization.

Collin is also author of three poetry collections, After the Poison, Slow To Burn and Better To Travel. Kelley, a Georgia Author of the Year Award-winner and Pushcart Prize nominee, is also co-editor of the Java Monkey Speaks Poetry Anthology series from Poetry Atlanta Press.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Karen White: The Lost Hours


Author of award winning novels such as Learning to Breathe, Karen White shares her love for the coastal lowcountry and Savannah in her latest novel, The Lost Hours. The story is set by the Savannah River on a plantation that is full of secrets, waiting to be uncovered. Piper, the young woman in the novel, must face certain truths about her family's history. She is joined by a colorful group of characters who come together to heal their wounds and find a common thread.

Karen dedicates the book to her maternal grandmother, Grace Bianca, inspired by her stories and the stories of others who passed through her grandmother's house.

Karen's work has appeared on the South East Independent Booksellers best sellers list. Her novel Learning to Breathe received several honors, including the National Reader's Choice Award.
Listen to this episode

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Michael Malone: The Four Corners of the Sky


Frank Reiss recently sat down with author Michael Malone to talk about his book, The Four Corners of the Sky. He had this to say about the author:

Michael Malone might not be the best known of the South's many prolific novelists of the last 30 years, but with novels like Handling Sin, Dingley Falls and a number of others, he has established a base of loyal fans who love his work for its variety, humor, colorful characters and warm humanity.

All of these qualities came through in the man himself as we discussed his latest novel, The Four Corners of the Sky, the story of a navy pilot, inspired by Malone's own daughter's fleeting interest in such a career. In his rendering, the story is overlayed with plot-lines and themes that make it a romance, a mystery, a family saga, a quest novel and an homage to one of Malone's enduring passions: the movies.

A native of North Carolina, Malone has spent most of his life in other parts of the country, but is now back in the Durham area, where his wife, a Renaissance scholar, is head of the Duke University English Department.

There, he is part of a community of writers that includes Reynolds Price, Lee Smith and Alan Gurganus, and Malone shared stories about them, and his thoughts about the distinctiveness of the South and its storytellers.

Listen to this episode

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Music and Mysticism


This Sunday, Cover to Cover presents a special hour-long show featuring poet and Rumi translator Coleman Barks. Barks, a recent inductee into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, is interviewed by Jeff Calder, and had this to say about his subject:

Coleman Barks is one of the most popular literary figures to emerge from the South in recent decades. In person, he is gentle and accommodating, not at all fearsome until he draws himself up to recite a poem. Then everything gets extra real in the manner of 800 BC. The great seductive power of his voice—fully evident in the interview this Sunday, August 9—seems to put the listener in touch with the time when language first began to express complex psychological states.

Coleman has achieved an international profile as an interpreter of Rumi; his many translations of the Sufi poet have sold over a half-million copies worldwide.
He has written a half-dozen books of his own poetry, selections of which have recently been published under the title Winter Sky by the University of Georgia Press. He runs Maypop Books, a publishing company based in Athens, Georgia. He’s taken part in two hour-long PBS specials with Bill Moyers.

Coleman has appeared on an astonishing variety of recordings, reciting his own poetry and Rumi’s against backgrounds of mandolins and oboes from the West, sitars and tablas from the East. 2008 marked the release of The Here and The Gone, his third collaboration with Tuatara, the world music combo featuring Peter Buck of R.E.M. A variety of these songs can be heard throughout this hour-long interview.

In 2006, Coleman Barks received an Honorary Doctorate in Persian Language and Literature from the University of Tehran. He taught at the University of Georgia for 30 years and has since retired as Professor Emeritus.


Listen to this episode

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life


Raised in the deep south but she's no southern belle, Lauretta Hannon exposes the underbelly of growing up poor in a broken family in rural Georgia. Her literary debut Cracker Queen: A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life is a knock-you-over-the-head testament to living graciously in the face of hardship. Join host Melissa Stiers and "Cracker Queen" Lauretta Hannon on Cover to Cover, Sunday night at 8 p.m. on your local GPB station.

Listen to this episode

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man of the House

GPB's Josephine Bennett recently sat down with author Ad Hudler to talk about about his latest novel, Man of the House, she has this preview...

Ad Hudler’s fourth novel, Man of the House is a sequel to his best-selling book, Househusband. The book is largely autobiographical and takes a humorous look at the life of stay-at-home dad, Linc Menner.

In the first book Menner is raising a young daughter while his wife climbs the corporate ladder in upstate New York. Several years later in Househusband we find him living in Naples, Florida. He is still a stay-at-home dad, but his daughter Violet is now plunging headlong into the teenage years as his wife enters menopause. His life is further complicated by an extensive home remodeling project. It is during this renovation that he reconnects with his inner man.

Linc trades his sandals in for a pair of work boots, shaves his head, and spends hours in the gym trying to regain his youthful physique. All of this does not go unnoticed by one of his daughter’s teacher’s, who begins stalking him. In the midst of it all there’s a category five hurricane headed straight for Naples.

Ad Hudler grew up surrounded by writers. His family has owned the local newspaper in Burlington, Colorado for five generations. He started as a journalist covering everything from mobile home fires to prize-winning sows at the Kit Carson County Fair. He refers to himself as a weird kid who founded a coloring club in the second grade only to kick everyone out for coloring outside the lines.

After leaving Colorado he studied art history and journalism at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. After graduation he got his first newspaper job in Fort Meyers, Florida. It was there he met and married his wife Carol. After they had their daughter Haley, Ad stayed home while his wife worked for several newspapers.

When his wife landed her first publishing job in Macon, Georgia he began to write fiction, inspired by the beautiful city and the quirky people there. The book inspired him to write his second novel, Southern Living. Hudler’s favorite pastimes include cooking, correcting other people’s children, and riding around town in his F-150 pickup truck.


Listen to this episode

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Paul Hemphill 1936-2009

For those of you who may not know, Paul Hemphill lost his battle with cancer Saturday. Though I understand a bit about what he has meant to our Southern culture, I never had the pleasure of meeting Hemphill, so I think writing about him is best left to one who knew him well and admired him greatly. Frank Reiss posted this reflection on Hemphill’s passing over at his bookstore blog, and I’ve re-posted here for our readers:

I have written one fan letter in my life, and it was to Paul Hemphill, who died this morning at age 73 after battling cancer for the last couple of years.

It was 1989, and I had just moved back to my hometown of Atlanta with plans of opening a bookstore after years of managing one in San Francisco. Right before leaving the Bay Area, I stumbled upon a copy of Hemphill's first novel, Long Gone, and being an avid baseball fan, I was drawn to its subject -- the lowest of the low minor leagues, and going through a somewhat turbulent departure from San Francisco, I was comforted by the book's great humor.

Reading the author bio on the book's jacket, I immediately recognized Hemphill's first title, The Nashville Sound, and also being a fan of country music, I grabbed the first copy of that one I could find, too.

Before packing up my truck and heading home, though, I discovered Too Old to Cry, a collection of Hemphill's newspaper columns and other journalism--including some during his own ill-fated stint in San Francisco, and at that point, I knew I had found a writer who spoke to me as few others ever had or ever would.

Hemphill was a native Southerner who loved so much about his culture that he was secure in pointing out its obvious defects. He was a natural journalist, whose writing embodied all the economy and simplicity of that world, but whose desire was to be more than that, to be a "real" writer, of books, at a time when those seemed to be things of permanence.

One of the first things I did when I got back to Atlanta, before buying inventory, before leasing a storefront, before coming up with a name, before writing a business plan (come to think of it, I still haven't written a business plan), was to write a fan letter to Paul Hemphill.

I can't remember exactly what I told him in that letter, other than to say how much his work had inspired me at a time in my life when I was dealing with my essential identity as a Southerner despite most of the previous decade on the West Coast seeing if I could perhaps be something else.

Not long after I opened A Cappella in the cold of that winter, a skinny man in a fur-lined coat stepped inside my door and said, a la Johnny Cash, "I'm Paul Hemphill."

I tingled with excitement and with a shaky voice showed him around my tiny new store, paying special attention to the first editions of all of his books that I showcased near the front.

I remained too in awe of Hemphill to ever even feel comfortable calling him "Paul," but over the years, we spent a good deal of time together, and in one of the career moves I take most pride in, I republished that first book, The Nashville Sound , to coincide with the publication of his great Hank Williams biography, Lovesick Blues, in 2005.

I have saved the email from when he agreed to let me do it, both because, like I say, it was a proud moment for me but also because its subject line is such a perfect example of Hemphill concision. It reads simply: "Let's Do Nashville."

Like most of my business endeavors--and most of his--the Nashville reprint was only a modest success. But, in our world, where Hank Williams always works as a soundtrack and failing to get a hit 7 out of 10 times at bat is as good as it gets--we were inspired enough by its performance to reprint the only remaining of his titles to, at that point, be out of print: Mayor: Notes on the Sixties, which he authored with Ivan Allen, Jr.

Soon, however, I received another classic Hemphill email:

"My life's on hold these days. Docs found cancer in my throat. Seems curable, and without too much pain. Excellent people on the case at Piedmont and Emory. No need to fret. Might be clear in couple of months."

That was two and a half years ago. By early this year, it was clear that he wouldn't be clear, and that Mayor would have to wait. Like everyone who knew the man, I've been prepared for this day for a while. I doesn't make the loss any less great.

It is possible to make too great a claim for Paul Hemphill's writing. It had its limits. It could be repetitious. But for anyone who ever fell under the sway of his words and his work, it was pure inspiration. Here was a man who did what he did, and did it damn well. It didn't make his life easy. But it made his city and his world a better place.

I am so grateful for the life and the example of Paul Hemphill.

-Frank Reiss, Owner, A Capella Books; Co-Host of Cover to Cover
July 11, 2009

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Life Filled With Loss


By Frank Reiss

Jessica Handler's memoir, Invisible Sisters, was compared by Atlanta Magazine's Teresa Weaver to The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It is an apt comparison, for Handler's work, like Didion's, finds surprising uplift in the most heartbreaking of stories.

Handler grew up in Atlanta's Morningside neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s, the oldest of three daughters. Both of her sisters died of rare blood diseases, leaving Handler with the legacy of a decimated family, memories of a fleetingly idyllic youth and imaginings of what life might have been like had such tragedy not befallen them.

One of her coping mechanisms has been keeping detailed journals throughout her life, and these have enabled Handler to capture her family's experience in rich and intimate detail. The memoir also serves as a portrait of the Atlanta during some of its most volatile years (she attended Dr. Martin Luther King's funeral) and her present life: married, childless by choice, and an instructor of creative writing.

In its graceful handling of such emotionally raw material, Invisible Sisters stands as terrific instruction itself on the art of writing. And in conversation Handler reveals herself to be good-humored and wizened by her act of rendering her life into art.

Listen to this episode

Thursday, July 2, 2009

For Independence Day - The American Dream Run Wild


Nearly a year after the triumphant release of his lauded fourth novel we are excited to present an in-depth interview with Ron Rash. Serena (Ecco/Harper Collins) is Rash’s period piece that is just as much a place piece, this period and place being Appalachia during the Great Depression. Rash is the Pariss Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University, and if that moniker doesn’t signal his grasp of the region strongly enough the first few pages of Serena will.

Serena is the bride of George Pemberton, a young lumber baron from New England, and this is the story of her Machiavellian pursuit for power. As austere as Pemberton can be, he is the softie in the relationship as Serena lies, cheats, murders and mutilates her way along a course that would make Lady MacBeth blush. Rash plays up parallels to the Scottish Play throughout the novel to the point that when a clairvoyant portends of Pemberton’s death you may as well go ahead and begin thinking of creative ways by which the vision might be fulfilled.

Not that this book isn’t gripping—quite the contrary. This is a rare novel that manages to be a literary feat while also playing out as a bona fide page turner. Rash talks about this duality on this week’s show. He also talks a good deal about the disappearing wilderness in Appalachia, a central aspect of this novel. He notes the irony inherent in locals that participate in industries such as timber and mining: “The very thing that makes them special is the thing they’re destroying.”

Despite ample success with this and earlier works, Ron Rash isn’t a very public figure. He is soft-spoken and deferential. But this week he opens up a bit as he chats about the region that is not less a part of him than he is of it.

As you’re traveling home from holiday destinations we hope you’ll tune in the Cover to Cover on GPB Radio. Catch us at 8 PM in most parts of the state and at 6 PM on WUGA 91.7FM in the Athens area. Enjoy!

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Valeria's Last Stand


Marc Fitten has been a well-known figure on the the Atlanta literary scene for years. As the editor of The Chattahoochee Review, Fitten has infused the venerable periodical with a more international flavor and has been a force behind bringing a number of literary authors from around the world to Atlanta.

Now, the literary gadfly takes center stage with his debut novel, Valeria's Last Stand. The book is the lead fiction title in this season's catalogue from the esteemed literary publisher Bloomsbury. Set in post-Soviet Hungary, where Fitten spent several years in the 1990s, it is at once a love triangle (featuring characters of very advanced age) and a meditation on the changes wrought by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Early reviews of Valeria's Last Stand have dubbed it "subtle and brilliant" and "a beautiful debut" and the lead character "every bit as sensual and irrepressible as Chaucer's Wife of Bath."

Before embarking on an international book tour, Fitten discussed with Cover to Cover his literary inspirations and aspirations. You can hear the interview with Frank Reiss and Marc Fitten this Sunday night at 8 on GPB.

Listen to this episode

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Going Green with Melaver


On this week's Cover to Cover Orlando Montoya sits down with Martin Melaver to discuss his book "Living Above the Store: Building a Business That Creates Value, Inspires Change and Restores Land and Community"... Orlando Montoya sends us this short history of Melaver's many green endeavors...

I've been reporting on Martin Melaver's career since shortly after I came to Savannah in 1998. A developer, Melaver made news by undertaking one of the nation's first historic renovations to LEED standards. And if you don't know what those standards are, they basically govern everything about the building process for properties that want to be certified as "environmentally friendly." I interviewed him again when he developed a pioneering suburban strip mall to LEED standards.
Now he's involved in an "environmentally friendly" public housing project and has written a book about his journey in business. "Living Above the Store: Building a Business That Creates Value, Inspires Change and Restores Land and Community" is really a management handbook. In this interview, he also touches on hard questions that go to the core of two of our biggest global problems -- the recession and climate change -- and proves why he is considered a leading thinker in Savannah's sustainability movement.

You can hear the interview this Sunday night at 8 on GPB.
Listen to this episode

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Letters to a Young Sister

Valarie Edwards recently sat down with award winning author/actor Hill Harper to talk about his new book, Letters to a Young Sister. She has this preview:

Following on the heels of his award winning New York Times bestseller, Letters to a Young Brother, actor and author Hill Harper delivers life-affirming messages to young women in his latest book, Letters to a Young Sister.

In 2006, Letters to a Young Brother won two NAACP awards and, in 2007 was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association. The award winning actor currently stars in CSI: NY. In 2008, People Magazine named Harper one of the Sexiest Men Alive.

Hill Harper graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Brown University and cum laude from Harvard Law School. He also holds a masters degree from the Kennedy School of Government.

Learn more at www.manifestyourdestiny.org.

You can listen to the interview this Sunday night at 8pm on GPB.


Click here to listen to this episode.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Winston Groom's Vicksburg, 1863



Stan Deaton spoke with Winston Groom about his latest novel Vicksburg, 1863. He gives us this preview:

Winston Groom is a masterful storyteller, as one would expect from the man who wrote the novel Forrest Gump. Now the author of fourteen previous books of both fiction and non-fiction has brought his considerable skills to bear on retelling the story of one of the most important battle of America's most crucial war. Vicksburg, 1863 is Groom's latest offering, and it's a good one. One reviewer wrote that Groom's approach to the Civil War follows that of Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote, and that's pretty good company to be in.

Groom's got a great cast of characters to work with, and they're all here in vivid detail: Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jefferson Davis, Joseph E. Johnston, John Pemberton, Earl Van Dorn, along with other Americans, black and white, northern and southern, who have been lost to history. His conclusion, that the loss of Vicksburg was a turning point in the war and the Confederacy's greatest setback, is not a surprise. But Groom takes it one step further: he argues that after Vicksburg fell in early July 1863, the Confederate high command should have realized that there was no possible way to win the war militarily, and they should have stopped fighting and sued for peace at that point, nearly two years before the war actually ended. It's an intriguing argument, and one of history's great "what if?" moments.

In this interview, he talks about all of this plus his years at the University of Alabama, his time in Vietnam, and the challenges of writing fiction and non-fiction."

You can listen to Stan Deaton’s interview with Winston Groom this Sunday night at 8 on GPB.


Listen to this episode

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Transformation and Hope in Small Town America



Like any good reporter, The New York Times' Warren St. John recognized a compelling story when a friend tipped him off to a youth soccer team of refugee children from dozens of different countries playing in the tiny Southern town of Clarkston, GA, just east of Atlanta, home to a massive relocation project.

He might not have expected, however, to meet a character like the team's coach, Jordanian-born Luma Mufleh and a complex tale of cultural conflict that would ultimately lead to his remarkable second book, Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town, movie studios bidding for the story, and, on a personal level, a life-altering, consciousness-raising experience.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, St. John talks of Mufleh and her team, The Fugees, like a man on a mission, a mission that goes far beyond the soccer field and toward a dream of greater human understanding between people of wildly divergent backgrounds. And, amazingly enough, the cynical New York newspaper man does it all with infectious hope and optimism.

You can hear this week's interview with Frank Reiss and Warren St. John Sunday night at 8 on Cover to Cover.
Listen to this episode

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Letters From Tommy J.


Three million US soldiers served in the Vietnam War between 1965 and 1973. Tommy J. Holtzclaw was one of the many young men to serve in Vietnam during this time. His journey began at the young age of 17 when he chose to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. On December 9, 1966, he boarded a Navy ship en route to Vietnam – never to return.

Years later his nieces, who never had the chance to really know him, found the letters he wrote to family and friends during his time there. Connie C. Hughes and Terri C. Walker compiled these letters and tell his story in Letters from Tommy J. This book is a portrait of a young man coming of age during one of the most difficult times in American history.
You can listen to this special Memorial Day edition of Cover to Cover this Sunday night at 8 on GPB.

Listen to this episode

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A New Found Mission


In the summer of 1993, an American traveled to Pakistan to climb the second highest mountain on earth, but he never reached the summit, he got lost coming down but found a new mission. The village Greg Mortenson stumbled into needed a school. After they helped him restore his health, he came back to the states with the determination to return one day and build them a school. He's been building schools throughout central Asia since. The New York Time's best-selling book Three Cups of Tea is an account of Greg Mortenson's mission. He sits down with GPB's Melissa Stiers to talk about the book that's on the required reading list at the Pentagon. Mortenson explains how his work is an affront to global terrorism. Why teaching not just a child... but a girl how to read quells the violence in Taliban-run regions of the world.

Listen to this episode

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Love Letter to Atlanta


On this week's Cover to Cover, Frank Reiss interviews Susan Rebecca White on her debut novel: Bound South. He gives us this preview...

Atlanta is currently bursting at the seams with young novelists debuting into the literary world. Undoubtedly the most "Atlanta-centric" among them is Atlanta native and resident Susan Rebecca White, whose first novel, Bound South, is set in her home town. The novel's appeal, however, is in no way limited to locals.

Bound South is intelligent and funny and insightful about many things that occupy everybody's minds all over the country: important matters like race, class, gender roles, and, really important matters like sex and food.

As she discusses in her Cover to Cover interview, this is not an autobiographical work but it uses many elements from White's own experience, including coming from a uniquely blended family that straddled a couple of distinct cultures in the Atlanta area. She can stake claim to both the well-to-do Buckhead & Ansley Park neighborhoods as well as the poorer areas outlying the city limits; her family includes progressive Protestants as well as hard-line fundamentalists.

Bound South thus is a complex family saga that explores universal themes. For those of us who know Atlanta well, though, it is especially satisfying to read a story set in the city from such an informed, loving, talented--and home-grown-- writer. Even when her story takes her to the other city she and I share in common--San Francisco--White shines in her ability to capture a place and make it a crucial part of the story.

You can listen to the interview this Sunday night at 8 on GPB.

Listen to this episode

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Voices From the Past


In his latest interview, Frank Reiss sits down with Kathryn Stockett to talk about her latest novel. He gives us this preview.

Kathryn Stockett's new book The Help was described in its New York Times review as a "soon to be wildly popular novel." Well, happily for the self-effacing, mild-mannered Atlanta resident, the paper of record knows what they're talking about. Earlier this year the debut work made it to Number 15 on the Times' bestseller list.

The book was a long time in the works, and as Stockett tells us in our Cover to Cover interview, it was rejected over 40 times before finding its way to the desk of Putnam's new star editor, Amy Einhorn.

The novel is the story of Skeeter Phelan, who, like Stockett is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. Skeeter, a white daughter of priviledge, sets out to tell the stories of the town's black domestic workers, whose lives, in 1960s Mississippi, were for the most part not even considered by the families who employed them.

Stockett's inspiration for writing the book was the very voice of the black woman who largely raised her, and in her book, she channels that voice as well as several others in creating not only the novel's dialogue, but also the "book within a book," which Skeeter manages to publish as a kind of a field study.

The Help is resonating with a lot of readers who probably recognize voices in their past in Stockett's work. In Stockett's own voice, I think listener's will her a private, shy and somewhat vulnerable young woman who has now exposed a bit of herself in this work of fiction. It is not autobiographical, but it reveals something very personal to her: a deep love for the woman who raised her.

Tune in this Sunday night at 8 to hear the interview.

Listen to this episode

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Homecoming of Sorts for a Georgia Native

Myriam Farrero, the newest member of our Cover to Cover team, just sent in this preview of her upcoming show with author Leslie Walker Williams. Tune in this Sunday to hear the interview, about which Myriam writes:

In 2009, the debut novel of Savannah native Leslie Walker Williams received the Peter Taylor Prize and the Morris Hackney Literary Award.

The Prudent Mariner is set on the Georgia coast in the 1960’s.

It’s a story of a young girl’s journey into the past secrets of her family, or truths buried underground and the proximity of a distant, shameful past.

Nine year old Ridley Cross discovers disturbing photographs of a lynching among her family’s possession. The Prudent Mariner unfolds through Ridley’s eyes as she uncovers her grandmother’s connection to the horrific past events.

Leslie Walker Williams dives headfirst into the complexities of a southern town haunted by its violent and horrific past, and the complex relationships of a family that reflects this past.

Williams was raised in Savannah, Georgia and has done extensive archival research on lynchings. It was a visit to the Detroit Museum of African American History which inspired her to write The Prudent Mariner.

A resident of Vancouver, Canada, her short stories have been published in numerous publications including The Iowa Review, The Madison Review, Harvard Review and American Fiction.

Her collection, Taxidermy, was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award.

Listen to this episode

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eudora!






















Some authors manage to exist on the periphery for all of us; I mean we know their name and know that they are important, but we haven’t quite gotten around to actually reading their work. For me, Eudora Welty has been one such author for quite a while now. Thankfully, that Dark Age is over.

Welty is a masterful writer perhaps best known for her short stories “A Worn Path” and Why I Live at the P.O.” She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1973 for the short meditative novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, which came late in her career.

I mentioned Dr. Pearl McHaney in this blog before, but to refresh, she is a Welty scholar and professor at Georgia State University. Dr. McHaney recently gave a series of free public lectures at the Decatur Library, and she joins us this Sunday on Cover to Cover to talk about Welty. Dr. McHaney visited with Welty a few times at her home in Jackson, and has edited several volumes of Welty’s fiction, as well as public letters and literary criticism from the Belle of Belhaven.

Fresh of the presses at the University Press of Mississippi come two new edited volumes, Occasions: Selected Writings and Eudora Welty as Photographer. Both books are edited by Dr. McHaney, and the titles pretty well sum up the contents. Welty was not a WPA photographer (though she wanted to be), but her photographic work is very much identified with those proletariat pictures of the dusty south (and dusty New York). Occasions is a sizeable collection for Welty enthusiasts who want to delve deeper into the life of the woman who is perhaps as mysterious as she was charming.

We welcome Dr. McHaney to the show this Sunday, April 12 on the eve of what would be Welty’s 100th birthday. We talk about Dr. McHaney’s meetings with her beloved subject, the author’s strident support of the artists she loved, and of course, Welty’s inimitable writing.

And for those of you Welty fans near the Atlanta area, Dr. McHaney will dish the details on a birthday party downtown. It will be Monday evening at the Rialto on the campus of GSU and will feature dramatic readings from Tom Key and Brenda Bynum as well as champagne, coconut cake and the launch of The Eudora Welty Review, an annual publication that Dr. McHaney will edit. The event begins at 6 PM, but if you can make it down to GSU by 4:30, you can hear a free lecture by Dr. Daniele Pitavy-Souques, Profesor Emerita, at the University of Burgundy.

Hope to see you there!

Listen to this episode

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Convergence at Kennesaw State

This in from Frank Reis:
Just as Hemingway once said all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn, many of us interested in Georgia literature would say that a good starting point would be the work of Flannery O'Connor.
In the more than 40 years since her early death, the Savannah native's work, already considered among the absolute first rank of mid-century American fiction, has only grown in reputation. Never out of print and widely anthologized, O'Connor's short stories and novels are read and studied around the world, recognized for their distinctive regional flavor as well as the universality of their themes.

Inspiring as it is, though, O'Connor's work has not been widely interpreted into other media. With a stage adaptation of several of her stories, approved by the O'Connor estate, that situation has begun to change in recent years. In April, 2009, the Department of Theatre at Kennesaw State University presents "Everything That Rises Must Converge" and "A View of the Woods," two stories from late in O'Connor's short life.

The director of that production, Karen Robinson, discussed this exciting project with Cover to Cover.

A native Californian and lifelong theater person, Robinson brought to the production a particularly fresh pair of eyes and ears to the Southerner's enigmatic fiction. Robinson is now an enthusiastic proponent of O'Connor's "Shakespearean" language, not a word of which was allowed to be changed in her staging.

Our conversation delved into the philosophical and religious meaning of O'Connor's work and also the artistic challenges in presenting such complex stories in dramatic fashion, putting such masterful language in the voices of today's students.

Kennesaw's production and Robinson's enthusiasm--along with the much-ballyhooed new O'Connor biography by Brad Gooch--have already had the effect on at least one longtime O'Connor fan (yours truly) that all literary interpretation should: it has sent me back to the stories, with, if possible, an even greater appreciation for the brilliance of the work.

The interview airs on Sunday, March 29 at 8 p.m.

For more information about Kennesaw State's production of "Everything That Rises Must Converge" and "A View of the Woods" visit http://www.kennesaw.edu/theatre/EverythingThatRises/place.html.

Launches, lunches and lectures...and other fun free stuff

This has been a busy and exciting week for the Georgia Literary Community. On Tuesday, David Bottoms and Coleman Barks were inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, along with posthumous inductees Robert Burch and Raymond Andrews. I’ve written about all four of these artists in this space before, so let me only add that it was wonderful to see the inductees and their families take in the honor, which is presented by the UGA Library.

I made it back to the Decatur Public Library main branch by Tuesday evening for the last of Dr. Pearl McHaney’s free public lectures on the work of Eudora Welty. The charming and sublimely genius Welty would turn 100 on April 13, and though she is no longer with us, there will be a big birthday party at Georgia State’s Rialto Center anyway. Rumor has it there will be readings by Tom Key and Brenda Bynum, and cakes made from recipes featured in some of Welty’s characters’ cookbooks. If everything goes well, expect to hear a special edition of Cover to Cover devoted to Welty and featuring Dr. McHaney (one of the leading Welty scholars in the world) just before the occasion. So pull out your copy of The Optomist’s Daughter and brush up!

Finally, it was a great pleasure to witness the launch of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Emory University. The scholarly institute is the brainchild of distinguished scholar of American and African-American culture, Dr. Rudolph P. Byrd. Visiting scholars are already studying, exploring and writing under the organization’s auspices and Dr. Byrd has recently edited a new volume of Johnson’s work. The event featured pledges of cooperative commitment from key leaders in the community, including Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall from Spelman, Douglass Shipman from the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and others. Mayor Shirley Franklin was spotted at the ceremony, which featured performances by the wonderful Vega String Quartet and the vocal spectacle Elder Delesslyn Kennebrew, as well as a beautiful Occasional poem by Pulitzer winner Natasha Trethewey. Dr. Byrd insists the Institute will not be only an organization of scholarship but also one of activism, and we wish him continued success in his endeavor.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

FutureProof on Cover to Cover



From Frank Reiss:


N. Frank Daniels is an extremely serious writer and, seemingly, a very grounded young man. He acknowledges that his novel--about a group of young people mixed-up in Atlanta's drug culture in the 1990s--is largely autobiographical. It's a pretty jarring experience to be sitting down with such a gentle-seeming soul and knowing, after reading Futureproof, the brutal reality that was his young life.

He is now sober, and, in addition to having his first novel published, has completed a second novel, is working on a memoir , is raising two children and seems, after a long, arduous process, to have found his place in the world, among fellow writers (now friends) like Jay McInerney, Jerry Stahl and James Frey.

Daniels talked about his literary lineage, citing Richard Wright and Hubert Selby, Jr. among his influences, and he shared his fascinating account of how his book, originally posted online and then self-published, eventually found its way to a major publishing house, HarperPerennial, whom Daniels calls "the Grove Press of the new milennium." Grove, incidentally, published Selby's masterpiece of drug-addiction, Last Exit to Brooklyn.

Futureproof is not for everybody. But for a terrifyingly real portrait of an easily ignored subculture that exists right in our midst, among truly lost souls--and mere children at that, you couldn't ask for a better guide than N. Frank Daniels.

Join Frank Reiss as he interviews N. Frank Daniels on this weekend's Cover to Cover, Sunday at 8PM. Only on Georgia Public Broadcasting.