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, 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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