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, 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

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.