Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Michael Sims

Dark Lantern

An author finds his own teenage ghost in a thrift-shop book

What I saw was not a dusty old book but a boy in a wheelchair by a window in a ramshackle house farther east in Tennessee—two hours away, on the Cumberland Plateau near Crossville.

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A Super-Man

Book excerpt: Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes

Michael Sims’s new book of nonfiction, Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes, will be released on January 24, 2017. Today Chapter 16 readers have a sneak peek at the first chapter.

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Elegance of Fancy

A writer remembers Nashville’s BookMan/BookWoman, which will close its doors at the end of the year

Shelves groaned from overpopulation. But it was this gaudy Shakespearean excess, the Mumbai crowds of jostling books, that made it such a heady experience to visit BookMan/BookWoman. It was the archaic opulence of it all, as if you might come home smelling of myrrh.

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The Cost of a Thing

Decades after first reading Walden, Michael Sims still finds Henry David Thoreau exciting and challenging, maddening and inspiring

July 27, 2015 “When I first read Thoreau as a teenager, I quickly realized that I had found a magic carpet to my own rural Tennessee world. Henry helped me see and hear and smell my own woodland paths, and my own pond, with fresh senses.” Michael Sims will appear at the Southern Festival of Books, held in Nashville October 9-11, 2015. All festival events are free and open to the public.

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Where the Wild Things Are

In connection with a show at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Mark W. Scala considers the unsettling side of human imagination

May 14, 2012 Mark W. Scala’s Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination, a beautiful catalog for an art exhibition, is both invigorating and disturbing. It’s invigorating because it isn’t another business-as-usual record of a museum playing it safe with crowd-pleasers like the Impressionists but rather a lively demonstration of a museum engaged with the primordial dark side of the human psyche. It’s disturbing for the same reason, and it’s meant to be. “Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination” runs through May 28 at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville.

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Garden Secrets

On the sesquicentennial of The Secret Garden, Michael Sims considers the surprising connections between his own Crossville boyhood and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s masterpiece

June 6, 2011 It was the wheelchair scene that got me. I had been identifying more than I realized with the adventures of sad little Mary, who lost her parents to a cholera outbreak in India and who finds herself reluctantly lodged at a relative’s country estate in chilly England. Her only companions are the privileged brat Colin, who turns out not to be crippled, and homespun Dickon, who almost speaks the language of his wild-animal pets. In retrospect I find it easy to see that each child spoke to a different aspect of my own childhood experience and yearnings. But I didn’t think of that at the time. When Colin rose from the wheelchair, healed by the other children’s innocent affection and his own determination—in short, cured by the secret walled garden where it was safe to be a child—I was astonished to find myself crying.

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