Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Embracing Music and Poetry

What’s new in Tennessee books—and at Chapter 16—on February 11, 2010

Despite here.

Vanderbilt’s Beth Bachmann is one writer who’s preserving poetry for the future readers in whom Ryan places so much faith: Bachmann learned last week that her first book, Temper, has won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, given to a first book of extraordinary promise, by Claremont Graduate University. “I spent much of the last five years working on the book, in one form or the other,” Bachmann says. “The poems in Temper are, at least in part, an elegy for my sister, who was killed in 1993. The poems are about violence and representations of violence, how violence happens and how the lyric form can respond to it. Temper was a hard book to write, a hard matter to live through.” Bachmann will officially accept the Kate Tufts Discovery Award on April 22 at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. As for the $10,000 prize, Bachmann says, “The first thing I am going to buy is some new books.” To learn more about her work, visit her website here. To read an excerpt from Temper in Chapter 16, click here.

Tennessee had a connection in Southern California this week, too, as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, held February 4 through 14, screened the worldwide premier of Provinces of Night, an indie film based on the novel of the same name by William Gay. Reviewing the film this week, the Santa Barbara Independent asks, “Could it be that a new, valid American cinematic vernacular, regarding life in the South, is making its way into Hollywood’s slick landscape?” The review applauds narrative elements that “include Southern Gothic lunacy and violence, tender teen romance, and savoring the look and feel of rural Tennessee,” as well as the performance of “Kris Kristofferson as an elderly country singer come back home to lick wounds and pick his guitar on the porch.” The film, directed by Shane Dax Taylor, also features Hilary Duff, Dwight Yoakam, and Val Kilmer. No word on when it will be screened in Tennessee.

Barry Mazor, author of Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, schooled Wall Street Journal readers this week in a new, valid view of the music of South, particularly of Music City, U.S.A. “Today’s lively, productive, sophisticated music community in this city includes an undersung jazz scene, blues singers, the symphony and the opera, hip-hop artists—literally thousands of singer-songwriters of every conceivable tone, and an edgy, vibrant indie rock scene,” he notes. “The music-making is as diverse as in New York or Los Angeles; the difference being that many of the musicians working in all of these fields also have some relation to that 500-pound country guitar pick in the room—sessions played, dual careers, or backgrounds in twang.”

People seeking twang outside Nashville might consider popping up to New York City this weekend for the Off-Broadway opening of Good Ol’ Girls, a musical based on the stories of Jill McCorkle and former Nashvillian Lee Smith, with music by Marshall Chapman and Matraca Berg. Opening February 14 at the Black Box Theatre, the show is billed as a story of “five unique southerners” that “celebrates childhood through old age with big hair and bigger hearts.” To learn more and hear a sample of the music, visit the Good Ol’ Girls website, here.

February 14 is a big day for Morristown novelist Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot, and Memphis writer Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: both books will make their debut on this Sunday’s New York Times bestseller list, and both writers are thrilled: “I’m still jumping up and down!!!” Greene wrote on her Facebook page, and Skloot’s reaction required even more exclamation points: “Woot!!!! This just in: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is officially a NYTimes Bestseller!”

In this week’s issue of Chapter 16, look for reviews of new books by Beth Pattillo, as well as interviews with three prominent visiting writers. In addition to the Q&A with Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, we’ve got conversations with Juan Williams, author of Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America––and What We Can Do About It, and activist Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation. Both will be speaking this week in Nashville. See our events section for more details.