Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Michael Ray Taylor

Kindred Souls of Knoxville

Singer-songwriter-poet-playwright R.B. Morris orbits in the literary gravity of James Agee and their shared city

R.B. Morris recently received a phone call from his longtime friend and sometime touring partner, the legendary folk singer Steve Earle. Both have published books of poetry as well as music, and both share a deep interest in the writer James Agee. Earle explained that he had been asked to write a forward for a new edition of A Death in Family, Agee’s Pulitzer-winning novel based on his own boyhood in the Ft. Sanders section of Knoxville, the place—not coincidentally—where Morris grew up.

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A Voice Worth Finding

Kevin Wilson’s first story collection displays great emotional depth—and a few youthful missteps

Young fiction writers in America tend to receive their early training around the workshop tables of college creative writing programs. They next prove themselves in the minor leagues, writing short stories for the handful of respected journals that continue to print them. When the stories are good—as Tennessee native Kevin Wilson‘s surely are—the writer is rewarded with a rookie contract to the majors, which is to say, a big-name publisher agrees to put out a collection, with the promise of a (usually yet-to-be-written) novel. Tunneling to the Center of the Earth proves that Harper Perennial’s faith in Wilson was justified, but the book also illustrates the foibles inherent in the farm-team system.

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