Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Maria Browning

The Übertutor of American Music

A new anthology surveys the work of revered critic Robert Palmer

A passionate listener and an erudite chronicler of every style from blues to punk, music critic Robert Palmer was admired by many of the artists he wrote about, and by legions of fans who followed his work in The New York Times and Rolling Stone. In Blues & Chaos, editor Anthony DeCurtis brings together a selection of articles and reviews from Palmer’s 20-plus years as the premier American music writer.

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"A Lot Happened in Three Decades"

A Nashville photographer documents Music City’s evolution

Featuring the work of longtime Nashville photographer Bob Grannis, Historic Photos of Nashville in the 50s, 60s, and 70s documents the city’s dramatic evolution from sleepy town to sprawling Sunbelt metropolis.

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The Moviegoers

Twenty-five writers explore the narrative influence of film

As much as passionate readers may hate to acknowledge it, film has usurped the written word as the most popular medium for telling stories. In Life as We Show It, edited by Brian Pera (a Memphis resident) and Masha Tupitsyn, twenty-five writers examine the way films serve as our personal and collective touchstones—and shape our fundamental notions of narrative, as well.

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Fearless Fighter for an Ignoble Cause

Madison Smartt Bell writes a fictional biography of the deeply flawed Confederate warrior Nathan Bedford Forrest

The subject of Madison Smartt Bell‘s Devil’s Dream is enough to send a lot of readers—even Bell’s fans—running for the exits. A hefty novel on Confederate hero Nathan Bedford Forrest may not be an alluring prospect, unless you happen to belong to the dwindling cohort of folks who go misty-eyed when they hear “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” From its first paragraphs, however, Devil’s Dream defies expectations, combining meticulous research and vivid accounts of warfare with a complex character study of the South’s dubious hero. On November 20 at 7 p.m., Madison Smartt Bell will discuss Devil’s Dream at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville.

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A Political Awakening

D’Army Bailey recounts his student days of protest and outrage

D’Army Bailey has embraced many roles in public life. He’s been an activist, a politician, and a distinguished jurist, serving on the Circuit Court bench in Memphis since 1990. He was instrumental in the founding of the National Civil Rights Museum, and he’s also done a few turns as an actor, appearing in films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back and The People v. Larry Flynt. No doubt he has many stories to tell, but in The Education of a Black Radical: A Southern Civil Rights Activist’s Journey 1959-1964, he confines his memoir to one narrow segment of history: his college years, when he evolved from a very bright, conventional young man to a civil-rights firebrand who was expelled from his all-black school for leading student protests.

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New Fiction from the Unsettled South

Is a story still “Southern” if it sounds like a bulletin from Anywhere, U.S.A.?

“Rootedness used to be the core quality of Southern culture,” writes Madison Smartt Bell in his introduction to New Stories from the South 2009: The Year’s Best. Bell goes on to note that the lives of contemporary Southerners have taken on a “nomadic quality” that competes with the former importance of place. And that presents a problem for this collection, the twenty-fourth in the series.

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