Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Paul V. Griffith

The Lady Vanishes

Stewart O’Nan paints a detailed, recognizable portrait of old age

September 16, 2011 Emily Maxwell is nearing the end of life. Her beloved husband Henry has preceded her in death; her children have moved away and begun families of their own. In her old Pittsburgh neighborhood, Emily is the last of a faded generation, her remaining friends as decrepit as herself. This may not sound like the premise for a dramatic and engaging novel, but read on. With Emily, Alone, the sequel to his bestselling Wish You Were Here, Stewart O’Nan proves to be a master of wringing the profound out of the everyday. In her taken-for-granted-ness, Emily emerges as a powerful protagonist whose inner life is remarkably—and perhaps typically—intriguing. O’Nan will appear at the 2011 Southern Festival of Books, held October 14-16 in Nashville.

Read more

Boogie Chillen'

Preston Lauterbach links an informal network of black-owned “joy businesses” to the birth of rock and roll

August 29, 2011 In The Chitlin’ Circuit: And the Road to Rock and Roll, Memphis music writer Preston Lauterbach takes us back before the days when black music had its way with white teenagers; back to a time when Southern black musicians like B. B. King, Little Richard, and Ray Charles depended for their livelihood on the informal yet influential association of rural nightclubs, big city “strolls,” and gangsters-cum-entrepreneurs known as the chitlin’ circuit. Lauterbach will appear at the 2011 Southern Festival of Books, held October 14-16 in Nashville.

Read more

This Land Is Not Necessarily Your Land

Will Kaufman’s political biography of Woody Guthrie teaches a lesson in homegrown radicalism

August 4, 2011 Folk singer Woody Guthrie is best known for “This Land Is Your Land,” a patriotic travelogue that has become America’s second national anthem. Like Guthrie’s own image, however, the song has been gutted of its political importance over the years. In Woody Guthrie, American Radical, Will Kaufman reclaims Guthrie’s radicalism, painting a picture of an inconsistent yet passionate crusader who saw tyranny as the greatest of all evils. At noon on August 10, Kaufman will present a live musical documentary on the songs and politics of Woody Guthrie, American Radical at the Nashville Public Library as part of the Salon@615 series.

Read more

Time Out of Mind

David Halperin’s first novel is a fantastical tale of gypsies, UFOs, and more than a little autobiography

July 8, 2011 UFO fetishists have long seen a connection between extraterrestrial craft and the holy scriptures. Websites, blogs, books, and documentaries have been devoted to the idea that biblical visions may refer to unidentified flying objects, but debut novelist David Halperin is the first to use such connections as a plot device. In Journal of a UFO Investigator, Halperin, a retired religious-studies professor, effectively weaves the UFO phenomenon together with issues of faith, loss, and the pain of growing up. David Halperin will appear at the 2011 Southern Festival of Books, held October 14-16 in Nashville.

Read more

The Hopeful Pessimist

A biography of famed attorney Clarence Darrow describes a man of conflicting alliances and steadfast principles

July 1, 2011 In Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast, historian Andrew E. Kersten focuses on the legendary attorney’s inconsistencies and his uncanny ability to reconcile sometimes contradictory impulses. Darrow championed many unpopular causes, dumbfounding his progressive friends and empowering his conservative enemies, but he remained at heart an attorney of the people, concerned more with preserving individual liberties and tilting at institutional windmills than with maintaining a consistent philosophy. Kersten shows Darrow to be a gifted jurist who isn’t afraid to get his hands muddy in the service of his clients.

Read more

Passion Play

Social entrepreneur Sam Davidson makes the case for following your bliss

June 1, 2011 It’s no secret that stuff doesn’t bring happiness, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. Many of us, according to Sam Davidson, are trapped in meaningless jobs, meaningless relationships, and meaningless lives, all the while accumulating more possessions to cram into our garages and closets. And for Davidson, a motivational speaker and author, even less tangible distractions—long commutes, bucket lists, and complaining—can also keep us from following our bliss. In his new book, 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need, Davidson recommends pursuing a life of passion and purpose––one that not only leads to fulfillment but may also result in a better world. Davidson will appear at BookMan/BookWoman in Nashville on June 2 at 5 p.m.

Read more