Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Hot Popcorn, Cold War

Ronald Kidd’s new Young Adult novel takes kids to the movies during the red scare

The 1950s was a scary time, full of drop drills, McCarthyism, and Soviet boasts. It was also the golden age of horror movies. Aliens, mutants, zombies, and werewolves filled theater screens. Coincidence? Not in Ronald Kidd‘s The Year of the Bomb, a young-adult novel that explores the angst of growing up surrounded by real and imagined horror.

Read more

A Tennessee Literary Lion Roars Again

After forty years, Peter Taylor’s Collected Stories remains relevant

Peter Taylor (1917-1994) is usually referred to as a writer of place; his settings are most often the lower Ohio Valley and, as he called it, “the long green hinterland that is Tennessee.” But Taylor’s themes—change, evil, and political and private morality—are universal. A new edition of The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor, first published in 1969, reminds us of the author’s position in the pantheon of American short story writers and makes a powerful argument for his continued relevance in a changing world where relationships, both to place and to people, are more complex than they seem.

Read more

In Praise of Doubt

Grappling with ethical and existential dilemmas (religion optional)

David Dark—a schoolteacher, scholar and evangelical gadfly—urges his readers to question everything, including the whole of orthodox religion and even their belief in God. Consequently, although his new book was clearly conceived with a Christian audience in mind, Dark’s thoughtful iconoclasm invites anyone to, as he puts it, “submit everything we’re up to, at work and at play, to the discipline of sacred questioning.”

Read more

Engaging Ontogeny—and Animal Sex

Michael Sims discusses biological and literary creativity

Where do babies come from? It may be a child’s question, but the answer is far from simple, especially if we consider the baby-making processes of the whole animal kingdom, as Michael Sims does in his companion to the National Geographic Channel’s television special of the same name, In the Womb: Animals. It features ultrasound images of fetal animals that are so detailed and vivid it’s almost hard to believe they aren’t simulations.

Read more

Good Clean Crime

With The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime, Michael Sims assembles a collection of tales about genteel fin-de-siècle con artists

Michael Sims is a longtime fan of early crime fiction, with a particular taste for caper stories told from the criminal’s point of view. His new book features a dozen colorful miscreants, including little-known creations by O. Henry and Sinclair Lewis, along with background material and author profiles.

Read more

Roadside Zoo

Just another life-or-death road trip

On a trip to Maine, my wife and I saw more dead animals than live ones. I became morbidly fascinated by them. That smudge on the road was amphibian, I would think, his cold humor drawn to the stone warmth of highway on a passionate night. Overturned, an ottoman would aim its wooden legs like this dead possum. The immigrant coyote? A wild rug flung on the carpeted ditch. And all those raccoons, their comic bandit role forgotten in these deathbed scenes.

Read more