Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

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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Welcome!

Welcome to Chapter 16, an online journal about the literary side of life in Tennessee. There’s a certain irony in the whole concept of a website devoted to celebrating books. (Wags might claim there’s also an irony in the concept of a literary life in Tennessee.) The Internet can be a dispiriting place, where total cranks and nincompoops effortlessly assume the mantle of authority, and anonymous comments savage the most enlightened points of view. Internet publications tend to be instantaneous and often incompletely considered — the very opposite of a book. Plus, it’s a sensory wasteland, lacking the satisfying heft of a book, the rustle of pages, the lovely scent of glue and ink.

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Book Excerpt: They Came to Nashville

Emmylou Harris tells Marshall Chapman about moving to Nashville in a flesh-colored Ford with a baby bed tied to the roof

My earliest memories of Emmylou are sketchy at best. Let’s see. At one point―it may have been 1972―Emmy was waiting tables at a Polynesian restaurant out on White Bridge Road at about the same time that Rodney Crowell and I were working at T.G.I. Friday’s. I can’t remember if I met Emmylou then or not. But I distinctly remember the first time I heard her singing voice.

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Fireworks, at Home and Elsewhere

In his new YA novel, Silas House explores post-Vietnam tensions and summertime self discovery

Today’s young readers, coming of age in a post-9/11 world, should be deeply familiar with a central question of our times: what does it mean to be patriotic, to love—and protect, or protest—one’s country? It’s one question, among others, that they’ll find tenderly explored in Silas House‘s first young-adult novel, Eli the Good.

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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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Reasons for and Advantages of Fiction

Former Bredesen speechwriter Lydia Peelle discusses her debut story collection—and the pleasure, and usefulness, of writing what you don’t know

It’s impossible to tell from reading her debut story collection, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, that Lydia Peelle isn’t a native Tennessean. Chapter 16 investigates how a born-and-bred New Englander—a woman who grew up in Massachusetts, went to boarding school in New Hampshire and to college at Amherst—could write a collection of stories that places her firmly among this generation’s finest Southern writers.

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