Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Clay Risen

Fragile, Broken, Burned

In his new story collection, Richard Bausch digs beneath the tough exterior of his protagonists—male and female alike—to find their fears, weaknesses, and dreams

Memphis writer Richard Bausch has long been known as a master of macho, a chronicler of men. But as his latest story collection, Something Is Out There, demonstrates, Bausch is, if anything, a master of the anti-macho, a writer who digs beneath the tough exterior of his protagonists—male and female alike—to find their fears, weaknesses, and dreams.

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Ole Mess

Charles Eagles charts the courage of James Meredith in integrating Ole Miss

Many people believe the major achievements of the civil-rights era came from the federal government: the1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. For all the praise we heap on it, too often the civil-right movement is seen as a supporting player, a catalyst, in this historical drama. Charles W. Eagles‘s definitive new book, The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss, complicates that narrative. It shows how, over the course of a decade, Mississippi blacks fought and eventually won the right to enter the hallowed institution, even under the benign neglect of successive Washington administrations. Eagles will appear at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis on February 11 at 6 p.m.

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One-Term Wonder

Journalist Robert W. Merry considers the expansionist presidency of James K. Polk

When James K. Polk, the one-term president from Columbia, Tennessee, took the Oath of Office, the United States was an Atlantic power beset by the British to the north and Spanish and French interests to the south; by the time he left, the country had secured its dominance over North America and set in motion the economic boom that would drive it to global preeminence in the next century. Yet for all the importance of the Polk Administration, the man himself presents historians with a problem: How do you write a compelling narrative about one of America’s all-time boring politicians? In his new book, A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent, journalist Robert W. Merry gives it a shot.

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Looking Beyond the Confederate Dead

Allen Tate’s wife, Helen, remembers her late husband and discusses his role in the Fugitive Movement

Poet, novelist, and essayist Allen Tate (1899-1979) was one of twentieth-century America’s most important literary voices. Born in Kentucky and a graduate of Vanderbilt, Tate was a central figure in the circle of Nashville writers who came to be known as the Fugitives—and later the Southern Agrarians—a group which included John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson, and Merrill Moore. After her husband’s death in 1979, Helen Tate settled in Nashville, where she continues to work and volunteer. As Tate’s widow, she is one of the few living links to a critical moment in American literary history and a reminder of Nashville’s central role in the emergence of modern poetry. She recently spoke with Chapter 16 about her husband and his literary legacy.

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Inventing Tennessee's own Yoknapatawpha County

Novelist William Gay talks with Chapter 16 about his books, his beginnings, and why he writes better in Hohenwald than anywhere else on earth

In just over a decade, William Gay has gone from being an unpublished drywall hanger to one of Tennessee’s most acclaimed living writers. Often compared to William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, and Thomas Wolfe, Gay was born in 1943 in Hohenwald, Tennessee. After living in New York and Chicago in the 1960s and ’70s, he returned to his hometown—where he still lives—to work in construction by day and write fiction by night. His first novel, The Long Home, won the 1999 James A. Michener Memorial Prize. He subsequently published two novels, Provinces of Night and Twilight, and a book of short stories, I Hate to See that Evening Sun Go Down. In 2007 Gay was named a USA Ford Foundation Fellow, and in 2010 he will publish his fourth novel, The Lost Country.

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Judging by the Content of Their Character

In her controversial new novel, Rebel Yell, Alice Randall dissects the apparent paradoxes of a black conservative

Abel Jones, Jr., the posthumous protagonist of Alice Randall‘s Rebel Yell, is a tragic send-up of that all too unlikely character: the black conservative. Slightly younger than his real-life counterparts Shelby Steele and Clarence Thomas, Jones is, by turns, a Foreign Service officer, a CIA agent, a banker in Nashville, and, at his death, the George W. Bush Administration’s “Special Advocate” in the Pentagon, a fictional position that places Jones at the center of the run up to the Iraq War.

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