Arts & Life

Books
9:33 am
Mon February 23, 2009

Wishbones, by Carolyn Haines

Wishbones is the eighth in Carolyn Haines' "Bones" series, and is a little different from its predecessors. The series' premises were set out in Them Bones. Sarah Booth Delaney returns to her home, Dahlia House, in Zinnia, Mississippi, Sunflower County, because the family place is threatened with foreclosure. Sarah Booth's parents died in a crash when she was twelve and she has been in NYC in a not very successful attempt to establish a career as an actress.

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Books
3:22 pm
Mon February 16, 2009

The Agnostics: A Novel, by Wendy Rawlings

Rawlings has a pleasing style, a good eye for the Tom Wolfe "status life" detail, draws convincing and realistic characters and has certainly captured the tone of this slice of the 70's and 80's. This novel reads smoothly, and I enjoyed it, even if I could not finally figure out whose side Rawlings was on. Maybe that is after all its greatest strength.

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Books
2:50 pm
Mon February 9, 2009

The Millionaires: A Novel of the New South, by Inman Majors

Majors has published The Millionaires, set in Knoxville in the 1970s, and it is a marvel. The Millionaires, with its wry, sophisticated narrative voice, a voice in full control, is the best, most fully accomplished new novel I have read in perhaps three years.

Inman Majors is a native Tennessean, was educated at Vanderbilt and then came to Tuscaloosa to take the MFA degree in creative writing. After completing the MFA, Majors published his respectable debut novel, Swimming in Sky, set in Knoxville.

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Books
2:32 pm
Mon February 2, 2009

The Fair Hope of Heaven: A Hundred Years After Utopia, by Mary Lois Timbes

Timbes is something of an expert on Fairhope, having written a previous Fairhope book, Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree, with Robert E. Bell. She has a pride in the town's unusual history, and she has a lament, a sad feeling, for what has happened to Fairhope recently. So this book serves as a kind of warning to pleasant, quaint places everywhere.

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Books
12:15 pm
Mon January 19, 2009

Nursery Rhyme Noir: The Hasp Deadbolt Files, by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Nursery Rhyme Noir is not quite flash fiction but it is only one notch up?the short-short. Kopaska-Merkel has created a P.I., Hasp Deadbolt, often mistakenly called Deadbeat, to tell these stories. Read aloud, or even silently, Deadbolt sounds like Garrison Keillor's Guy Noir...

Physicians like Michael Crichton and Steven Rudd do it.

Ad men like Philip Shirley do it

Almost all attorneys, it seems, do it.

So it should be no big surprise that geologists want to do it too.

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Books
1:42 pm
Mon January 12, 2009

In the Company of Owls, by Peter Huggins. Illustrated by Paula G. Koz

This novel may simply be mislabeled and should be marketed as a "chapter book," that newish genre in between children's books?in which the story is told primarily through pictures?and young adult. The plot is thin and the characters not much developed, but if the readers are 7-10, it should be appropriate.

In the Company of Owls, by Peter Huggins. Illustrated by Paula G. Koz

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Books
11:28 am
Mon January 5, 2009

Jim Crow and Me: Stories from My Life as a Civil Rights Lawyer, by Solomon S. Seay, Jr.

Solomon Seay did not wish to write an autobiography or a memoir and he has not. This volume is, as the subtitle indicates, a collection of anecdotes, mainly stories from his decades as a civil rights attorney in Alabama, mainly from 1957 to 1977. In a way, this format is more effective than a regular biography, because the day-to-day life of almost anyone is not that interesting. Seay's book is, then, a series of dramatic scenes, which are, I think, what we remember most from histories and biographies anyway.

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Books
3:44 pm
Mon December 22, 2008

Fields of Asphodel (A Novel), by Tito Perdue

Tito Perdue, now retired on the family property in Brent, Alabama, has been writing for twenty-five years, with critical but not much popular success. At the end of Perdue's fourth volume of fiction, the protagonist, Leland "Lee" Pefley, dies at age 73. On the first page of Fields of Asphodel, Pefley, who always introduces himself as Pefley, the Alabama branch, wakes up in the afterlife, the underworld, but not exactly the Christian heaven or hell or purgatory.

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Books
9:36 am
Mon December 15, 2008

Yucatan in an Era of Globalization, edited by Eric N. Baklanoff and Edward H. Moseley

This is a volume of eight heavily researched, scholarly essays on various aspects of life and commerce in one of the thirty-one states of the Republic of Mexico. It is not, on the face of it, something I would review in this space. After all, how many readers would have a serious enough interest in the state of Yucatan to read such a book?

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Books
12:01 pm
Mon December 8, 2008

Walk-On: My Reluctant Journey to Integration at Auburn University, by Thom Gossom, Jr.

The author's face on the dust jacket of this memoir will be familiar to many. Thom Gossom has had a long and successful acting career in movies such as Fight Club and on television as city councilman Ted Marcus in In the Heat of the Night and as Judge Blake Winters in Boston Legal. He has had guest starring roles on CSI, Cold Case, Without a Trace, The West Wing, NYPD Blue, and ER.

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Books
3:57 pm
Mon December 1, 2008

Space: A Novel, by Roger Reid

Awith the botany/ecology of Longleaf, there is in this novel some science, surrounded by a large spoonful of sweet whodunit to make the medicine go down. Reid weaves in information about black holes, the escape velocity required to leave different planets, the Big Bang and the expansion of the solar system, discussions of the speed of light and the cosmic wave background, ubiquitous in the universe, and the necessity of living in the right neighborhood in any galaxy?not too near the center, not too near the edge. All of this is quite palatable.

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Books
10:04 am
Mon November 24, 2008

We Are Soldiers Still & We Were Soldiers Once...by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

We Were Soldiers Once? And Young was a national best-seller and was made into a Hollywood film starring Mel Gibson. That book was remarkable for a number of reasons.

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Books
10:46 am
Mon November 17, 2008

"A Secret Word," by Jennifer Paddock

Paddock's first novel, "A Secret Word," is set mainly in her home town of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

I had been aware for some time that down in Fairhope, Alabama, Jennifer Paddock, wife of the short story writer Sidney Thompson, was writing novels, but I had not gotten around to reading them. Then, recently, The Alabama State Council on the Arts awarded Paddock the 2008 Literature Fellowship in Fiction to help her complete her third novel. It was past time to pay attention.

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Books
4:33 pm
Mon November 10, 2008

The Wait, by Frank Turner Hollon

As demonstrated best perhaps in The Point of Fracture, Hollon is capable of convincing, intricate plotting, but those skills are not evident in The Wait.

Let me begin with a simple description of The Wait. This is a first-person narrative. The protagonist and speaker, James Early Winwood, is telling the story of his life, not to any presumed listener, as in a Joseph Conrad novel, but to you, the reader. The novel seems to be set in the present and seems to be set in the South; the grandfather is called Paw-Paw. Otherwise, who knows?

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Books
4:43 pm
Mon November 3, 2008

Heart in the Right Place: A Memoir, by Carolyn Jourdan

This book is charming, a pure delight, and I enjoyed every page.

Memoir is still arguably the publisher's genre of choice these days. But one opens most of them with trepidation, dreading, however well told, the story of childhood abuse, cruel parents or step-parents, substance abuse, addiction, incarceration, rehab and, worst of all, in many of them, the rise of the now clean and sober phoenix/hero from the self-indulgent ashes.

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