Arts & Life

These are pretty good stories, and they are, in a painfully realistic way, Christmas stories.

This volume of holiday stories presents me with a dilemma. If the stories had been really sentimental, sappy, cloying, filled with heartwarming goo, Christmas miracles, touched by an angel, etc., etc., I would have complained bitterly. But they're really not. They are so unsentimental I found myself feeling a little dismayed and depressed.


Dec 6, 2004

The protagonist of Inman Majors' second novel, Wonderdog, is Devaney "Dev" Degraw, who is an unhappy, and at present unsuccessful, attorney in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and also the son of the governor of Alabama. Dev is going through an especially tough time.


There is no greater virtue a novel can have than a great opening paragraph:

Standing in the Rainbow

Nov 29, 2004

It is often useful to begin with the title. In the novel, a family drive to the end of the rainbow and then stand in it, where it touches the ground. I am assured that this can actually be done. In any case, it is a metaphor.

Standing in the Rainbow

This commentary on Frank Stitt's Southern Table is the first in this spot about a cookbook. But this book is in fact more than just recipes; there's a good deal of text here, about Frank Stitt's life, his father and mother, education, and philosophy and about Southern food and farming.

Frank Stitt's Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar

In her first memoir, All the Lost Girls, Foster told of her mother, as a girl, having been raped by her own brother. Now Foster has written volume two: Just Beneath My Skin, a linked collection of autobiographical essays.

Just Beneath My Skin: Autobiography and Self-Discovery

The typical memoir is the memoir of childhood. The writer tells of her or his growing up and the forces that shaped him. More often than not that there is some real unpleasantness.

The Circus in Winter

Nov 8, 2004

You pick up a book about the circus and you think, man, this has just got to be fun, and usually it is. The Circus in Winter is such a book.

The Circus in Winter

There are certain subjects for fiction that seem intrinsically right, that just have to work. You pick up a book about the circus and you think, man, this has just got to be fun, and usually it is. The Circus in Winter is such a book.

Fierce: A Memoir

Nov 1, 2004

Barbara Robinette Moss's memoir Change Me into Zeus's Daughter (2000) was compared by critics to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, and I must admit that for sheer misery, it can compete. Moss, raised mainly in Calhoun County, Alabama, was one of eight children of a violent, alcoholic father, S. K. Moss, and his thoroughly traumatized wife, Barbara's mother, Dorris. S. K. spent most of his pay, week after week, in the bars.

Fierce: A Memoir

The City of Churches

Oct 25, 2004

September of 2003 marked the 40th anniversary of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing during which four young girls were killed. It is appropriate, then, that this fictionalized account of those days be released at this time, yet is also unfortunate.

The City of Churches

It may seem odd, at first blush, to review a book on Melville's years aboard a whaling ship in a radio space devoted to Southern literature and, usually, Alabama literature.

Herman Melville's Whaling Years

In Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, it first it looks as if Warren St. John is immersing himself, studying the motor home fans, the enthusiasts who move from Alabama game to Alabama game, Saturday after Saturday.

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer

Chicken Dreaming Corn

Sep 27, 2004

There have been many pieces of the southern cultural puzzle missing, and now Roy Hoffman is adding his piece of that puzzle. there have been many pieces of the southern cultural puzzle missing, and now Roy Hoffman is adding his piece of that puzzle.

Southern fiction has undergone a steady metamorphosis, a steady evolution since its beginnings, when it was mainly the novel of the plantation. These novels of the lives of the white planters at first were southern fiction, reaching its apotheosis, of course, with Gone with the Wind.

Cadillac Beach

Sep 13, 2004

Cadillac Beach is Tim Dorsey's sixth novel, and it is much like the previous five. They are satires, but of the most extravagant, over-the-top variety.

Cadillac Beach

Grass Widow

Sep 6, 2004

In September of 1933, Viola Goode Stroud of Camden, Alabama returned home, with a small son and a load of trouble.

Cradle of Freedom

Aug 30, 2004

Why was Alabama so important? Because Birmingham was understood to be the most segregated city in America and the meanest--the toughest nut to crack.

This is Don Noble's 100th book review for Alabama Public Radio.

Cradle of Freedom

Hell at the Breech

Aug 25, 2004

...where armed men, living on what was still a kind of a frontier and still chafing from the humiliation of their defeat in the Civil War, set out to assassinate, hang, bushwhack, burn, and torture one another and any women, children, or black families who happen to be in the line of fire.

Hell at the Breech

The Alumni Grill

Aug 23, 2004

For the past three pre-Thanksgiving weekends in Fairhope, Alabama, Sonny Brewer has put on a literary fiesta, inviting writer friends to come there to read new work to one another. The Alumni Grill are the fifteen contributors of Brewer's get-togethers, which is composed of the three Blue Moon anthologies.

The Alumni Grill

This is not a day-to-day memoir or a volume of military overview or strategy. Philip Beidler has written a series of essays on discrete topics. Each essay is a piece of the puzzle he is putting together for us. The result is a picture of his war.

"The Life of Pushmataha" is a fascinating little piece of biography and legend. This man arrived as a teen among the Choctaw, claiming to have had no parents and no particular place of origin.

Let me at the outset assure the reader that I have very little knowledge of Southeastern Native Americans, that I had never heard of either Pushmataha, the Choctaw chief, or Gideon Lincecum before reading this little book.

This book of essays is not a debate. Published in the midst of the campaign season, it is a call to arms by a group of writers who believe the Bush presidency to be the worst and the most dangerous, ever.

Tuscaloosa, AL – Where We Stand will inevitably be compared and contrasted with the 1930 collection of essays I?ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, by Twelve Southerners.

Life is a Strange Place

Jun 21, 2004

Life Is a Strange Place is set in New Orleans, but not really. Instead, it is set in dreamland; it is a dreamscape. Barry has landed in a frustration dream where whatever he attempts will not go right.

Strangers and Sojourners

Jun 14, 2004

Strangers and Sojourners is a collection of twenty-one stories that are interlinked by place--they all take place in fictional Coosawaw County, just north of Charleston--by recurring characters, and by an interest in the spiritual, in the most ecumenical sense.

James L. Noles, Jr., an attorney and independent historian from Birmingham, has told the story of the Liscome Bay from the laying of her keel in the Kaiser shipyards in Washington State to the aftermath of the sinking and even a cluster of brief biographies of some of the survivors.

The Clearing

May 31, 2004

I have recently read in the New York Times that the percentage of trade fiction purchased by males has dropped from thirty-three to about twenty percent. Gentlemen: if you are going to read one new novel in 2004, let it be this one. You won't be sorry.

Hallowed Bones

May 17, 2004

Sarah Booth Delaney, an orphan, in her thirties, after an unsuccessful attempt to establish an acting career in New York City, has returned to the family home, Dahlia House, in Zinnia, Sunflower County, in the Mississippi Delta.

Hallowed Bones

Them Bones, Buried Bones, Splintered Bones, Crossed Bones, and now Hallowed Bones?Carolyn Haines? fifth Sarah Booth Delaney mystery novel and her best yet.


May 10, 2004

It is not unusual for many fiction writers to set their first novels on campus or at least in the town of their artistic birth. Valerie Vogrin, has set her first novel, Shebang, on what I take to be 13th Street of Tuscaloosa, right up from Abernathy's Market.


Inside Alabama

Apr 12, 2004

i>Inside Alabama is "a commentary, an extended essay on events and attitudes that I think made and make Alabama what it is today."

Inside Alabama

A Sunday In June

Apr 5, 2004

In A Sunday in May, Perry has produced a "prequel" to Stigmata. This novel takes place again in Johnson Creek, Alabama, south of Union Springs, and chronicles the lives of the Mobley family from 1915 until 1963.

A Sunday In June

Dirty South

Mar 29, 2004

Atkins has just published his fourth Nick Travers suspense/mystery novel. The heart of any such series is the sleuth, of course, and Nick, established in the first novel, Crossroad Blues, is quite a creation.

Dirty South

Here's the first thing you need to know about Ace Atkins: Ace is his real name. It is on his birth certificate.

The Ocean Was Salt

Mar 8, 2004

Loretta Cobb of Montevallo has watched her husband, Bill, write fiction for the last thirty years, so it's no surprise that after her retirement as Director of the Writing Center there, she took up short story writing herself. Her first collection, The Ocean Was Salt, has now been published, and the ten stories are varied and pleasing.

The Ocean Was Salt