Arts & Life

How two men, one on a national stage and one in a small town in Alabama, both helped the cause of race relations in America

Here's to You, Jackie Robinson

Despite the title, the heart of this book is the story of Jesse Norwood, who, by all accounts, was a great human being.

A collection of quirky, yet commendable, short stories. Perfect end-of-summer reading.

Tartts: Incisive Fiction From Emerging Writers

In a contest named after Livingston folklorist Ruby Pickens Tartt, Joe Taylor of UWA's Livingston Press put out a call for collections of short stories by writers who had never published a collection and received 153 manuscripts in the mail.

A novel about growing up in the literally and figuratively hot South.

As Hot As It Was, You Ought to Thank Me

The most famous unreliable narrator in American fiction is Mark Twain?s Huckleberry Finn.

Huck is not a liar and, unlike an Edgar Allen Poe unreliable narrator, who tells the reader in the first few sentences that he is an alcoholic or caught for years in the trammels of opium, Huck means to tell you the truth.

Junior Ray

Jul 18, 2005

A difficult, but truthful, look at life in the Mississippi Delta. Comes with a "warning label."

Junior Ray

Junior Ray is an odd book.

It comes like a pack of cigarettes, with what amounts to a warning label. Even the publishers seem afraid of this book.

The promotional materials say things like, ?This book is not for the squeamish,? and, boy, is that the truth.

Junior Ray begins like a 19th-century fiction, with faux verisimilitude.

The Ambassador's Son

Jun 28, 2005

A mix of politics and adventure on the high seas. Recommended "summer reading."

The Ambassador's Son

Homer Hickam of Huntsville, Alabama, was best known for his memoirs of growing up in the coal-mining country of West Virginia.

His first volume, Rocket Boys, made into the very fine movie October Sky, was followed by Sky of Stone and The Coalwood Way.

Alabama Curiosities

Jun 20, 2005

Everything you ever wanted to know about Alabama landmarks, people and other...curiosities.

Alabama Curiosities

As the title suggests, this volume has entries not only on literal, physical places, where there is something to look at or to do, but also entries on where things happened.

Articles of War

Jun 9, 2005

A young WWII soldier comes to terms with his fear.

Articles of War

This short novel takes place in Normandy and then in the Hurtgen Forest in 1944.

The protagonist, and I assure you he is no hero, is George Tilson, a U.S. Army private, 18 years old, a farm boy from Iowa and a callow, unsophisticated young man who seems to know nothing and be afraid of everything.

Seven Laurels

Jun 1, 2005

The life of a hard-working, yet unfortunate, Alabamian is set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement in this historical fiction book.

Seven Laurels

A look at Alabama's own notorious Tallulah Bankhead--her fast-paced acting career, sex scandals and drug abuse.

Tallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady

Alabama is rightly famous for its production of flamboyant females with unforgettable names.

This Sunday's broadcast of From The Top was recorded in Tuscaloosa, and will feature talented young performers from Tuscaloosa and Auburn.

From The Top
Sunday 11:00 a.m.
Alabama Public Radio

This week's edition of From the Top comes from the Moody Concert Hall at University of Alabama.

The repertoire includes violinist Heather Engebretson, age 14 from Tuscaloosa, playing Kreisler's "Praeludium and Allegro."

Wayne Flynt's latest, most comprehensive examination of the state's virtues and vices. "Required reading" for Alabamians who want "to vote, or even talk about Alabama sport, religion, politics, taxation, or laws."

Alabama in the Twentieth Century

Wayne Flynt, a native son and Auburn University historian, has been preparing to write this book all his life.

Alabama native and baseball announcer Mel Allen is painstakingly profiled in this latest biography.

How About That! The Life of Mel Allen

Mel Allen is one of those public individuals, one of those celebrities, who has been so much a part of American everyday life we feel we know him well. Of course, we don?t, but readers will know a lot more after reading Stephen Borelli?s biography of Allen, who died at age 83, in 1996.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park

May 2, 2005

A man who is dying of tuberculosis discovers how he wants to live the last year of his life.

The Poet of Tolstoy Park

There really was a poet of Tolstoy Park.

In Montrose, Alabama, there sits a round house, built of hand-made concrete blocks. It was erected, alone, by Henry James Stuart, the man who was known as the ?Hermit of Montrose? but was not actually much of a hermit at all.

An Alabama Songbook is a thorough collection of ballads, folksongs and spirituals. The music displays a rich history of some of the state's lesser-known arts.

An Alabama Songbook: Ballads, Folksongs, and Spirituals

This volume has been a very long time in the making.

A fictionalized account of the worst accident in Amtrak history that happened in Mobile, Alabama.

The Wreck of the Twilight Limited

In real life, here?s what happened.

Satchel Paige's America

Mar 28, 2005

Satchel Paige talks freely and candidly in this memoir by William Price Fox. He discusses baseball past and present, finances and, of course, Alabama.

Satchel Paige's America

In the early 1970s, novelist William Price Fox of South Carolina met with Satchel Paige, perhaps the best pitcher ever to play baseball, in the Twilight Zone Lounge of the Rhythm Lanes Bowling Alley in Kansas City.

I'll Never Leave You

Mar 21, 2005

Nine stories in I'll Never Leave You examine the influence of the sea on the lives and loves of people in a mythical New England town.

I'll Never Leave You

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women: a Memoir provides a front-row seat to 1960s rural Alabama--the thoughts, feelings and daily life of a white family living in the midst of the civil rights struggle. Sikora portrays his wife's family vividly, intimately and honestly.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women: A Memoir

Too Brief a Treat

Mar 7, 2005

This collection of letters from Truman Capote shows another side of the Alabama native who achieved national acclaim through his short stories and novels. A more personal look at Capote's "raw material" including rare literary criticisms as well as notes from his extensive travels.

Too Brief a Treat

A letter from a friend is a treat. If the letter is short, it is ?too brief a treat.?

The Romanov Prophecy

Feb 28, 2005

A tale of "chase and narrow escape, historical fact and speculation" that leads readers to wonder about the true survivors of a fallen dynasty.

Everybody knows that poets don?t sell many books or make much money.

Fewer people realize that writers of literary fiction don?t get rich either.

Only one of the five novels nominated for last year?s National Book Award sold more than 3,000 copies.

Ah, but genre fiction?that?s a get-rich-scheme, right?

Not necessarily.

The Same Sweet Girls

Feb 21, 2005

Six fading Southern belles commiserate and reevaluate their lives and loves in Alabama.

The Same Sweet Girls

There has been a buzz concerning King?s third novel, The Same Sweet Girls, for a couple of years, although it has only been released for a few weeks.

Why, you might ask?

First, there was a large advance, always provoking talk, envious and otherwise.

Monday Mourning

Feb 14, 2005

The seventh installment in the "Temperance Brennan" mystery series is anything but trite.

Dr. Kathy Reichs is a professor of anthropology at UNC-Charlotte, with a PhD from Northwestern University.

Dr. Reichs is also, more importantly, both a forensic anthropologist for the state of North Carolina and the Canadian equivalent in Montreal for the Province of Quebec.

As part of Dr. Reichs? work, she examines bones and other remains and offers expert testimony in court.

An unrepentant self-examination of Marshall Chapman's unconventional life.

I have been meaning to read singer and songwriter Marshall Chapman's memoir for over a year.

Now I have and I am glad.

It is an unusual book, well-written and a real page-turner.

Lee Smith, an old friend of Chapman, has written the Foreword and tells us how the book came to be.

The Weatherman

Jan 31, 2005

A TV weatherman wages war against his murderous cousin, who's campaigning to be Alabama's Attorney General.

Clint McCown is one of those writers who has not yet, but very well might, break through into real fame and fortune.

The Weatherman is his fifth book, his third novel.

McCown was raised in Homewood, Alabama, and shortly after college at Wake Forest University came to Tuscaloosa and studied for 18 months in the MFA program.

A Dream of Freedom

Jan 10, 2005

This painstakingly detailed account of the Civil Rights Movement opens up that part of history to young adult readers.

For her study of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Carry Me Home, published in 2001, Diane McWhorter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history.

That fairly narrow-focus study was a labor of nearly 20 years, and in the course of researching that book, McWhorter learned an immense amount about the movement that she could not fit into Carry Me Home.

Hearts of Dixie

Dec 27, 2004

A profile of 50 of the state's most colorful characters, with introductions by other notable natives.

Hearts of Dixie is, as the title suggests, 50 mini-biographies of Alabamians of the 20th, 19th, and, in a very few cases, the 18th century.

I began leafing through this oversized book?it approaches being a coffee-table book?and looking at the many pictures. Each entry has a full-page photo, usually very good, and a few smaller accompanying photos.

This collection of short stories from an Alabama attorney portrays "society's underclass."

John Cottle?s debut volume of short stories comes with a very impressive endorsement.

These stories are the winning manuscript in the 2003 George Garrett Fiction Award competition held by the Texas Review Press and were chose by Garrett himself, a man of unimpeachable experience and taste.

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