Nicola’s Top 3 Southern Gothic Books: Just in time for Halloween

Corrupt churches burning witches, a town where everyone knows everyone and everyone keeps secrets, heavy boots walking through your house at night, these are the things of Southern Gothic. With Halloween approaching, what could be more scary than reading some terrifying stories about places close to your own home? Lock your screen door and close the rickety shudders, I’m going to count down my favorite books in one of the best genres.

The Resurrectionist by Matthew Guinn

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In the nineteenth century, it was illegal to dissect human corpses for medical education. So former slave Nemo was hired to “acquire” some specimens for South Carolina Medical College. Nemo, quiet, mysterious, and way too skilled with a carving knife, obeyed his white masters. But what are those talismans he carried? And what happened before he came to America on a slave ship?

Meanwhile, in the present, piles of human bones are discovered buried at the college. Dr. Jacob Thacker begins digging through the school’s past and finds a much darker history than he bargained for.

 A Good Man Is Hard to Find (and other stories) by Flannery O’Connor

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Imagine you are driving down a dusty dirt road in the middle of nowhere, trying to find an old house with a secret passage, when the car strikes something. You are flung from the vehicle, and standing above you is the infamous escaped convict The Misfit. This story and more like it are what make up the bone-chilling collection that is A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Flannery O’Connor is a classic Southern writer, and her short stories were a prominent layer in the foundation of Southern Gothic today.

 Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

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Southern Gothic is not complete without New Orleans, and this list would not be complete without my favorite vampire book. Anne Rice is one of the most respected Gothic writers today. Her tale of the poor vampire Louis weaves wonderfully through New Orleans. Her story is of French finery, cathedrals, and cold blood. While it is a Gothic story, it has hints of Romanticism, but no romance. Anne Rice makes you think, her characters are flawed and struggle with the morality around their existence, but are still extremely likeable.

P.S., Anne Rice just wrote a new a new Vampire Chronicles book!!!! It’s called Prince Lestat, and we have signed first editions. Um, can we say HOORAY?

 

Written by Nicola 

Debunking the Myth: OZ First Editions Club

What is Oz First Editions Club?

If you are not familiar with this club, it is a great way to stay on top of the best of kids’ literature as your own child is constantly growing and reading at new levels.

Each month, we select a beautifully illustrated picture book or a fantastically written Middle-Grade chapter book signed by the author and mylared to protect the cover as the book is read again and again. The idea behind the club is to create a library for your child so that they can either (A.) Read the book now (B.) Have the book read to them (C.) Read the book later when they are old enough.

Do I have to pay extra?

No. All you pay is the cost of the book, and a shipping fee if you require the book to be shipped somewhere. Otherwise, it is as if you came into the store and picked it up off the shelf. You can pre-pay so the book will be ready to go, or you can choose to pay once you pick up the book in the store.

Is it worth it to be in the club even if I don’t want the book each month?

Absolutely! The books that we pick are the ones that we would recommend to anyone walking in off the street and asking us what is our favorite kids book now.

For example:

In September your 6th grader loved our Middle Grade Oz First Editions Club pick. But let’s say that in October, you have no need for a children’s picture book because your child is much older and reading on a higher level. In this case, we are happy to work with you! In the store at any given time, we will have other signed first editions that are at your child’s reading level. Let us know if you do NOT want the book picked for each month, and we’ll substitute it with either a book of your choice, or another signed first edition that we pick out.

 

NOTE: With Christmas around the corner, you can even give the gift of books by registering a friend or loved one for the club so that your gift lasts year-round.

 

Regardless, being in the club is the best way to stay up-to-date on new books and discovering authors you never knew existed, as well as expanding your child’s library.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask Clara or Adie. Happy Reading!

 

 2014 OZ First Editions Club in Review

January

Thomas Jefferson: Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman

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February

Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

March

Sparky! by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans

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April

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

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May

The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White and Andrea Offermann

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June

Paint Me!  by Sarah Frances Hardy

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July

My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown

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August

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington

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September

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

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COMING UP…

October

Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

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November

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

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December

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Katherine Gibbs Davis and Gilbert Ford

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Written by Clara

Let’s hope they don’t ruin this

martianFaithful Lemurians, REJOICE! (maybe)

Earlier this year, Crown re-published the 2011 hit by Andy Weir, The Martian. This introduced protagonist Mark Watney to a readership much larger than Weir ever expected, and propelled the book into the hands of readers all over the world. FOX purchased the rights for a film adaptation and fans preceded to lose their minds. I chose to reserve my hype levels until more information came out from the studio.

Over the past few months, I’ve been following the development of the film and, let me tell you, the hype can not be satiated. FOX is bringing out the big guns for this movie. Ridley Scott has signed on to the direct the film, and Matt Damon will reportedly star as Watney.

Let me explain why I’m a little apprehensive about these two choices. While Ridley Scott may be responsible for some of the best sci-fi films ever, (Alien, Blade Runner) he has also directed one of the worst (Prometheus). Obviously, this is all subjective, but Alien and Blade Runner could both be described as brave filmmaking. Uncompromising in their tone and scope and films that existed to do more than make a studio a boat load of money. Readers of the The Martian will undoubtedly see some similarities in that past statement. The Martian wasn’t written to make money (Weir originally tried releasing the book for free but had to charge something in order for Amazon to place it in their inventory), and what Weir achieves in the book may be at the expense of alienating (heh) some potential readers. For example, Watney goes on page-long math problems that can at times, seem excessive. The point isn’t to prove how great he can be at writing out math equations as exposition, but to immerse the reader in Watney’s struggle. Alien did the same thing with moviegoers in 1977. The film was steeped in atmosphere. Segments of the film were intentionally vague and disorienting to match the emotions of the characters with the viewers. Prometheus chose to use the BUAAAAAAAMMMM sound that every movie uses to inform readers that something is about to BUAAAAAAAAMMM happen. The Martian should also be lighthearted to an extent. Can the guy that directed Gladiator and American Gangster do a space MacGyver?

Matt Damon.

mattdamon300He most certainly has the chops to pull this off, but why Chris Pratt wasn’t cast for the lead seems just plain irresponsible. Instead of going on and on about this oversight, I will say that Matt Damon is a great pick. His work with Kevin Smith in Dogma proves he can make fun of himself, and I’m certain nothing more needs to be said for his dramatic roles. Damon is handsome, smart, and endearing, but can he nail the everyman role that stumbles into a spaceship and gets trapped on Mars?

Let us hope they don’t ruin this film, because it has the story, characters and soul to resonate with audiences all over the world. The cynic in me says don’t get too excited, but the hype in me is over 9,000.

Why wait? The Martian is available now at Lemuria Bookstore, and online at lemuriabooks.com

Written by Andre

Oz Blog: Trio of stories will instill the heebie-jeebies

Halloween is a time for pumpkins, witches, goblins, and all manner of creepy things. Things that go bump in the night and send shivers down your spine. Here’s a list of spooky stories for young readers of all ages.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman, Illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti (Candlewick, Oct. 28, 2014)

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The story of Hansel and Gretel brings to mind two children, a candy house worthy of Willy Wonka, and a bumbling witch who is bested by the children. Leave it to Neil Gaiman, the master of otherworldly, delightfully grim storytelling to reintroduce this dark fairytale as it was meant to be heard. In an interview with with TOON Books, Gaiman describes his excitement over his retold version, saying, “I have been waiting all my life for somebody to say, “will you write Hansel and Gretel.” Gaiman also describes Lorenzo Mattotti’s illustrations perfectly: “At first glance they just look like wild splashes of ink, and then…you see the children and realize they are lost in the forest.” The real witch here is the mother, who convinces the father to abandon the children in the woods. Behind Mattotti’s chaotic ink washes is a precision of storytelling that Gaiman translates into writing, and will leave young readers hanging onto every word.

Ages 7-10, Grades 2-5

 

The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White, Illustrations by Andrea Offerman.(HarperCollins 2014)

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The bone-chilling opening scene of this book sets the tone for the entire novel. Kara Westfall and her little brother Taff are the children of a condemned witch, and are shunned by the rest of the village where any signs of magic and witchcraft are eradicated. They live on the edge of an overgrown forest known as the Thickety that has a life of its own. Once Kara enters the Thickety, life as she knows it will never be the same. Beautifully written, The Thickety is a dark and twisting tale that will be hard to put down.

Ages 10 and Up, Grades 5 and Up

 

A Rose for Emily (1930) by William Faulkner

Eerie, with a grotesque twist at the end, “A Rose for Emily” is one of Faulkner’s short stories that best embodies the Southern Gothic genre and was originally published in Forum magazine in 1930. All is not as it seems in the sleepy town of Jefferson, Mississippi, (of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County). Featuring a reclusive spinster, unexplained smells, haunted houses, and arsenic, this story will give you the heebie-jeebies.

Ages 14 and Up, Grades 9 and Up

 

Written by Clara

Q&A with author Paul Aertker

Dream of traveling or being a spy? Or both? Join us on Saturday at 11 A.M. to welcome Millsaps alumnus Paul Aertker (pronounced “ETT Kerr”) and his latest middle-grade novel for kids. Paul Aertker writes international action-adventure travel stories for kids. Brainwashed, the first installment of the Crime Travelers series, is “like a quick trip to Paris,” and there are 136 geographic references in this book alone.

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Brainwashed is about a group of international teens who race through hotspots of Paris—from the Catacombs to the Eiffel Tower—in an effort to sabotage the “Good Company’s” profitable brainwashing business. Paul tells us more about the book and his writing process.

Can you tell us about the book?

Brainwashed is about Lucas Benes, a 13-year-old boy who leads a group of international teenagers on a secret mission to Paris where the “Good Company” has restarted its profitable brainwashing business. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll recognize a lot of the sights. Of course the book takes you through all the hotspots of Paris: The Eiffel tower, the Catacombs, Notre Dame, among others.

You sometimes call your books travel stories for kids. How did you get into travel and travel writing in particular?

My parents were frequent travelers when I was a kid. Instead of bringing me a t-shirt or a toy, they would bring me stories. I distinctly remember my mother telling me about this sophisticated woman in a long black dress who worked at a secret Swiss Bank. Well, that’s all I needed to begin writing spy novels. My love of travel also led me to learn how to speak Spanish and French.

It was my father who suggested taking me on a church trip to England that really planted my travel bug. When I was fifteen I slept on the streets of London so that I could go to Princess Diana’s wedding, and that single event awakened my sense of adventure.

When did you start writing?

I used to be a fifth grade teacher, and I noticed that for a lot of kids, reading had become a chore. It was forced, not something they wanted to do. They had lost the love of reading. This is what we call a RELUCTANT READER. I was one of those kids, but now I want reading to be fun. So the stories I write are the ones I would have wanted to read when I was eleven or twelve—realistic, exciting, international espionage novels. Thrillers. I love the Jack Reacher novels and Jason Bourne of the Bourne Identity. Crime Travelers is the same kind of series but kid appropriate. So my mission, is to write for kids who’ve become bored with reading, or for kids who want learn in a fun way.

So what about the bad guys?

I consume a lot of business news. Inevitably there are bad guys in business. The antagonist in this series is a woman by the name of Siba Günerro and she is the CEO of the Good Company, which is a company that does very little good. Kids reading will quickly understand the irony in the name. They like being in on the little secret.

Disclaimer for Parents: This book is “squeaky clean” according to Paul. That means no romance, guns, or bad language. Sounds like the perfect read to pick up for your kid this Saturday.

 

Paul Aertker will be at Lemuria on Saturday, October 25 at 11:00. Drop by! Crime Travelers is for boys and girls age 9 to 14. Grade 4 through 8.

Studio Jackson: a Q&A Session with authors Nell Linton Knox and Ellen Rodgers Johnson

unnamedHow were you able to pick what would go into the book from each artist’s expansive works? So many options! 

N: We tried to work individually with each artist or craftsman to figure out what example of his or her work made the most sense to go in the book, so it varies from artist to artist. For some of the artists, such as Kristen Ley at Thimblepress or Andy Young at Pearl River Glass, we simply photographed what they were currently working on in their studio. With Fletcher Cox, we went to a home in Ridgeland where he has created a large quantity of furniture for the owner and helped design the house. For Bebe, we knew we wanted to include a photo of the iconic “Bebe” bird. The primary focus of the book is showing the artists in their studios, however, so in addition to showcasing their work we always ending up photographing whatever they were currently doing.

 

Do you feel like having backgrounds as booksellers lent itself to the process of putting together a book? 

N: Absolutely. I know first hand that everyone, no matter what, is going to judge the book by the cover, and this is especially true with an art book. I could write the best profile essays in the world and if the book was unattractive it would not sell. When I worked at Lemuria I spent a lot of time in Oz selling children’s books, and I noticed how people gravitated towards excellent illustration and design.

E: I feel like Nell and I have a grasp on what people look for in a book, having gained
that general knowledge from working in Lemuria. After selling thousands of books you
kinda start to get a feel for what it is people want in a book. HA!

 

 I’m going to be bad and ask you to pick favorites. Best studio space?

N: This is such an unfair question! Of course I loved all the studios for different reasons. I personally like to work in small spaces, so I was the most astonished by the huge studios that seem like they go on forever. I think Andy Young’s studio is astounding – it’s basically a maze; you move from building to building through narrow passageways that lead from one workspace to another. Bebe Wolfe’s studio also has a wonderland quality because there are so many different outposts for different tasks, yet there’s a comparable vibe and energy in every building. Kristen Ley’s studio is also a favorite for me because her inimitable sense of style is worked so seamlessly into the functionality of the space, and she organizes impeccably in room after room after room.

E: Richard Kelso. Richard is one of those people who is so near and dear to my heart; I
just adore him. I literally hang on his every word. If you were to dream up what an oil painter’s studio would look like in your mind it would be “The Box”. Richard lovingly calls his studio “The Box”. If I have heard “Alright Babydoll, I gotta get back to “The Box” one time, I’ve literally heard it a hundred. Richard is the very definition of a creature of habit. It is one of the things you have to love about him.

 

Ellen, who influences your work?

E: Oh dear lord too many to list. I’ll try and keep it brief: Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Annie
Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, Clarence John Laughlin, Herb Ritts, and Michael Kenna.

 

Artists can be notoriously reclusive. How do you feel like artists in the Jackson area fit into that spectrum? Were you surprised by any of their stories?

N: I think the artists and craftsmen that we interviewed and photographed were wonderfully trusting of us! They put themselves out there all the time selling their work, but asking an artist or craftsman to tell you their personal story and let you photograph their private space can be intimidating for everyone involved. There were certainly artists and craftsmen who I reached out to that were not interested in being part of this book for various reasons, and I expected that from the start. At the end of the day, I hoped that the artists would see being included in the book as flattering and exciting, and thankfully they all did.

The most surprising story for me was Roz Roy’s personal history and relationship with her art. I don’t want to give her story away yet, but she’s had an amazing life and artistic journey. I think readers will be drawn to her story as much as they are to her artwork.

 

On average, how long did each interview/photo shoot take?

N: Interviews lasted for at least two or three hours, and some interviews were multiple sessions.

E: The photo shoots ranged anywhere from 30 minutes to the delightful 3.5 hours I
spent with Roz Roy one afternoon just shooting her while she worked.

N: I will say the more photo shoots we did, the faster we got at breaking down the light kit and realizing when we had the shot we wanted. It was fun for me to watch Ellen grow as a photographer. The first shoots she would take up to 200 or 300 photos; by the end of the process she could shoot 10 and just tell me, “I got it,” and show me a shot that was perfect. There were definitely moments where we had the option to compromise or settle for less, and I am proud to say that neither one of us ever considered it.

 What was it like working together? 

N: I think working together on this project was an incredible journey for both of us. We have been close friends for years and have similar professional aspirations, but neither of us had ever worked on a book before. Now that we are finished with our first book, I can say that we relied heavily on each other throughout this process. What made this partnership so successful is that we never doubted each other even though we doubted ourselves. We truly admire each other’s strengths, and that keeps the whole project in perspective.

That being said, we relate to people in such similar ways that oftentimes our jobs in this project overlapped. Ellen came with me to most of my interviews with the artists and I went with her to most of the photo shoots. Ellen wasn’t the only one scouting for the photograph, I was not the only one asking questions about someone’s personal history. I might notice that someone seemed more comfortable photographed in a certain way, while Ellen caught a bit of history that I overlooked. Ellen took every photograph, and I wrote every word, but we helped each other with every step. I could not imagine a better partner.

E:  I think we were definitely good for each other. We both talked each other off the cliff
several times. Both of us are prone to dramatics but we both possess the ability to
downplay any kind of crisis that the other believes she is having. It was very symbiotic.

 

If you had any magical power, what would it be?

N: I am a picky eater and I hate cooking. I wish I could photosynthesize.

E: To make unicorns real so I could have one of my very own. I don’t think that’s really a
magical power, I just really want a unicorn. If that doesn’t suffice I kind of just want to be
Samantha Stephens from Bewitched. I want to be able to wiggle my nose and be
anywhere in the world and not have to fly on a plane to get there!!! I hate flying. Or
wiggle my nose and my house is clean. That would rule.

 

You put this book together in only a year. If you had more time, what would you do?

N: I am so glad we were on a time limit because you can start obsessing over perfection and forget that the goal of any project is to finish it. This book isn’t perfect – I’ve steeled myself for the imperfections that I probably won’t notice until someone comes to point them out. But in my opinion, we had enough time to do what needed to be done for this book, and now we are already talking about ideas for the next one.

 

Dream big. If you could put this book into anyone’s hands, who would it be and why?

N: We have talked about how much we admire publications such as Vanity Fair, so it would be pretty amazing if Graydon Carter could see our book. Maybe he will want us as freelancers. You never know.

E: Nell and I both have what a probably bordering on unhealthy obsession with Vanity
Fair. I do not watch or read news of any kind. If it is not in Vanity Fair I DO NOT KNOW
ABOUT IT. And I’m okay with that. Nell and I constantly talk about the day when we
finally get to Vanity Fair. So I would like for some high up there to get it, specifically
Graydon Carter.

 

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Please join us at Lemuria on Tuesday, November 4 at 5:00 for the official release party of Studio Jackson: Creative Culture in the Mississippi Capital by Nell Linton Knox and Ellen Rodgers Johnson. 

Ed King’s Mississippi

The first time I met Ed King I was immediately captivated by his entire presence. I was a naïve 24 year-old who had just finished his first year of Divinity School at Duke University, and I was tasked to learn about the intersections of religion, race, and civil rights in Mississippi. That summer in 2008, my internship was to be a ministerial fellow at Galloway Memorial UMC; however, for much of the summer I was able to shadow Ed, hearing stories of how he was arrested and beaten up, how he was close personal friends with both Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr., and how he influenced Freedom Summer 1964.

 

Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, I had heard of the Civil Rights Movement, but sadly I had never learned much about it. It wasn’t until after I moved out of Mississippi that my eyes were opened to the Civil Rights movement in my home state. I read books that made me think of the marches and those who came down for Freedom Summer in a romantic way that completely dismissed the actual struggle for liberty and freedom. I also dismissed all those who were from Mississippi in the midst of the struggle from the very beginning: Fannie Lou Hamer, John Perkins, Emmitt Till, and many more.

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When I met Ed King, I realized that the movement was more than a movement of peaceful, non-violent action. It was not a movement to be romanticized. The visible scars on Ed’s face made me really realize that the fight for civil rights in Mississippi was a time where people were beaten, killed, lynched, and scarred for life.

 

As I learned from Ed and followed him around, I was able to go to Mt. Zion Methodist Church, which was the church in Longdale, Mississippi that was burned down four days before three civil rights workers were abducted and killed in Neshoba County.  Ed took me on a civil rights tour across Jackson. He showed me where he was arrested, where Medgar Evers was shot, where the sit-ins happened, where busloads of students were arrested at the Greyhound Station, and finally, the fairgrounds. As he took me to the fairgrounds, I wondered, “This is interesting, maybe we are going to talk about how the fair was segregated.” However, he pulled up to the livestock building and asked me how much I knew about the history of the fairgrounds. In my know-it-all way, I exclaimed that I knew the fair was segregated and there were only a few days where black people could come to the fair. He said, “Yes. That is right. But there is a much deeper and bleaker story.” He proceeded to tell me how the livestock center at the fairgrounds was used as an interment camp for those who struggled for Civil Rights. As he told me stories of being beaten there, and of the scare tactics the police would use to control the people, my stomach churned and I was angry. I was mad that I ever though the Civil Rights Movement was a romantic movement of only non-violent protests and singing. I was mad that there was a history that I knew nothing about. I was angry that human beings, freedom workers and African Americans, were treated like cattle as they were imprisoned in the livestock center at the Mississippi fairgrounds.

But then, we left the fairgrounds and went to Tougaloo College. It was here that Ed told me about the meetings that were held in the Woodworth chapel. He told me how Joan Baez had played the first integrated concert for college students from State, Ole Miss, Millsaps, Jackson State, Tougaloo, and more. He told me how MLK Jr. preached from the pulpit in that sacred space. He shared with me how so many freedom fighters would sing Freedom Songs, all the while fearing for their own lives in the safety of the beautiful, dark, wooden sanctuary. Where as the fairgrounds was a place of fear and abuse, Woodworth Chapel was the center of freedom, and the direct opposite of the fairgrounds. The struggle was real, it was dangerous, and yet, in the midst of all the fear and death, light and hope emerged in Woodworth Chapel. I am glad my time with Ed that day ended at Woodworth Chapel.

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As my time was coming to an end in Jackson, Ed shared with me some photos and essays he had written. These musings were going to be his book that he had been writing for years, and now, his book has now been published. It is a book that sheds light on much of what Ed and others experienced during the struggle for civil rights here in Mississippi. Now, as I sit and read from Ed King’s Mississippi, I realize how blessed I was for having had that summer with him; for hearing many of these accounts first hand. Ed King is a very special man, and Ed King’s Mississippi is a must read for all people.

 

 

 

Written by Justin

Guest Post: Grocery Shelf Fresh

Written by Julian Rankin

The ingredients of a place are the people who call it home. They are often mismatched, thrown together like scraps and dry goods from a barren cupboard or picked haphazardly from the aisles of a small town grocer, cooked down into something worth coming back for. Jackson is no different. It has its share of the saccharine sweet, the condensed-milk-variety of 1970s Ole Miss Tri-Delts, like my mother, quick to converse with any old body, departing their company with hugs and kisses whether stranger or no. The farm to table is represented well here; I smell hay sometimes in the middle of downtown – maybe a fanciful nostalgia for country living or maybe because the fair has just pulled out. And Jackson has a good bit of hambone in it. The places here have their unique character, too, and none more so than The Wolfe Studio compound just across the way from Lemuria. The city and the suburbs have grown up around it, but when you cross that imaginary boundary and pull up the gravel road for the first time, as I did not long after I moved here, it looks and feels not unlike it did when Mildred and Karl Wolfe began it and when William Hollingsworth painted it.

And when the ingredients of a place are preserved, they are jarred most often in the forms of art and literature. Mildred Wolfe, for example, lives on not only in the generations of Wolfe’s that carry forth her artistic legacy, but in the work she left behind, like the Four Freedoms murals that now hang here at the Mississippi Museum of Art, a recent donation by the family who commissioned them.

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If one had done some of that hungry-hungry-hippos-grab-this-grab-that shopping in B.M. Stevens Company store in Richton, Mississippi back in the late 1950s, the murals might have caught the eye then, too, where they hung just above the produce section. They were commissioned by the owner, Benjamin McClellan Stevens, Sr. The giant Masonite boards were provided to Mrs. Wolfe as canvasses from the Stevens’ timber company, and they hung in the store until the 1980s. The inspiration for their creation came from President Roosevelt 1941 message to Congress where he articulated the four “essential human freedoms” – freedom of speech and expression, of worship, from want, from fear. That was eleven months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“We sell hardware, silks, satins, fertilizer, and feed. Used to sell coffins but we gave that up,” said Stevens in the article “Richton Grocer Buys Mrs. Wolfe’s Murals” written by Jane Reid-Petty for The State Times in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1959.

Wolfe described each panel of the Four Freedoms for Jane Reid-Petty’s article: “I painted a newsboy, because freedom of speech is something forever young, forever being fought for and renewed,” she said about the first panel. In Freedom of Religion, praying figures are rendered as in a stained glass window. A frail, elderly woman with hands folded in Freedom from Want is “touched with the thin sunlight of afternoon.”  In the finished Freedom from Fear panel, Wolfe used a composition of a woman protecting two children as she looks with terror at an airplane dropping a bomb. The artist said, “I think the fear of a mother for her children must be a climax to all fears, possibly more powerful than any other.”

On Tuesday at the Museum, as part of the Unburied Treasures: Cover to Cover humanities series, descendants of both the artist and the donors come together to talk about the past and about the artworks that continue to keep their stories intertwined. The perhaps unlikely relationship formed between artist and collector all those years ago still has resonance. As part of the Museum’s permanent collection, the works of art now have a lasting place.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unburied Treasures: Cover to Cover

Mississippi Museum of Art, Trustmark Grand Hall

5:30 PM cash bar; 6 PM program
This humanities series is comprised one-hour programs  at the Mississippi Museum of Art in downtown Jackson. This month’s featured artwork is Mildred Wolfe’s Four Freedoms, 1959. oil on Masonite. Gift of Daisy McLaurin Stevens Thoms, Benjamin McClellan Stevens, Jr., Henry Nicholson Stevens, William Forrest Stevens. The featured book is Mildred Nungester Wolfe, edited by Elizabeth Wolfe (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005). Commissioned by Arlean and Benjamin McClellan Stevens, Sr. of Richton, Mississippi, the Four Freedoms by Mildred Nungester Wolfe was inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech to Congress on January 6, 1941. Elizabeth Wolfe, daughter of Mildred Nungester Wolfe and curator of her mother’s artistic legacy, speaks of her memories of the artist. David Thoms, grandson of Arlean and Benjamin McClellan Stevens, Sr. talks about his grandparents’ commissioning of the paintings. Arlean Mecklin Stevens, whose grandparents commissioned the Four Freedoms and who is an English instructor at Pearl River Community College, reads two texts that are telling of freedom as described by Roosevelt, now, then, and as depicted in the life of Benjamin McClellan Stevens, Sr. Ensemble Polonaise discusses and performs a selection of classical music appropriate to the artworks. Funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Mississippi Humanities Council. Cost: Free to the public

 

Author Steinke – a ‘Barry Hannah’ person! – in Jackson Tuesday

Written by Jim Ewing 

Author Darcey Steinke, who will be in Jackson on Tuesday at Lemuria Books to read from her latest book, Sister Golden Hair, is one of those Barry Hannah people.

Like I consider myself a Willie Morris person. As in, we all have idols or mentors who helped us most as writers, or at least the thought of them or their writing had that effect.

Regular readers of this blog may recall some of my Willie stories — including the time I was visiting with Willie in Oxford and Hannah and I almost came to blows. (We later made amends.) But I digress.

Steinke gives a great tribute to Hannah, posting recently in The Millions literary blog a memorial titled Barry Hannah and I.

(Photo: Author Darcey Steinke and the late author Barry Hannah. Credit: Darcey Steinke, The Millions magazine)

In it, she relates:

“I still remember with hallucinatory precision reading Barry Hannah’s Ray while laying out on my futon in my graduate school hovel in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was a southern transplant having moved from the north to the south when I was ten. I had a love/hate relationship with the place. None of the then popular southern writers moved me much—Lee Smith, Clyde Edgarton, Jill McCorkle—all romanticized the South and its characters. Hannah, on the other hand, hadn’t gotten the memo about the folksy-soft-glow south; instead he drove full throttle into the taboos of the messed up region, taking on the Jesus-obsessed nuts, the macho lunatics still hurting from the loss of the Civil War, the racial friction, and the lush almost mystical landscape.”

Steinke goes on to explain how they met, how he was supportive of her writing when she needed it the most, and that it was Hannah who got her the job as writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi.

She writes:

“The day I arrived with my three-year-old daughter, Abbie, at the lovely sprawling house the college provided across the street from William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, Barry drove up in his pickup truck with four stray dogs yapping in the back. In person, he was a round-faced, handsome, and deeply charming man. Our meetings around town thrilled me. Once as I walked into Ajax, a restaurant on the square, for lunch, Barry, who was sitting at a table eating an oyster po’boy and reading the new Phillip Roth novel, yelled out “Steinke! It’s a literary scene. It only takes two of us in Mississippi.”

As you can see, she’s good at hooking the reader into a good story.

She is the author of four novels, Up Through the Water, Suicide Blonde, Jesus Saves, and Milk. She teaches creative writing at Princeton University and the American University of Paris and in the graduate programs at New School University and Columbia University.

She will sign Sister Golden Hair at Lemuria at 5 p.m., then give a reading afterwards, at 5:30 p.m. Lemuria is located at 4465 N Hwy 55 #202, Jackson, MS 39206 (601) 366-7619

I look forward to meeting her, reading her book, and maybe sharing some Willie and Barry stories. Did I tell you about him calling me up and saying he saw Jesus? But I digress again.

Maybe I’ll see you Tuesday at Lemuria and we can chat some more.

Jim PathFinder Ewing has written six books, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. His latest is “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating” (Findhorn Press, 2012). His next book — Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them — is scheduled to be released in Spring, 2015. Find him on Facebook, join him on Twitter @EdiblePrayers, or see his website,www.blueskywaters.com

Read. Or Read. (an Album)

It’s October.  With only three months left in the year, it’s about the time to start gathering the books that I’m going to close the year out with.  I like to choose my books with a certain rhythm in mind.  For example, when a group of musicians decide to put together a great album, they have to keep in mind the progression of the songs.  The songs have to fit together individually, as well as within the structure of the album.  When choosing what to read, I try to do the same thing.  This is my soundtrack based on the year as told through books.

(meta disclaimer.  this blog will use describe books and music interchangeably.)

January

Track 1. Intro (Moby Dick): Kicking things off at the start of the album is the Intro.  Many people choose to read classics at this time to get them in the right mindset for a year of reading.  As far as releases go, publishers aren’t going to release the big name books at this time of year.  With the start of the year being so dry (let’s face it, that backlist is not going to ever be read) this is the perfect time to read Infinite Jest, Moby Dick, Brave New World, or Dracula.  I chose to take things easy and read the one book everyone lies about having read; Moby Dick.  I did not finish it.  Much like the intro on most albums, I got about a quarter of the way through, realized that better stuff was hiding behind this prerequisite, and pressed next.

Captain Ahab (from "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville), 1930  Linecut on paper

February

Track 2. A Marker to Measure Drift:  The first song on the album is often the best.  Alexander Maksik’s novel fits this role quite nicely.  The book is packed with mystery and intrigue.  It builds suspense in a way that many authors try, but end up flailing.  Like a duck.  Or a flail.  Anyway, A Marker is a winter read, despite it taking place mostly on a beach.  Go figure.

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March

Track 3. The Martian:  The first radio hit single!  The second song needs to have that reliable hook/gimmick to get people excited about the album (year in reading).  This is the pivot point and for many, their entire memory of the album will be anchored with this song. Andy Weir’s brilliant first effort in The Martian is the 1901 of books.  FOLDING, FOLDING, FOLDING readers onto mars with Mark Watney.  This book is that anytime book that builds itself a little nostalgia house before you’ve finished.  It accomplishes  deja entendu while feeling fresh all the same.  The perfect song(book) to turn your headphones all the way up (down) and get lost in the music (words).

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April

Track 4. Communion Town by Sam Thompson:  Well, they can’t all be winners.  Communion Town is that song you just keep waiting to be great.  Remember the 2008 VMAs when Kanye West came on stage and the DU DOO DU DOOM started.  I was wild with anticipation but just like in the song, this book forgot to climax.  It just kept going and DU DOO DU DOOMing.  It’s the book you should skip the first time you listen to it.

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May

Track 5. Interlude (My Brief History):  After the garlic breath equivalent of books is in your mind, it’s nice to have something heartwarming and light.  It is at this point, that most albums begin to fade.  You’ve already heard the song everyone has been talking about and now you can’t get it out of your head.  The last one was a complete hype vacuum.  The best thing to do at this point is slow things down and lead the reader into the next phase of the album.  The swing is up next and you need a sure-fire melody to restore your faith in the page.  This past year, I chose Stephen Hawkins to play that part.  My Brief History is the perfect interlude.  The book is a short autobiography of the brilliant scientist’s life.  It’s the first nonfiction book of the year and provides the introductory change of pace for the next song.

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June

Track 6.  The Answer to the Riddle is Me by David Maclean:  Every great album has the halftime ballad and The Answer to the Riddle is Me gave me a great feeling after reading it.  I still have that happy, “wow the human race is amazing” feeling months after shelving it.  Now hear me out: the book is about taking malaria medication, developing amnesia and “waking up” on a train in India.  I understand how terrifying that may sound, but the book is really about the kindness of strangeness and the lengths our love-ones would go through to get us back home.

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Well, your drive to work is only so far.  You have to get out of the car at some point.  If you’re anything like me, you probably sit in your car with the book in your hands squeezing those last few paragraphs our before you have to walk inside.  Let’s be responsible here people.  Take those keys out of the ignition and turn the album off.  There’s always the drive home.

 

 

Written by Andre