Let’s talk about the B.T.C. old fashioned grocery in Water Valley, MS. When my husband Daniel and I lived in Water Valley right after we got married, the B.T.C. was our go-to place for fresh produce, local meat cuts, and creamy, scrumptious cheese (you delicious dill Havarti, you, I dream of you nightly). In the back of the small building is an eatery ruled over by the grand and mighty chef Dixie Grimes and is populated on any given morning with several very, very old men eating grits. Dixie teamed up with B.T.C. owner Alexe van Beuren and together they decided to chronicle the incredible recipes used daily to feed Water Valley’s hungry townspeople. (You should read about Alexe and the B.T.C. here and here) I am SO excited about this cookbook. Excited enough that when my coworker Lisa heard that I was a little obsessed with B.T.C. and asked me to write a blog about it I not only said yes! yes! a thousand times yes! I also promised to cook from it and write about that too. This blog had humble beginnings, I promise. As most things do in my life though, it quickly spiraled into a bigger-than-intended project, which is why I now present you with this full-fledged foodie extravaganza.
Picture it in your mind: roasted pork tenderloin, roasted fennel mashed potatoes, baked fresh green beans with mushrooms, and wine, wine, wine. I chose these recipes from the cookbook because first and foremost, they looked the easiest. Look, I’m not a natural when it comes to cooking. My sweet husband started the battle early by hitting the grocery store before I got home from work and then at 7:30 it was show time. I will say that I had way too many irons in the fire, but it all turned out beautifully, despite us not owning a roasting rack. I forgot to take a picture of our poor man’s solution to the lack of roaster but suffice it to say, I will be deep cleaning my oven when I get home from work today.
The recipes were wonderfully easy to follow, which for me is super important, and they used ingredients that I didn’t have to Google to figure out what they were. I mean the Barefoot Contessa is great and all and I want her to adopt me, but usually when I read her recipes I end up thinking, “wait, what is a wheatberry?” Dixie and Alexe have mixed together the perfect combination of finesse and accessibility that can make not-so-great cooks like myself feel like they really accomplished something delicious. Next up on the list: That chicken and asparagus casserole and some of their famous fried pies. Ooh! And that roasted pear and zucchini soup.
We had a few friends over to help us with the feast, and boy am I glad we invited them. The yield on those recipes should have read “not just you and your husband”. I decided to go all Pioneer Woman and catalog my culinary journey through photographs, so here are too many of them…
Oh wait! Before you look at the pictures, one more thing. The B.T.C. grocery in Water Valley is, in my opinion, the heartbeat of that little town. I want you guys to buy this cookbook because the recipes are amazing and it’s full of stories of Southern revival, but I also want to raise awareness about this amazing business. If you’re ever in the area, stop by, tell them I’m missing them, and pick up a fried pie and a bit of town gossip on your way out the door.
Daniel in our matchbox kitchen. It is as small as it looks, and yes, we tripped all over each other and also the dog all night long.
So these were the hit of the night. After everyone’s plates were clean, we basically just polished these off straight out of the casserole dish. We are so classy.
Get in my belly potatoes! True story, I had never cooked with fennel before. It’s a giant bulb-like thing! Who knew?
The boys! You can’t tell in this photo, but David (in the purple) has a giant, regal lynx on his shirt. I’m a big fan of that kind of thing.
We ate excessive amounts of cheese. Shameful amounts. No apologies! YOLO!
No meat in the history of ever photographs well, but here are the delicious pork tenderloins. Go forth! Roast the loins!
Here’s a picture of my cat sitting in my lap like a little old man. I know this picture isn’t pertinent, but who doesn’t love a good silly cat photo?
My view of the bounty (cheese). I feel like this picture describes the evening pretty well, because the wine was flowing all night. We even tried our hand at toasts, and by “we”, I mean I was the only one cheesiest enough to do it. I think I used the phrase “sticks closer than a brother” which was probably weird for everyone else.
I wrote the following review for the Clarion-Ledger. It is to appear in Sunday’s paper. We are ecstatic to host Bee Donley for her sophomore book of poetry and we hope you all come out this Saturday, March 8th, at 2 p.m.!
In time for her 90th birthday, Bee Donley’s second poetry collection, Mostly Mississippi, interweaves memoir and narrative in verse. Ms. Donley, a retired Jackson English teacher, writes with a rare, Southern grace. She is polite yet unflinchingly truthful; in short, she writes the way she lives.
Divided into two sections, Mostly Mississippi covers the broad sweep of her life, both the past and the present. In some instances, they exist simultaneously in a Mississippi “whose ghosts are watching.” Ms. Donley allows us a glimpse into the past. She mourns the changes. “The present is heartbreaking to me . . . Progress cannot obliterate the natural order or the memory of another time.”
If at first the poems seem romanticized ruminations on the past, Ms. Donley’s heartbreaking and unsentimental portrayals of aging give a sharp veracity to the collection. She writes, “Now as I walk the nursing home corridor with my walker/I must remember to lift high my legs . . . I round the judging ring and head for review.”
Jeff Allred, a former student, remembers, “Bee taught me plenty, too, but thinking back, I find myself focused on qualities not quantities. She teaches things you won’t pick up elsewhere: how to mount enough tension to swing a partner without horsing her, to rock heels in your AARP days, to ferry a conversation across while not burning popovers, to figure out how seriously to take Faulkner’s residues of romanticism. To say she’s ‘last of a breed’ (or whatever nostalgic phrase) would be true, but it would miss the way a teacher like Bee leaves a little durable something with every student and loved one as a seed for later, unpredictable growth.” Ms. Donley accomplishes on the page what she also did in the classroom. She teaches us unexpected lessons.
Bee Donley will be at Lemuria Saturday, March 8th, at 2 p.m for a signing and reading.
Thanks to HarperCollins, we have a great letter from Greg Iles about the struggles of writing Natchez Burning. We look forward to his new book, which publishes on Tuesday, April 29th, and don’t forget, you can order a signed copy here! Greg Iles will sign at Lemuria Tuesday, April 29th from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
All my life I heard, “It’s the journey, not the goal.” I never believed it. I believed the obsessive pursuit of dreams was worth any sacrifice—even time. Most of us go through life with our eyes averted from mortality. Where death is concerned, ignorance is truly bliss. Illness forces some to face loss early, yet when I had a health scare in my thirties, it only pushed me harder to sacrifice the present to provide for the future. Then, two years ago, as I pulled onto Highway 61 near Natchez, a truck slammed into my car door at 70 m.p.h. Shattered bones make a hell of a wake-up call, but when you tear your aorta, as I did, you truly shake hands with death. After eight days in a coma, I learned that I would lose my right leg but not my life. More important, my brain was unhurt, my mind intact.
I could still write.
But what now? Should I abandon all commerciality and try a purely literary novel? Or should I stop writing altogether and start living in the present? For a few days I considered both. Then I realized that throughout my career. I’ve written novels dealing with the most traumatic events human face: murder, war, sexual abuse, kidnapping, racial strife, even the Holocaust. I’ve explored the “old verities” Faulkner talked about—love, honor, pity, pride, compassion, and sacrifice. Reading the flood of reader mail that came in after my accident, I realized that the best thing I could do was to accept the past, forget the future, and keeping writing about “the only thing worth writing about—the human heart in conflict with itself.” As my fellow Mississippian Morgan Freeman said as Red in Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”
We are so excited to have two amazing authors coming to the store on March 27 at 5:00!
Lorrie Moore, winner of the O’Henry award and an old favorite of ours, will be here to read from and sign her new collection of short stories, Bark.
Joining her will be Susan Minot (also an O’Henry award winner!) for her new novel, Thirty Girls. Both of these talented women are old friends of the bookstore and we think so highly of their work that we have chosen these two books to be our February and March First Editions Club picks.
We want to make this event a real party, so if you chose any event to attend this season, let this be the one! Keep your eyes peeled for more posts and updates about the event, because I have a feeling it’s only going to get more exciting. We’d love for you to join us in a giant hangout session with these two amazing ladies. Mark it on your calendars!
Four years ago (and before my bookselling days) I realized I had a problem: every time I stopped by Lemuria I left with a book (or several).
I was steep in book debt. book debt = unread books > read books
And so, when I heard about the First Editions Club, it sounded like a marvelous idea. One book each month, chosen for me by book-reading experts. The chances of me stumbling upon a dud of a book were dramatically decreased when someone else chose the book for me.
And thus began several years of good reading: Lauren Groff, Jim Shepherd, Kevin Wilson, Karen Russell. The list goes on.
My one regret was that I signed up too late to have Amy Greene’s Bloodroot arrive in a brown box on my doorstep. I don’t know why I wanted to read Bloodroot; maybe it was the possibility of magic and mystery and family secrets all hanging out together. Maybe it was just the cover. The book was a debut novel with a smallish first printing, and by the time of the book signing, Lemuria wasn’t reserving any first editions for anyone who wasn’t in the First Editions Club. Needless to say, I missed it — the book, the signing, everything. And that’s why I signed up.
Ironically, now I am part of the team that ships out the First Editions Club (FEC) book each month. After the author visits the store and signs your first edition, we protect the jacket in a mylar cover, wrap the book in brown paper and then newspaper, box and ship it.
This March, Amy Greene will be back to read and sign her new book, Long Man, which just came out this week. While we’re not picking her new one for First Editions Club, those of you who are in the club should definitely pick one up. I’m not going to miss her this time. Come and join us Wednesday, March 5th at 5 PM.
I first met Richard Boada at a Millsaps Arts and Lecture event. I use the word “met” lightly — he was standing in front of me in line. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but through careful observation (i.e. eavesdropping), I learned that he was a poet. And not only was he a poet, but he was finishing up his first book.
The first night I took Boada’s The Error of Nostalgia home, I read it in one sitting. And then reread it. The collection is other-worldy in its globe-spanning scope. The poems have a bit of magic in them (think Gabriel Garcia Marquez in verse). They are as vibrant as insects pinned to the page: iridescent images shift with each reading like rare beetles, intricate narratives pattern like butterfly wings, lines caterpillar twist.
The barber has been bankrupt
since the flood. The town’s bald,
men and women, no longer visit
since the lakes rose and stunned.
Combs prostrate in disinfecting jars,
once mitochondrial in his hands.
Dozens of tonics on shelves
multiply in lipid mirrors,
refracting electric lights.
The jilted shaving brush and razors
foul rust. The barber can only trim
his bougainvillea’s viscous petals.
There has never been winter,
and now red January sludge
anoints, lathers and steams.
Lathers and steams.
Richard Boada will be at Lemuria Wednesday, February 26th, signing at 5, reading at 5:30.
We’re so excited to welcome Wiley Cash back to Lemuria tomorrow, Thursday the 20th, at 11:00 a.m. His first book, A Land More Kind Than Home, was hailed by readers and booksellers alike, with its blend of dark, religious fanaticism balanced by the innocence of a young boy who would do anything to protect his older, disadvantaged brother.
His new novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, is just as riveting. The story is told through the eyes, once again, of a child. Easter and her sister Ruby have been in the foster care system since their mother died of a drug overdose. Now their father has come back looking for them, and Easter suspects his fatherly concern is masking darker motivations. Easter has had to grow up too fast; with all she has witnessed and because of her desire to protect her sister, she has learned that sometimes hard decisions must be made by her alone — that adults can’t always help her.
Brady is Easter and Ruby’s guardian, and when the girls go missing, he is determined to find them himself. What he doesn’t know as he sets out is just how much trouble their father, a former minor league baseball player, is in. He is being tracked by someone ruthless, someone who is driven by revenge for something that happened long ago and has been fueling his single-minded rage ever since. What the reader discovers as the novel progresses is that everyone has secrets, dark spots in their history that might drive them to behave desperately.
Set during the baseball season when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire competed to break Roger Maris’s home run record, This Dark Road to Mercy is a fantastic sophomore effort by one of our favorite Southern authors.
This is an excerpt from Wiley’s blog entry about his visit to Lemuria in 2012:
I drove across town to the famous Lemuria Books, where I met some incredibly kind and knowledgeable booksellers. I’d met the manager Kelly a few months ago at a convention in New Orleans, and she showed me the galley that I signed then; it said, “I hope I get to visit your store one day.” I resigned it and wrote, “I’m at your store right now.” I also met two fellow writers: Ellis, a short story writer who will soon be pursuing a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing, and Adie, a poet who will enter the low-residency MFA program at Seattle Pacific this fall. They’re proud of their store, and they should be; it has an entire room dedicated to fiction, one whole corner of which is dedicated to Southern fiction! Photographs of well-known authors who have visited the store adorn the walls. I gave a reading and signed books under the watchful eyes of Eudora Welty, John Grisham, Larry Brown, and Richard Ford. See a connection here? Mississippians love their home-grown writers almost as much as they love their barbeque.
We hope his second visit to Lemuria is as memorable as the first. Come out to the bookstore tomorrow morning at 11:00 to meet him!
The age-old fantasy formula – unlikely hero-child kicks out to change the world, meets a few of the same suspiciously gifted types along the way, and of course evil is starkly contrasted against the good. Tired of this kind of story? I understand. Me too. That’s why I’m going to tell you to read a book that does exactly that.
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett redeems this overused, undercooked story line, in great fashion. The writing does the job, but it is the story is just spectacularly done: great world building and characters that you care so much about that putting down the book becomes so difficult that you should just go to the doc before starting it to get a catheter installed. Brett never gets bogged down in trivialities, yet you are given a thoroughly detailed imagining of everything. Think Robert Jordan at his very best, without any of the boring meandering, and more realistic toward the darker parts of life. A lot more gritty. Sort of like Jordan and Joe Abercrombie mixed.
The world: When the sun falls demons rise from the center of the earth as mists that coalesce into various elemental forms of species – fire demons, rock, wind, tree, etc. These creatures rip people, animals, structures etc. apart without any lack savagery. When the dawn comes these “corelings” mist back down into the core, if not they burn up in the sun. As sword and spear do little or no harm to the creatures, the only things the people have to resist the demon spawn are wards the ancients left them. These wards are drawn and arranged to set a parameter around cities and houses, though since they are done so on wood, rock, and earth, they must be checked and tended to endlessly to make sure they have not been obscured or damaged, which would mean a bloody death when night comes. This means the humans prepare all day to not be killed during the night, every day. So, our unlikely hero wants to find a way to kill the demons, of course.
The characters: Arlen (the main POV), Leesha, and Rojer. Arlen is the farm boy that runs away, Leesha is the girl with an overbearing abusive mother, and Rojer is the orphaned at 3yrsold character. There are messangers, warders, herb gatherers, jongleurs, and Krasians. Krasians aren’t those dried out cranberry raisin things. They are the desert people that you hate because of their backward culture but love because of their badassery.
The Warded Man is the first book in the Demon Cycle series. Book two, The Desert Spear, and book three, The Daylight War, are also available now, which are just as great as the first.
Valentine’s Day is only a few days away! For us, Valentine’s Day is all about sharing books with the one we love. This Thursday from 5-8 at the Art Lovers’ Soiree, Maggie will have a fantastic selection of books perfect for your special someone. Here are a couple of the books she has chosen.
Love Poemsby Pablo Neruda has been published as a gorgeous paperback that can easily fit in one hand. This collection of poetry is absolutely beautiful. With each poem, this collection gives you the translated version on the right and the original Spanish on the left. And these poems definitely sound more romantic when read in Spanish. One of my favorites in this collection is ‘Your Feet.’ It ends with this fantastic sentence: “But I love your feet/only because they walked/upon the earth and upon/the wind and upon the waters,/until they found me.”
William Shakespeare is another poet of love. Penguin Classics has published a beautiful edition of The Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint by William Shakespeare, befitting of the poetry within. We LOVE the Penguin Classics and any of them would be a great Valentine’s Day gift, but this is our all-time favorite for this occasion. Who wouldn’t swoon over this cover?
And over in Oz, I have pulled together some of our favorite books for your little loves.
What girl doesn’t love vintage illustrations? Vintage Valentines are adorable and a perfect gift/craft way to spend time with your little ones around this holiday. Pete the Cat is a store favorite and he has a new Valentine’s Day story that also includes 12 Valentine’s Day Cards and stickers. Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day is Cool is just as cute as the other Pete stories. We will be reading this story at Story Time this Saturday at 11:00!
And finally, for the teenager in your life (or the twenty/thirty/forty-something), Cress by Marissa Meyer is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles. Hannah, Elizabeth, and I all agree it is the BEST book in the series — and a perfect Valentine’s Day book. Hannah talked about Cinderhere and I talked about Scarlet here, so if you haven’t read this series, we HIGHLY recommend it!
If you’ve been in Lemuria and like fantasy books, it’s likely I’ve put you on to the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. If not, it’s high time you jump into this rollicking tale of thievery and witty dialogue. Think Ocean’s 11 heist, the grit of Game of Thrones, set in a world where there are cities created by an ancient people that had some powerful magic.
Why should you read this? If not for the plot (it’s very good), if not for the characters (they are great), then for the dialogue (it’s so funny) (it’s so clever). This series would be worth the read just for the insults that are thrown between Locke and Jean. The banter is gold.
Plot (x) + Character Development (y) + Dialogue (z) = ?
given each item is rated on a ten point scale and:
x = 7, y = 9, z = 9
the greatest possible rating under this scrutiny would be assigned the numerical value of 30 (somethings)
we have with the Bastards a solid 7 + 9 + 9 = 25
Under the plot/character development/dialogue criterion, I’m loathe to give any other fantasy series I’ve read an equal to or greater than sign in comparison.
***If you didn’t pay attention to any of that complicated math above and just skipped to this line (probable), let me just say: This series is great.
Why should you read this series now? The first two books were published very close to each other. The third book was published ~7 years after the second. That was a hard period for us all. The third book was published, thank the Crooked Warden, in 2013, and I loved it. Now is a good time to get into this series because it seems Scott is trying to make up for that excruciating gap between books two and three and will be releasing the fourth book this year. He will also be putting out two novellas in 2014 to accompany the series: The Mad Baron’s Mechanical Attic and The Choir of Knives.
This is a great time to start this series, especially if you are waiting for the next Game of Thrones book. In my opinion, this series is better than ASoIaF, though that may have to do with my distaste for historical fiction. Scott Lynch, thanks for such a great series, and don’t feel that bad about the 7 year drought; God did that sort of thing all the time.