Book review: Get Ready for the Southern Festival of Books

By , September 29, 2010

If you’ve never made it to the Southern Festival of Books, you are missing out on one of Nashville’s best cultural offerings.  This year’s festival takes place on October 8-10 (you can find further details at  Here are just a few of the authors that I’m looking forward to seeing:

Going Away Shoes
By Jill McCorkle

If you get to see Jill McCorkle at a reading, her sarcastic charm and gorgeous accent will give you a whole new appreciation for her work.

Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
By Lydia Peelle

 These authentic and heartache-inducing stories are by an East Nashvillian.


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
By Helen Simonson

 This is a restrained but very funny British comedy of manners.  I predict that Simonson’s appearance will be a sleeper hit of the festival.



Book review: S. J. Bolton’s Blood Harvest

By , September 28, 2010

Blood Harvest
by S. J. Bolton

I decided to read Blood Harvest after super star librarian Nancy Pearl recommended it in a segment for NPR entitled Under the Radar reads.  If you like your novels creepy and gothic, this book is for you too!

Imagine a remote English village.  A family of five has moved there, building a house near two old churches and a graveyard.   Big mistake! Not only are 10 year old Tom and 6 year old Joe getting picked on by the local bully and his cronies, they keep experiencing a strange presence lurking around their home, which wants to scare them away.  Fletcher parents Gareth and Alice become fast friends with the other new “kid” in town, the young and handsome vicar Harry.

Things not mentioned in the “move to a quaint English village” brochure:  the townspeople observe rather sinister rituals during the fall harvest, and young children keep dying mysteriously!  Will the attractive and damaged psychiatrist Evi Oliver help the Fletchers and the vicar sort out the evil secrets in this town?  Will Tom and Joe convince their parents to believe in the macabre presence haunting them?   Will the Wicker Man or Rosemary’s Baby join in the action?!

Blood Harvest is a dark thriller that you wouldn’t dare read in the dark of night.


TV review: SouthLAnd: the Complete First Season

By , September 27, 2010

solandSouthland; Complete First Season (Uncensored)
by King, Regina; Scott, Tom Everett; Hatosy, Shawn

Well, 7 great episodes anyway; apparently dropped by NBC with TNT possibly set to air the rest. But this is a better way to watch, fully uncensored so you can appreciate the true grittiness of some of the on the job dialogue.
What really impressed me was the shot on location cinematography and camera work. Much like FX’s late but sometimes way over the top The Shield – it takes you right there! From the sublime and super chic Bel Air neighborhoods to the worst of Los Angeles, you’ll get into the world of this impressively cast group of police officers and detectives. You’ll learn the nuances of their levels on the job and get a tentative look at what life can be like off the job.
I expect a little more character development is right around the corner but the last episode in this set certainly didn’t lack for drama. The African American female in the cast playing Lydia Adams is excellent (reminds me a bit of the Shield’s CCH Pounder) as is the rookie Ben Sherman (shades of the great cop with a veiled past a la Rick Shroeder’s character in NYPD Blue). Everybody seems real although no Latinos on the squad is a bit surprising.
In short – very good, multi-dimensional police drama with solid acting in a well-written series. Cinema verite, LA police style! Looking forward to the rest of season one or season two – whatever it may be called.


Book review: Fiction Quick Picks

By , September 22, 2010

Wish Her Safe at Home
By Stephen Benatar

This is a really skillful portrayal of a woman going mad.  Because it’s told from her perspective, the story creates a slowly building sense of unease: as her narrative becomes more eccentric and manic, the reader watches in growing dismay.


Father of the Rain
By Lily King

This is an amazingly well done family drama, in the vein of Roxana Robinson and Michelle Huneven, portraying a girl’s relationship with her volatile, alcoholic father over several decades.  The depiction of the grown-up Daley still tiptoeing around her father’s moods and intolerance is especially good.


Ferris Beach
By Jill McCorkle

Jill McCorkle perfectly nails the details of growing up in the South in the 1970′s.  She also gets the constant yearning of being a teenager just right.


Legends of Film: Sara Karloff interview

By , September 17, 2010

Bill brings us an interview with Sara Karloff, the daughter of the late great Boris Karloff.

Book review: More Stellar Short Stories

By , September 15, 2010

Carrying the Torch
By Brock Clarke

These are funny, sometimes surreal stories of suburban alienation, in the vein of A.M. Homes or Wells Tower.

Fitting Ends
By Dan Chaon

Most of these stories are about the disappointments and unmet expectations involved in leaving your childhood home and becoming an adult. The portrayals of sibling relationships are particularly strong.

The Night in Question: Stories
By Tobias Wolff

I picked this up because I recently read and became obsessed with Wolff’s story Bullet in the Brain (which I didn’t realize had such a cult following). Like that story, many in this collection have the capacity to stun.


Book review: Stellar Short Stories

By , September 8, 2010

American Salvage: Stories
By Bonnie Jo Campbell

This is a moving collection of stories about people who are tired and overwhelmed by the circumstances of their lives and their labor-intensive relationships, but who keep trying. There are some really great last sentences that hit you like a punch.

Girl Trouble: Stories
By Holly Goddard Jones

Born and raised in western Kentucky, Jones writes insightful stories about coming of age as a working-class girl in the South.

Do Not Deny Me: Stories
By Jean Thompson

A favorite of David Sedaris, Jean Thompson excels at portraying self-deluding characters who tell you much more about themselves than they mean to.


Popmatic Podcast September 2010

By , September 7, 2010

Back to school blues or best of summer? We couldn’t decide, so this month’s show is both. Bryan tells us about the best book he read this summer, The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. Amanda reviews Pittsburgh’s own dance maniac Girl Talk. Back to back rad, Crystal channels Winona with a reconsideration of Heathers.

Interview with Mary Roach

By , September 6, 2010

packing for marsHave you ever felt that science is a little dull or just beyond your reach? Reading a Mary Roach book might just change your mind. Nashville Public Library’s Deanna Larson had the opportunity to chat with Mary Roach on August 23, 2010. Watch the interview below and check out one of her books for a whole new perspective on science.

Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void; Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.

Her newest book, Packing for Mars, is a New York Times Editor’s Choice and #1 San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. Stiff has been translated into 17 languages, and Bonk was chosen as a 2008 best book by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Globe. Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, New Scientist, The New York Times Book Review, the Journal of Clinical Anatomy, and Outside, among other publications. More at

Watch the interview on YouTube.

[youtubeplaylist 690D11F7009D200E]

Book review: The Savage Detectives

By , September 5, 2010

The Savage Detectives
by Roberto Bolaño

I am always few a years behind in my fiction reading, so next year around this time, I’ll probably be reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This summer I did manage to get around to reading Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, the rambling tale of two poets who forge an avant-garde literary movement in 1970s Mexico. The poets in question, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, might be serious writers or they might be dope dealers. Is their movement, so-called Visceral Realism, a literary front or just a front, period. Besides stirring up trouble, the duo are on a mission to find Ceserea Tinajero, the female poet they consider to be their spiritual founder. It’s a picaresque novel and the poets’ misadventures carry us up and down South America and much of Europe.

Arturo and Ulises are only two in vast cast of characters. The novel starts with Juan Madero, a 17-year-old student, who is asked to join the Visceral Realists after he demonstrates an extensive knowledge of classical forms. Initiated into a beehive bohemian artists, he learns a lot of other forms too. Arturo and Ulises orbit around this circle of literati like to elusive, numinous stars. The novel then shifts radically, jumping around in time, each chapter being a first person reminiscence by a different character before and after the period when the Visceral Realists were lighting things on fire. We meet a cross section of Mexican society: lawyers, architects, publishers, professors, writers, baristas, pushers, pimps and whores. The same sliding scale applies to the sanity of any given character. Through this kaleidoscopic approach we learn more about the Arturo and Ulises than they know about themselves. The final third of the novel flashes back to the glowing center of Visceral Realism. Juan, Arturo, Ulises and whore named Lupe are fleeing from Lupe’s pimp in a stolen American car, and of course, the crew is looking for Ceserea Tinajero.

I’ve used the term diffuse in an effort to describe Bolano’s writing style. Others have described it as centrifugal. The plot begins on the outer edges of binary star system that is Viseral Realism. Then it spirals out across the universe, only to zoom back to the bulls eye of Mexico City. The all over approach perfectly captures bohemian Mexico in the 1970s. Not like I was there, but I feel like I was after reading The Savage Detectives. My favorite chapters take place in a near mystical vineyard in Germany where Arturo shows up in the middle of the night to reunite with one of his lost lovers. Hans the German work boss is eerily similar to Hans the would be killer Bolano’s other sprawling opus 2666. Yes, The Savage Detectives is an opus. What the book really does best is simulate the experience of falling in love with literature, in falling in love period, in falling apart for literature, in falling apart period. What it really does best is simulate the experience of falling.

The best book I read all summer.

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