Category: Fiction

Book Review: Stone Mattress

By , December 21, 2014

Stone Mattress by Margaret AtwoodStone Mattress
by Margaret Atwood

I’ve had a very long and wonderful journey with Margaret Atwood’s works. It started in high school, when a teacher assigned The Handmaid’s Tale as a complementary novel to 1984 and A Brave New World.  Every year since then, I have attempted to read it at least once. After high school, I practically devoured every fiction work she had ever done, including her poetry.

Stone Mattress is compromised of nine tales (tales, not stories) written by Atwood over the years. The themes they explore include aging, loss, and reality (even the reality of others).

I think my favorite story out of all of this was the one about Constance and Alphinland. Constance is a prolific fantasy writer, whose stories have a cult following. Yet, she lives alone after the death of her husband, a doddering old woman who listens to his voice in her head telling her what to do to take care of herself. It isn’t about the fact that she is old and perhaps a little crazy. It is about an old woman who made two things very important in her life – her husband and her writing. She couldn’t share her writing with her husband in this world – so she imagines him waiting for her in her fantasy world, along with former lovers who have hurt her.

These stories are not light and airy. Margaret Atwood explores the darker side of human nature – the grotesque, the murderous, the hatred – from a perspective of some of the more interesting characters experiencing those things.

This was a very fast read for me, because it was a collection of short stories. Highly recommended for your personal wish list!


Book review: The Diary of a Provincial Lady

By , December 14, 2014

The Diary of a ProvinDiary of a Provincial Ladycial Lady

by E.M. Delafield

So, so hilarious. Written in the style of Bridget Jones’s Diary, but first published in 1931. For example, a discussion with her husband about a recent visit to their child’s school:

“Discover strong tendency to exchange with fellow-parents exactly the same remarks as last year, and the year before that.  Speak of this to Robert, who returns no answer.  Perhaps he is afraid of repeating himself?  This suggests Query: Does Robert, perhaps, take in what I say even when he makes no reply?”

This is my very favorite brand of humor, wry and biting about the trials of everyday life. I see myself reading this over and over again.

This was only available through Interlibrary Loan a few months ago, but the library has just acquired a single volume that also incorporates The Provincial Lady Goes Further, The Provincial Lady in America, and The Provincial Lady in Wartime.

Happy holiday reading!


Book review: A Christmas Memory

By , December 11, 2014

capoteA Christmas Memory

By Truman Capote



When writer Truman Capote was a little boy, he lived for some years with his eccentric aunt, Miss Sook in rural Alabama. Truman considered Miss Sook to be his very best friend and this book was inspired by their time together. A Christmas Memory centers around one of Miss Sook’s favorite Christmas activities, making fruitcakes. High jinks ensue when Truman and Miss Sook set out to make 30 cakes in time for Christmas. A Christmas Memory is a warmhearted and charming tale that celebrates love and simple blessings.






P.S.       A Christmas Memory is available as a short story for adults, as a picture book for children and on DVD. You can read more about the adventures of Truman and Miss Sook in Capote’s short story collection entitled A Christmas Memory, One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor.






Best of 2014

By , December 1, 2014

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the season of Best Books lists.  This post contains my top three picks of the year in fiction, nonfiction, and film. Note that we were lucky enough to have three of these six authors here for this year’s Southern Festival of Books!


We Are Not OurselvesWe Are Not Ourselves
by Matthew Thomas

Best book I’ve read this year, hands down. It reminded me of all of those great sprawling books from about ten years ago, like The Fortress of Solitude and Middlesex.

P.S. It would be much better to go into this not knowing anything about the plot!



by Lily King

Historical fiction for people who don’t like historical fiction, inspired by the life of Margaret Mead.





Funny OnceFunny Once: Stories
by Antonya Nelson

Best story collection of the year, full of failed ambitions and unfulfilled expectations.







Under MagnoliaUnder Magnolia: A Southern Memoir
by Frances Mayes

Try this even if you don’t think you like Frances Mayes.  The most surprising thing about this memoir is that it reminded me a lot of my own childhood (also in rural Georgia), even though I’m almost 35 years her junior.




Ten Years in the TubTen Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books
by Nick Hornby

This is a compilation of Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column in The Believer and is the best book about books I’ve ever read (it helps that he and I have similar reading tastes, including a love of literary biographies). I could’ve kept reading these articles forever.



Art of the English MurderThe Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock
by Lucy Worsley

I enjoyed every page of this. I would almost call it “light” if that didn’t seem derogatory. Let’s just say it never felt like homework like some nonfiction does.






Blue RuinBlue Ruin
This revenge gem is for fans of the early Coen Brothers.






The Grand Budapest Hotel
Grand Budapest Hotel
IMHO, this is second only to The Royal Tenenbaums in the Wes Anderson oeuvre.






This movie amazingly transcended both its hype and the almost three-hour length. It makes for a memorable, nostalgic viewing experience.

Why I love Interlibrary Loan

By , November 27, 2014

interlibraryloanI love Interlibrary Loan because it gives me access to an amazing world of books beyond our library’s already superb collection!

My passion is for fashion, big beautiful fashion history books make me positively giddy. Using Interlibrary Loan has allowed me check out dozens and dozens of pricey, hard to find, fashion history books that I would have never had access to otherwise.

Interlibrary Loan is easy to use; simply click on the Interlibrary Loan link under the Services heading on the library’s website. First time users will be asked to fill out a short form about contact information. After that you simply log in using your library card and pin number. There is a limit of 5 requests per library card at any one time.

Books and articles not available in our collection may be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan.   E-Books, DVDs, music CDs and audiobooks are not currently available through Interlibrary Loan.

Once your request is submitted, it can take a couple weeks for your item to arrive. You will be notified when it is ready to be picked up. Interlibrary Loan materials can be returned at any of our library locations (just not in the book drops please).


Interlibrary Loan is easy to use, it puts amazing materials right in your hands and best of all it is free with your library card, now what can be better than that!








Comics review: Pretty Deadly

By , November 20, 2014

Can the beautiful art of this psychedelic Western redeem its shaky story? Jeremy fights off the buzzards.

Pretty Deadly Volume One by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, and Jordie Bellaire

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples


music by Black Dice CD | Freegal | Hoopla

Book review: The Haunting of Hill House

By , October 30, 2014

hauntingThe Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

If you haven’t already indulged in some literary eeriness this October, there’s still time. And if you like your seasonal reading both creepy and critically loved, why not step this way?

Widely hailed as one of the best haunted house tales of all time, Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House is an excellent example of supernatural fiction that incorporates a healthy dose of psychological terror. In fact, there are several distinct opinions held by fans and critics regarding the nature of the story’s frightening elements. Thankfully, we won’t go into that minor debate here.

The story itself concerns four individuals coming together to spend a summer in Hill House, an old country estate with a less than happy history. Managing the proceedings is a doctor who aims to document paranormal activity in the house and who has invited individuals with past unexplained phenomena to join him in the experiment. Only two show up, while a third person – the eventual heir to the house – joins the group to represent the family interests.

The author gives each character a distinct personality, but events in the week that follows are primarily seen through the eyes of Eleanor, one of the two respondents who accept the doctor’s invitation. Our peek into Eleanor’s emotional and mental landscape reveals a complex inner life, putting Jackson’s literary talent on full display. A far cry from blunt, gory, or hardcore horror, this classy ghost story can still deliver a memorably chilling experience.


Also, be sure not to miss the superb 1963 film adaptation!… haunting-dvd






…without confusing it with this other film, of course…which is fun in its own, Vincent-Price-ish way…





houseonhauntedhill-2…and has its own remake, unsurprisingly.






Plenty to enjoy with a day left in October!

- Ben

Something Wicked from the Wilson Collection

By , October 27, 2014
Start of Mina's Journal

Chapter 27 from Dracula – Mina Harker’s Journal. In pursuit of Dracula, Van Helsing’s journey to Transylvania to kill Dracula begins, with Mina guiding the way.

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” -Bram Stoker, Dracula


It’s that time of year again – Fall. The sun is starting to set sooner. The leaves are changing colors and falling rapidly. Pumpkins are ripe for the picking and for sale at many road-side stands. Along with these seasonal traits, it is also the time of year when the words “ghosts”, “goblins”, and “monsters” are used more frequently as we approach the spooky celebration of Halloween.

It’s also important to recognize some of the most notorious and terrifying characters from literature that have fueled the terror in Halloween. Characters such as “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” were created over 100 years ago, and they are still seen in many movies and in costumes on Halloween night.

In honor of these horror icons (and many others), here are a few of the Wilson Collection’s most eerie and unearthly books:

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

  • Originally published in 1818, published by the Limited Editions Collection in 1934.
  • Though the character “Frankenstein” is commonly portrayed as a green-faced monster with many stitches on his face, the original character is actually Dr. Victor Frankenstein. He is the creator of the man-monster.
  • The story idea was created during a friendly competition between her husband and a friend, to see who could write the best ghost story. 
  • The illustrations by artist, Everett Henry, purposefully exclude the man-monster. Every scene, however, implies that he is there. 
  • Though the book received a mixture of praise and criticism from LEC members when it was mailed out, the founding director (George Macy) believed the drawings were the most perfect set of illustrations for a book ever seen.


Cover page of Frankenstein

Frankenstein is considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction.

There are many beautifully drawn photos by Everett Henry, none of which show the actual monster

There are many beautifully drawn photos by Everett Henry, none of which show the actual man-monster.














Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe

  • Originally Published approximately 1902, published by the Limited Editions Collection in 1941.
  • This novel was the first complete collection of his stories specifically focusing on suspense and related tales.
  • 16 aquatints (an intaglio printmaking technique similar to etching) were illustrated by artist, William Sharp.
  • Published posthumously, Poe’s work gained most of its popularity after he died.
    Title Page

    Illustration from A Descent into the Maelstrom, a story recounting how a man survived a shipwreck and a whirlpool.

    The graphic and disturbing etchings were created by artist, William Sharp. He illustrated 16 aquatint etchings; a form of intaglio printmaking.

    The graphic and disturbing etchings were created by artist, William Sharp. He illustrated 16 aquatint etchings; a form of intaglio printmaking.















The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (2 vols)

  • Originally Published in 1872, published by the Limited Editions Collection in 1959.
  • Translated from Russian by Constance Garnett, and includes the originally suppressed chapter, “Stavrogin’s Confession.”
  • The engravings were illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg.
  • The Possessed was the initial English-translated title. The title now that is preferred is Demons or The Devils.
  • Despite the wicked title, the novel actually is politically controversial. It is a testimonial of life in Imperial Russia in the late 19th century.
    Engraving 1

    Eichenberg also created engravings for the LEC’s The House of the Dead. All images mirror the dark and controversial context of each book by Dostoevsky.

    The Possessed is a 2-volume set.

    Book 1 of 2 - The Possessed. The engravings were created by Fritz Eichenberg.















Dracula by Bram Stoker

  • Originally published in 1897, published by the Limited Editions Collection in 1965.
  • The original final chapter was removed, in which Dracula’s castle falls apart as he dies, hiding the fact that vampires were ever there.
  • Stoker’s enthusiasm for theater, writing, and fantasy began when he was young, inspired by his father, Abraham Stoker. At an early age, Bram often spoke of a vampire story that he would someday write.
  • An article by Maurice Richardson in The Observer in December, 1957, broke the success of the book down to 3 key elements – the singular fascination of the vampire superstition, the inclusive nature of the plot (which deploys a powerful psychological situation), and the furiously-active narrative.
    Mina meets with Dr. Van Helsing

    Dr. Van Helsing meets with Mina, inquiring her about her recently deceased friend, Lucy Westenra.

    Dog howling outside window in Dracula

    The wood engravings were illustrated by Felix Hoffmann. From the chapter Memorandum left by Lucy Westenra - after a loud howl outside the window, a gray wolf breaks through the glass of Lucy’s window.  
















The Book of the Dead (2 vols)

  • Originally published and used approximately 1550 BCE to around 50 BCE, published by the Limited Editions Collection in 1972.
  • The Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian funerary text containing a number of magical spells, with the intention of assisting the dead’s journey through the underworld.
  • Because there is not an actual book, the LEC arranged to photograph the paintings housed in the British Museum. Expert Peter Parkinson photographed the sections of the paintings and created color transparencies from the Egyptian papyrus.
  • The renowned Egyptologist Raymond O. Faulkner was commissioned to give a fresh translation of the ancient spells in the book.


Spell 23 of The Book of the Dead

Spell 83 – Spell for Being Transformed into a Phoenix from The Book of the Dead.

Title page
Peter Parkinson created color transparencies from the Egyptian papyri in the British Museum.














The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  • Originally published in 1861, published by the Limited Editions Collection in 1982.
  • Translated from Russian by Constance Garnett.
  • The engravings were illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg.
  • Also known as Memoirs from the House of the Dead and Notes from the Dead House, the story portrays the life of convicts in a Siberian prison camp.
  • The story is semi-autobiographical from the time that Dostoevsky spent 4 years in exile in a similar camp.
    Wood engravings - "I must have got into Hell by mistake," and "Hell must have been not unlike our bathroom" in The House of the Dead.

    Wood engravings – “I must have got into Hell by mistake,” and “Hell must have been not unlike our bathroom” in The House of the Dead.

    Wood engraving - "He ate alone, voraciously, like a wild beast" from The House of the Dead.

    Wood engraving – “He ate alone, voraciously, like a wild beast” from The House of the Dead.














Want to see these books, or would you like to view more works from the Wilson Collection? The Wilson Collection is housed on the 3rd floor of the Main Downtown Library, next to the Fine Arts book section. To make an appointment to view the collection, please call (615) 862-5804 ext. 6092.

Book review: Wolf in White Van

By , October 16, 2014

Can musicians write good books? Jesse doesn’t pull any punches when he takes a look at John Darnielle’s debut novel.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats CD | Freegal

Judas Priest CD | Freegal | Hoopla


music by Black Dice CD | Freegal | Hoopla

Book review: One Kick

By , October 10, 2014

One KickOne Kick
by Chelsea Cain

If you’ve been longing for another fierce female character like Stieg Larsson‘s Lisbeth Salander, Chelsea Cain‘s Kick Lannigan is waiting (rather impatiently!) for you to read her story.

Kick was kidnapped at age six and rescued from her captors five years later in a tense and dramatic FBI operation.  Assimilating back into a normal existence has been difficult for Kick.  Her abductor and abuser trained her to live off the grid and defend herself from outsiders by ANY means necessary.  Now 21, Kick lives with her adopted brother (another survivor of childhood abuse and abduction) and keeps her sanity through an extremely vigorous practice of martial arts, target practice, picking locks as a hobby, and obsessively following news updates on abducted children.

Kick is approached by a mysterious and wealthy man named John Bishop whose hobby is tracking down missing children.  Bishop is convinced Kick’s personal history arms her with the skills and knowledge needed to find these kids alive.  They both know it’s a race against time to find the latest victim before it’s too late.  Will their search bring Kick too close to the terrors of her own past?

If you’ve never read any Chelsea Cain, plan to set aside a chunk of time because once you open one of her books, YOU WON’T PUT IT DOWN!  Trust me, the girl can write a thriller.   Cain set aside her Gretchen Lowell serial killer series to write One Kick, which begs for a sequel.  As one of Cain’s biggest fans, I’m hoping she takes the time and conjures the creative juices she needs to keep writing books in both series.

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