November 4th, 2012 | Mary Hance
November 4th, 2012 | Mary Hance
October Antibullying Month. Vicki Yates, Oct. 24, 2012
Tennessean, Oct. 20
Author Margaret Atwood will accept the Nashville Public Library Literary Award this week. Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” will give a free public lecture at 10 a.m. Saturday at the downtown Nashville Public Library
Tennessean, Oct. 18
Margaret Atwood still has the country western top with embroidered flowers that she received from the “Grand Ole Opry” when she visited Nashville a few years back.
It’s an unusual fashion statement in her hometown of Toronto — even though she tries to pair it tastefully with black jeans.
“Heads turn,” the renowned Canadian author said with a laugh.
Then again, attention is something with which Atwood is well accustomed.
Perhaps best known as the Booker Prize-winning author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Blind Assassin,” Atwood is recognized as a feminist, an environmentalist and a woman with an imagination warped enough to envision off-putting futures that may not be too far from the twisted truth.
Whether writing about a waterless flood or a genetic apocalypse, Atwood’s derisive humor and intelligence have earned her an esteemed reputation worldwide.
Later this month, it’s Music City’s turn to bestow an honor as Atwood is recognized as the 2012 Nashville Public Library Literary Award recipient. She joins past honorees such as John Updike, Ann Patchett and John Irving.
Leading up to the award gala on Saturday, the author’s book “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been selected as the “Nashville Reads” initiative. People across the city are encouraged to read the book and participate in community-led discussions surrounding its themes.
“She’s just at the top of so many people’s list of amazing authors,” said Teri Hughes, president of the Nashville Library Foundation. “She’s just the real deal.”
“Nomadic” has been used to describe Atwood’s upbringing, and it fits.
Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec and Toronto. As a young girl, she spent most of her time in the woods. There was no electricity, no running water, no grocery. Her family filled the kitchen mostly with food from the garden, fish from the lake and canned goods.
“Spam tastes much better when you are eating it in the woods,” she quipped.
The setting inspired literacy — if only because it lacked traditional entertainment like movie theaters and televisions. She was left to play with her older brother, who liked to line up her dolls to fight, and to read.
“I wanted to read so I could read the funny papers by myself,” she said.
Interestingly, comic books were an early creative outlet for Atwood. She conjured worlds conquered by the fantastical, just as many children root their fantasies in far-away lands of wizards and talking animals.
That connection with myth, which Atwood believes proliferates deep within the human psyche, eventually manifested in the speculative fiction she now writes.
She long has moved people away from the idea that her work is science fiction. Raised in a family of scientists, Atwood’s work doesn’t feature blue aliens or spaceships. Instead, she sets her stories in real places where technology’s power, and the people wielding that power, create unusual futures.
Atwood is the author of more than 50 volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction and nonfiction, including her most recent novel, “The Year of the Flood.” A small sampling of awards include the Giller Prize, Ms. Magazine’s Woman of the Year, and the Booker Prize. She holds honorary degrees from several universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard.
And her interests are as varied as her work and recognition.
In an interview more than two decades ago, Atwood listed her interests as bird watching, the ecology movement and writers in prison. More recently it was solar fabrics and algae walls.
Conversation with Atwood easily swings to marine conservation and a short speech on the importance of blue green algae. Without it in the water, she says, “we will stop breathing. It’s that simple.” Right now she is reading “Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants” by Richard Mabey. It offers the origins of Kentucky bluegrass and even unveils which weeds are safe to eat, Atwood said.
And then, there’s libraries.
Last July, Atwood emerged as a crusader against cuts to public libraries, using Twitter to weigh in on the budget debate in Toronto. She tweeted a link to a petition against the public closing of library branches, which was one of a set of proposed cost-cutting measures. Even as technology changes how and what we read, libraries, Atwood said, remain vital. They provide an educational resource for every societal demographic.
“It’s a very democratic thing, a library system, because it allows people without a lot of disposable cash to have the same access as others,” Atwood said.
“There’s a hunger for it,” she added, saying a good library system adds “measurably to a community’s health.”
In Nashville, Atwood’s appearance will continue her mission.
“I think having Margaret Atwood come to Nashville is a real coup,” said Teri Hughes. It shows a writer of such great stature is willing to come talk about her work and share with our really creative city her creative process.”
And though Atwood doesn’t believe her “Opry” attire is appropriate to wear to the gala event, one never knows what other country flair she may inject.
At a Nashville appearance several years back, she opened her speech by singing the first verse of Hank Williams’ tune “Why Don’t You Love Me?”
It was reminiscent of the “Grand Ole Opry” radio shows she listened to as a girl. She liked those songs, because they were “not just mood music, they had plots and stories.”
They turned her head, captured her ear and perhaps helped poise her pen — maybe even playing a part in the writer she is today.
Reach Jessica Bliss at 615-259-8253 or
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -oct 8
The electrifying performance of Memphis piano man Jason D. Williams is often described as a must-see.
Music shows these days often come with perfectly practiced choreography, but Williams has his own plan.
“So spontaneous that it’s beautiful,” he said. “It excites me. Sometimes you’ll see me play, see me laughing, because I just did something and have no idea what I did.”
The entertainer has been performing rock-a-billy shows since the 1970s, and no two shows are ever the same.
“I’ve had two of my band members over 25 years, and we’ve never rehearsed one time. I tell people if we ever go on stage and I know what I’m doing, I’m in trouble,” Williams said.
Born in Arkansas, music soon pulled him to Memphis and Sun Records. Now, he’s on the road playing 200 shows a year.
This week, you can see him play a free gig at the downtown branch of the Nashville Public Library on Tuesday. And he already knows what the crowd will think.
“I get sort of the same reaction, ‘I’ve never seen it done like that before.’ Well, me neither,” Williams said.
Some may be surprised his high-energy does not follow him off stage, and the piano isn’t the only thing he takes on tour.
“Also bring the binoculars wherever I go,” he said.
He has spent 45 years bird watching, just as he was Monday morning at Edwin Warner Park. His is a life surrounded by bush warblers in the morning and boogie-woogie at night.
While his live shows are a spectacle, his talent and passion are off the charts, too.
On stage, you can’t fake either.
“I do love it. It’s a part of me,” Williams said. “I’ve heard it said I get my fans the old fashioned way, one at a time. Well, that’s true. People see it and say, ‘you’ve got to come see this guy.’”
Williams’ performance Tuesday at the downtown library is the final show in this year’s Courtyard Concerts Series. The show starts at 11:45 a.m.
For more information, visit: http://www.rockinjasondwilliams.com/.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Nashville Scene, oct. 2012
Caroline Kennedy When:Tue., Oct. 9, 1 p.m. 2012
Tennessean, Oct. 7
Caroline Kennedy is looking forward to visiting Nashville on Tuesday.
And it’s not just to sign copies of “Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy,” which contains transcripts of highlights of recordings her late father made as Commander in Chief.
Caroline Kennedy also has a good friend here in John Seigenthaler, chairman emeritus of The Tennessean and an aide in the early 1960s to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy during the JFK administration.
“John has been the most incredible friend to generations of our family. He’s been a leader of the Kennedy library,” she said.
“He’s been a wonderful mentor to me. He’s been a big supporter when I wrote a book on the Bill of Rights. So I’m really excited to come.
“He helped me understand so much more about my father, my Uncle Bobby, the administration.”
Caroline Kennedy wrote the introduction for the “Listening In” book, and she is set to sign copies at the Nashville Public Library’s downtown branch, at 615 Church St., at 1 p.m. Tuesday as part of the Salon@615 series (http://nashvillepubliclibrary.org/salonat615).
Kennedy says she enjoys hearing stories from people who were inspired by her father’s calls to service and active citizenship.
“Especially during a campaign year, I’m always meeting people who told me they cast their first vote for my father, or they got involved in their community or they joined the Peace Corps, became a teacher, or somehow became inspired,” she said.
Kennedy, a public supporter of President Barack Obama, is aware that she’s traveling to a red state, but she doesn’t anticipate any run-ins with political opponents.
“I know there are lots of people who disagree with everything,” she said. “But that’s what makes it interesting, and that’s what makes politics important.”
— Brad Schmitt, for The Tennessean
NEW YORK — “American Idol” season 12 tapings are just getting under way, and Nashville’s own Keith Urban has already become more than just a judge: He’s also the pacifier on the newly minted panel.
“We’re all passionate people, and we’re learning a new dance and we’re all a work in progress,” Urban said on Wednesday at the New York Film Festival gala honoring his wife, Nicole Kidman. He likened his role on “Idol” to that of the United Nations.
Rumors of drama between fellow judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey began to swirl as soon as the new panel was announced. A blurry Web video released Tuesday by TMZ.com shows what appears to be an argument between Minaj and Carey, spurring on gossip of discontent.
But Urban insisted the group, which includes veteran judge Randy Jackson, is “getting along.” The new season of the Fox singing competition will premiere in January.
In the Web video, Urban is seen raising his hands in defeat next to a seemingly furious Minaj, who is shouting obscenities. A composed Carey is heard saying, “Why do I have a 3-year-old sitting around me?”
When asked what it feels like to be stationed between the dueling divas Urban cracked a wry smile.
“Best seat in the house,” he said.