Mother Maybelle and June Cash
11/3/2009I spent this past weekend in Oxford, Mississipi. I ate roasted goat, and roasted peanuts, and I ate seafood gumbo over biscuits prepared by the City Bakery Café. I heard Robert O’Mealy talk about Ellison and sweet potatoes and I heard folk talk about work songs and safety. I met Hank Williams daughter born days after he died. And I got to talk about Mother Maybelle Carter’s cookbook. It was a very, very good time. If you ever get a chance to attend the Southern Foodways Alliance Fall Symposium, take it. It’s kind of like smart camp for grownups--if you ditch the home sickness and add American History presented the tastiest way possible.
10/27/2009The good Lord was willing but the creek did rise. Last Tuesday no new blog post! The creek was a flood of words on the subject of “Birthing Cynara, Windsor, and Hope: a novel reader turned novel writer (at forty) reflects on: talking back, speaking up, well shaped silences; the scholars who played midwife to her fiction; and the novels her novels talk to from Epitaph of a Small Winner to the Coldest Winter ever.” Mainly I talked about ‘the baby plot.’ I am writing from the literal middle of Pennsylvania, from the Nittany Lion Inn in University Park which this weekend is the epicenter of Contemporary African American Novel studies. Lovalerie King, a scholar with roots in Arkansas but with a globe spanning reach, put on a powerful conference.
10/13/2009I’ve been going to the Van Vechten Gallery as Fisk University for almost as long as I’ve been living in Nashville. And that’s long enough to have attended two different re-openings spaced near to twenty years apart.
10/6/2009The Hermitage Hotel in downtown Nashville is a swanky place that turns one hundred this year. It is a setting in my new novel Rebel Yell and it is a setting in my last novel Pushkin and the Queen of Spades. I am a fan of the place. Everyone knows about its amazing green tiled men’s room. Fewer people know about The Oak Room bar. Tucked just off the main dining room The Oak Room is my favorite place to eat lunch on a rainy day in Nashville.
9/30/2009Book tour for Rebel Yell begins. My husband David and I left Nashville in heavy rain and headed east toward Knoxville . Just around Carthage, Al Gore’s hometown, we saw a sign that questioned, “ If you die today where will you spend eternity?” Half the cars that pass us have a white guy wearing a orange shirt of some sort at the wheel and I know it must be game day in Knoxville. The fact I know this is proof things are different in the South. Things are so different in the sitting room part of my bedroom there is a closet and in that closet beside my sitting room fireplace is a “big orange” Tee Martin jersey . By "big orange" I mean it is literally quite big and orange and I mean that it is a replica of an official University of Tennessee football jersey. And there is a Tee Martin baseball cap that is not official. That baseball cap has a funny little medallion that is a picture of Tee that moves with a shimmer so it looks like Tee is throwing a forward pass. When things are hard for me with my writing work I uni up in my Tee Martin gear, official and unofficial, and I return to the struggle of writing, reminded the struggle of telling stories supports the struggle of living lives. On book tour I cannot wear that uniform. Driving toward Greenville, South Carolina, the first earthly stop on a book tour that will occur largely in cyberspace I’m wearing a white pleated shirt and a long black cardigan and black leggings and pearls. There’s a diamond band on the fourth finger of my left hand and there are flat black suede driving loafers on my feet. I am unied up in a kind of preppy propriety crossed with Johnny Cash outlaw country chic, that some how fits, because it stretches, this round brown lady, who migrated from Motown to Music City.