The Shoe Burnin'

STORIES OF SOUTHERN SOUL

A charming collection of poetry, stories, essays and music shared by storytellers, for storytellers, at an annual Southern gathering—the Shoe Burnin’.
In this unique assortment of poetry, prose, memoir, music and more, editor Formichella (Whores for Life, 1997) introduces readers to one of the South’s worst-kept secrets: the Shoe Burnin’, an event spawned by a drinking binge and a burn pile fueled by a box of old footwear. Now an annual Thanksgiving tradition taking place just outside Fairhope, Alabama, the Shoe Burnin’ hosts Southern writers eager to share stories with their peers over a pile of burning canvas and leather. Collected here, thanks in no small part to curator and contributor Shari Smith, are the works of some of these gatherers, a multimedia experience of more than 20 stories along with an accompanying CD presenting several of those tales in spoken word form, alongside songs influenced by the traditions of blues, soul, country and folk music. Each story is a balance of crass and colorful, hip and quirky, some featuring straightforward narratives while others amble, attempting to capture something more ethereal. There’s a surprising level of inclusiveness as well, with numerous female authors, the integration of other cultures and, in Marlin Barton’s “Short Days, Dog Days,” the mash-up of a man dealing with his daughter’s lesbianism and a floating light, illustrating the begrudging changes to Southern values. Other tales convey familiar country archetypes with modern-day twists, perhaps the most notable being Suzanne Hudson’s “All the Way to Memphis,” featuring a murderous housewife picking up an ADHD-stricken hitchhiker who turns her on to a sort of morbid self-actualization. The repetition of shoes in each story, the theme that ties it all together, can seem pat at times, but focusing overmuch on that would be missing the point; the shoes are merely an excuse, a gateway for the storytellers to share with their fellow storytellers as the footwear fire burns.

A charming assortment that, for some readers, could retune the meaning of Southern.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1940595009

Page Count: 216

Publisher: River's Edge Media

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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