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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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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