On the morning after my mother’s sudden death, before I was up, someone brought a basket of muffins, good coffee beans, and a bottle of cream—real cream, unwhipped—left them at the back door, and tiptoed away. I couldn’t eat. The smell of coffee turned my stomach, but my head was pounding from all the what ifs playing across it all night long, and I thought perhaps the cream would make a cup of coffee count as breakfast if I could keep it down. (more…)
In spring, I search for nests. I part the branches of shrubs and low-limbed trees, peering into their depths for a clump of sticks and string and shredded plastic — the messy structure of a mockingbird’s nest. I squat and look upward for a cardinal’s tidy brown bowl. I stand even with the end of my house and look from the side into the ivy climbing the bricks, searching for a tiny avian hammock tucked into the leaves by house finches. I check the fern hanging under the eaves for the vortex tunnel built by a Carolina wren. (more…)
NASHVILLE — In the world of apostolic betrayals, it’s Judas who gets the headlines, but the everyday believer is more apt to fall in line behind Peter. Coldly handing Jesus over to his death in exchange for 30 pieces of silver was an over-the-top, cartoon-level move, but Peter’s terrified denial of the man he believed to be the savior of the world? That one seems immensely human to me. (more…)
Weeks ago, when they first appeared in the neighborhood, I assumed they were starlings. A flock of starlings is the bane of the bird feeder — a vast, clamoring mob of unmusical birds soiling the windshields and lawn furniture, muscling one another aside so violently that no other birds dare draw near the suet. But this flock stayed high in the treetops, far from my feeders, too far away to recognize. Then a cold snap kept all the puddles frozen for days, and every bird in the ZIP code showed up at my heated birdbath to drink. (more….)
On November 16, John Lewis—along with his collaborators, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell—won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature with March: Book Three, the third installment of a memoir rendered as an extended-length comic book. But long before he accepted that honor, Lewis had already been named the 2016 recipient of the Nashville Public Library Literary Award, a prize that last week brought him back to Nashville, where he first began his long career as a civil-rights activist.
It’s October, when your birthday always seems to fall on the most splendid day of the year. Even if it’s a work day, you must find some time to set aside your small whirring machines and your contentions. Maybe there is a creek that all summer has been still and dry and now is wet and tumbling with tiny twigs and leaves and sweetgum balls. Maybe there is a field gone golden with weeds, with finches perched in the seedcrowns. Maybe there is an old train track that hosts no trains but lays out a whole parade route of purple thistles, or a dirt road where the close pines have set down a thick carpet for your hurting feet. (more….)
Mary Laura Philpott is neither a novelist nor a journalist, but she makes her living as a writer anyway. In fact, studying Philpott’s work could serve as a kind of crash course in turning a gift for words into a career: she’s been an op-ed columnist (for The New York Times no less), a ghostwriter (she’s not saying for whom), an editor (she runs Musing, the online journal at Parnassus Books in Nashville), an essayist (most recently for Proximity), a blogger (at I Miss You When I Blink), even a poet of humorous legal verse and a member of Us Weekly’s fashion police. And next week Philpott will add author to her list of writerly titles—on June 2, Penguins With People Problems officially hits stores.
“Marry an orphan,” my mother used to say, “and you can always come home for Christmas.” What she should have said was: “Marry an orphan, or you’ll have four parents to nurse through every torment life doles out on the long, long path to the grave.” (more….)
Jess Walter is more than a novelist, more than a poet, more than a journalist: he’s that old-fashioned kind of author who can fairly call himself, simply, a writer. Walter writes novels, short stories, poems, journalism (for the likes of Harper’s and Esquire), narrative nonfiction, and screenplays (next up: the film version of his newest novel, Beautiful Ruins). Even as a novelist, Walter is not a hedgehog but a fox, moving agilely between genres, subjects, and literary styles, always with his finger on the pulse of the world:
Novelist Anne Lamott has built a career of writing hilariously and movingly about her own shortcomings: she’s bossy, she’s anxious, she often forgets important lessons she’s already learned many times. Nevertheless, she has become a kind of patron saint to millions of readers, whole categories of readers, who welcome her advice on parenting, writing, faith, and recovery from addiction. Lamott’s book of writing advice, Bird by Bird, is a bestseller. Her books on faith—Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace (Eventually)—are bestsellers. Her first parenting memoir, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year is, yes, a megabestseller.