Nashvillians got a literary treat on Saturday night, thanks to local nonprofit and writer's collective The Porch. In their first annual fundraiser, founders Susannah Felts and Katie McDougall put together an "only in Nashville" lineup of musicians and storytellers for a very memorable evening.
The headliners of "A Tale of Two Tims" were Tim O'Brien and Tim O'Brien—one a National Book Award-winning author of books like The Things They Carried and Tomcat in Love; the other, a Grammy-winning Americana and bluegrass performer. Despite occasionally receiving each other's mail, the two had never met until this weekend.
In an introduction that laid out the mission for The Porch, Felts (left) said that they wanted the city to be known as much for its writing as it is for its culinary, culture and music scenes. McDougall (right) went on to honor storytelling as a very human need, something as natural as breathing. "And like breathing, it's easy to take for granted," she said.
It certainly felt that storytelling was as natural as breathing for the artists featured in A Tale of Two Tims. First up was Korby Lenker, who charmed the crowd with the song "Book Nerd" (which is apparently a favorite with the staff of Parnassus Books, for obvious reasons!).
Lenker's second song, "My Little Life," was performed with flair on a ukulele.
Next up was spoken-word artist Minton Sparks (pictured with guitarist John Jackson). Watching someone tell you a story might sound like a dull, Victorian sort of entertainment, but Sparks makes her tales of country life and the strange characters in her own family tree completely mesmerizing, incorporating music, expressive body language and onomatopoeia into her electric performances. In between stories, she treated the audience to some off-the-cuff anecdotes from her early (and quickly abandoned) career as a songwriter, saying "some of my material's not what radio is looking for, to be honest."
Next, musician Tim O'Brien took the stage to perform a couple of songs, including one inspired by the work of Annie Proulx, "Brother Wind."
Then it was on to Tim O'Brien, author, who broke the ice with a magic show complete with lovely assistant, disappearing cards and a dancing table.
Then, it was the long awaited moment when the two Tims (hereafter referred to as Author Tim and Musician Tim) came together. "He's gonna do magic and I'm gonna sing," joked Author Tim...but actually, the two participated in a Q&A session moderated by Andrew Maraniss (whose first book, Strong Inside, just made the NYT Sports bestseller list).
Maraniss' first question for Author Tim was, "Why magic?" To which Author Tim responded, "I asked myself that 10 minutes ago! I almost had a heart attack." He went on to discuss the way that stories "are also an illusion," saying that both stories and magic "require a suspension of disbelief."
Musician Tim agreed that musical performances also require sleight of hand and illusion, saying that most performers he knew were pretty different from their onstage selves.
Most moving moment: Author Tim illustrated the way that readers contribute to a work by bringing their own experience to it by recalling a memory of his platoon singing "Hey Jude." "I remember 100 soldiers going across a rice paddy in Vietnam near dusk, almost twilight. One guy—this makes me wanna cry—one guy started singing that song, and then another guy. And then as we crossed that paddy it was like a boys choir. And we were boys. Nineteen, 20, 21 years old. Don't carry the world upon your shoulders." (Listen to this clip.)
Funniest anecdote: Musician Tim once cashed an unclaimed check from Playboy that was most likely meant for Author Tim. "I owe you $500," he joked.
On the process: Author Tim admitted that "I'm an underwear guy. I rarely get dressed."
Simile alert: Musician Tim imagined that writing a novel is "like writing 100 albums."
The program ended with a reading from The Things They Carried by Author Tim, while Musician Tim played "Time to Learn" to a spellbound crowd—who responded with a standing ovation.
We can't wait to see what else The Porch has in store for us in 2015! For more on the two Tims, check out the interview they did with Parnassus Books.
Wes Moore's The Work, his latest book after the haunting and fascinating The Other Wes Moore, focuses on finding purpose in life and work. Our reviewer writes, "These stories underscore Moore’s point that the meaning of life is clearer when we are willing to serve others, whether as an inner-city principal or a social entrepreneur. The Work will resonate with people seeking their own purpose in life." (Read the review here.)
We were curious about the books Moore has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked him to recommend three favorites, which he graciously agreed to share.
This is a wonderfully compelling book about the subtle, yet life-altering changes our choices and circumstances make.
I love the constant battle between proving a model while always challenging it. The work we do with BridgeEdU and reinventing the freshman year of college takes a lot of lessons from this book.
This book had me from the beginning with the Confucius quote: “A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it, is committing another mistake.” Enough said.
Thank you, Wes! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Amun Ankhra)
Paula McLain's The Paris Wife was one of the standouts among the crop of books starring the wives of famous men, a trend that launched with Nancy Horan's 2007 bestseller Loving Frank. On July 7, McLain's third novel will be published by Ballantine—but this time, she's taking on the life of a woman who can stand on her own: aviator Beryl Markham.
Markham was the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic, a feat she chronicled in her 1942 memoir West with the Night. According to early reports, McLain will also delve into Markham's rivalry with Out of Africa author Karen Blixen.
Any Paris Wife fans looking forward to this one?
Photo by Stephen Cutri.
Cathy Barrow encourages healthy, local eating for all seasons with her easy recipes for DIY preserving in her newest cookbook, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving. This quick and no-fuss recipe for Fennel, Orange, and Olive Refrigerator Pickles is a great place for the uninitiated to dive into the world of canning.
Fennel, Orange, and Olive Refrigerator Pickles
makes: one 24-ounce jar
active time: 20 minutes
standing time: 2 days
This piquant pickle was inspired by a plate of olives, caper berries and bitter oranges served with sherry at an outdoor cafe in Seville. A wide-mouth jar will make this job a little easier. So will long tweezers or a chopstick, if you want to get fancy.
Serve with salty Marcona almonds.
1. Trim the stalks from the fennel and peel away the tough outer sections of the bulb. (Put these parts in a bag in the freezer to make vegetable broth or add to a batch of chicken stock.) Remove about ½ inch of the root end of each fennel bulb, then slice vertically down the center. Set the fennel cut side down on the cutting board and slice wedges from the bulbs.
2. Wash the orange well. Slice into slim 1⁄4-inch rounds, rind and all. Remove any seeds. Cut the slices into half-moons. Press the oranges against the inside of the jar, then fit the fennel wedges into the center of the jar, adding a few olives here and there as you go.
3. In a small saucepan, warm the vinegar, salt, sugar and tarragon, stirring just until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the ice cubes and stir until cool.
4. Pour the cooled brine into the jar. Cover and place in a cool, dark spot for 2 days.
5. Chill the pickles before serving. They will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.
If you need any proof that books aren't dead, just look to the children's and young adult industry, which continues to grow and dominate bestseller charts for adults and young readers alike.
To celebrate this "golden age" of children's and YA books, Time Magazine has compiled a list of all-time classics, both old and new. The children's list includes favorites such as The Giving Tree and Make Way for Ducklings, and my own personal favorite, Miss Rumphius. Check out the full list of 100 here, and vote for your favorite.
The young adult list is a little . . . let's say confusing, and we're not the only ones who feel this way. Books like Wonder—which is middle grade, not young adult—share space with A Monster Calls, and it's almost unfathomable to see Twilight and To Kill a Mockingbird on the same list. See the full 100 here.
Readers, what do you think?
Right off the bat, this debut from British writer Seskis displays impressive control and pacing. Hints are doled out at just the right time, with Seskis' excellent prose keeping her reader's attention.
Emily has run away from her husband and children and started a new life as "Cat." But Seskis isn't so careless as to allow the reader to pass judgement on this abandonment; rather, she jumps back and forth in Emily/Cat's story, as well as in the story of her parents', to reveal what's really going on. One of the first elements of the mystery that readers learn is that Emily/Cat has (had?) a twin, named Caroline, who was wholly unexpected to her pregnant mother:
The doctor tried again. "Congratulations, Mrs. Brown, you're soon to be the mother of twins. You have a second baby to deliver."
"What d'you mean?" she'd screamed. "I've had my bloody baby."
Now she lay there in shock and all she could think was that she didn't want two babies, she only wanted one, she only had one crib, one pram, one set of baby clothes, one life prepared.
Frances was a planner by nature. She didn't like surprises, certainly not ones this momentous, and apart from anything else she felt far too exhausted to give birth again—the first birth may have been quick, but it had been fierce and traumatic and nearly three weeks ahead of schedule. She shut her eyes and wondered when Andrew would arrive. She hadn't been able to get him at his office, he'd been out at a meeting apparently, and once the contractions had quicked to every minute and a half she'd known her only option was to call an ambulance.
So her first baby arrived in a gush of red and a gash of loneliness—and now she was being told to deliver a second and still her husband was absent. Andrew hadn't seemed too keen on having one baby, so God knows what he'd think of this development. She started sobbing, noisy snot-filled gulps that rang through the little hospital.
"Mrs. Brown, will you control yourself!" the midwife said. Frances loathed her, with her mean features and squeaky, grating voice—what was she even doing in this job, she thought bitterly, she'd suck the air out of any situation, even the beauty of birth, like a malevolent pair of bellows.
"Can I see my baby?" Frances said. "I haven't even seen her yet."
"She's being checked. Just concentrate on this one."
"I don't want to concentrate on this one. I want my real baby. Give me my real baby." She was screeching now. The midwife got the gas and air and held it over Frances's face, pressing hard. Frances gagged and finally stopped screaming, and as she quieted the fight went out of her and something in her died, there on that hospital bed.
One Step Too Far goes on sale in a few weeks. Think you'll check it out?
The global phenomenon that is Harry Potter will never, ever end. (Insert maniacal laughter here.) A new deluxe, fully illustrated, full-color edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is coming on October 6, 2015, from Scholastic.
It will be illustrated by Kate Greenaway Medal winner Jim Kay (A Monster Calls) and will be the first fully illustrated HP book. Scholastic recently released four new images from the book. Check out Kay's Ron, Hagrid, Hermione and Draco:
Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
If you're looking for romance with some serious political flair, look no further than Emma Barry's Party Lines, the third book in her Easy Part series.
Michael Picetti isn't too excited about traveling to frigid Iowa for their notoriously difficult caucuses during the presidential primary campaign. While dead serious about getting his Democratic candidate elected, he's also looking for a bit of a distraction during the grueling campaign. And he thinks he's found it when the lovely and whip-smart Lydia Reales sits beside him on the plane to Iowa. But the ambitious, no-nonsense Lydia is no easy victory—not to mention the fact that she's working for the opponent. However, despite their diametrically opposed beliefs, the two can't seem to shake each other as the campaign rolls on.
Barry paints a true-to-life world of political aides—from the subtle sexism Lydia faces to the long, stress-filled hours. If you're a fan of political dramas like “Scandal” or even “House of Cards”—the political lingo is that spot-on—but want a bit more steam in the boardroom, you're in luck with this one.
Lydia tramped across a snowy sidewalk and stared at the title of Toby’s email. RESULTS OF THE RANDALL OPPO the subject screamed. As long as she didn’t open it, it could contain anything. It could be the details that would derail Randall’s campaign; it could be a complete acquittal; it could be a few details that might turn into something with time. Until it had been read, the email’s potential was limitless.
With the results of the Iowa caucuses scarcely two days old, and the media buzzing about Randall’s win in the Democrat primary and Stafford’s “surprise”—at least according to them—second place showing in the Republican one, whatever was in the email mattered more than ever . . . .
Some part of her knew there would be other consequences, more personal ones. She hadn’t seen Michael Picetti since they’d had dinner in Des Moines weeks ago. She’d been bouncing around the country.
She’d looked for him in airports and hotel lobbies and thought about his dark eyes much more than she should have. Or his hands—his damn languid hands that were always moving to illustrate the stupid things he said or brushing his hair back in place. She’d had a dream three nights before about those hands . . .
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
Our January Top Pick in Lifestyles is Lisa Occhipinti's Novel Living! Sure to please any crafty bibliophile, this whimsical yet wise book is filled with advice on everything from collecting rare and unique books to building and organizing your home library, with some fantastic book-centric craft projects to boot. Try your hand at these Lighted Book Boxes and show off your own literary treasures!
Lighted Book Boxes
This is simple and elegant book storage that doesn't take up any floor space. Basic wooden crates, whether purchased new or sourced from a flea market, are outfitted with a little mood lighting and textile design then hung on the wall. I made mine from wooden wine crates and vintage wallpaper. The little light inside illuminates the books like art.
1. Decide whether you want your book box to be oriented vertically or horizontally. Consider the books it will hold and where you are placing it on the wall. Drill two holes that fit the size of your screws on the back of the crate about one-third of the way down from the top and equally spaced apart. Sand any rough edges or nicks on your crate.
2. Paint the outer facing edges of the crate with the acrylic paint. Allow to dry.
3. Measure the height and width of the back wall of the crate, reducing the measurement by 1/8” (3 mm) on the top and one side, and cut your foam core to fit to that measurement.
4. Cover the foam core with your wallpaper or fabric. Apply spray glue to the foam core, and place it glue side down on the back of the wallpaper. Flip over and smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles with the bone folder. Flip back over, trim your corners for a nice finish, and wrap and glue the edges. Affix the covered foam core to the back of the crate with hot glue.
5. Measure the center point of the crate’s “ceiling” and affix your puck light at that point, following the package instructions.
6. Position the crate on the wall where you would like to hang and use a pencil to mark where the screws will go, measuring the space between the two holes. Set the screws and wall anchors in the wall at the points you marked, with the screws extending out 3/8” (1 cm), and hang the crate from the holes drilled in the back of the crate.