Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Duff imagines 'Evangeline League' baseball in 'Dirty Rice'

            The University of Louisiana Press has published a novel by Gerald Duff just in time for the opening of baseball season and Duff’s visit to Lafayette. Unfortunately, I received it so close to press time that I didn’t get a chance to read it myself. But here’s a synopsis and a few comments from those who have:
            “Dirty Rice” follows talented pitcher Gemar Batiste of Texas who is recruited in 1935 to play for the Rayne Rice Birds, a minor league team and part of the “Evangeline League.” He brings the team fame with his expertise but, because of his Alabama-Coushatta Indian heritage, is asked to play the stereotypical Indian, encouraged to cheat. Batiste must learn how to honor his heritage and uphold the integrity of the game.
            Cajun author and photographer Greg Guirard said of the novel, “I am ready to believe that Gemar Batiste really existed, that he played and starred for the Rayne Rice Birds in 1935. In fact, I would be disappointed to learn that it all never happened. I am also ready to believe that the author played in the Evangeline League, so accurate and authentic is his stance and delivery. There is nostalgia of the best sort in this book, as well as humor, sadness and a generous serving of Native American philosophy.”
            “Gerald Duff's Native American hero, Gemar Batiste, is to baseball what Huck Finn was to the Mississippi River,” wrote John Ed Bradley, author of “It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium.” “‘Dirty Rice’ is so vividly imagined that it often feels like an honest-to-god memoir, with its precise and unflinching evocation of place and its treatment of men both good and bad whose one true gift to the world was how they played the game.”
            Duff grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast and the piney woods of East Texas. He studied at the University of Illinois, taught literature and writing at Vanderbilt University, Kenyon College, St. John's College of Oxford University, Rhodes College, and Johns Hopkins University. He has published 13 books, including a memoir and collections of poetry and short stories. “Dirty Rice” is his eighth novel.
            Duff will read from and sign copies of “Dirty Rice” at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Gaines Center on the third floor of the Dupre Library on the UL campus. He will also sign books at 6 p.m. Friday at the Lafayette Barnes and Noble.
LSU Press lit series receives new editor
            The LSU Press Southern Literary Series continues its History of Distinguished Editorship with scholar Scott Romine, who will become the series editor this fall. Romine is the associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has published two books with LSU Press.
            The series was founded in 1963 by Louis D. Rubin Jr., with Fred Hobson taking the reins in 1993. More than 100 books have appeared under Hobson’s editorship, including Romine’s “The Real South: Southern Narrative in the Age of Cultural Reproduction” and “The Narrative Forms of Southern Community.” LSU Press has published four of Hobson’s 15 books, including “But Now I See: The White Southern Racial Conversion Narrative,” “Tell About the South: The Southern Rage to Explain” and “The Silencing of Emily Mullen and Other Essays.”
            Hobson, the Lineberger Professor in the Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, calls the series “the most significant series in Southern literary studies for the past 40 years.” Its titles have garnered numerous Hugh Holman Awards, given annually by the Society for the Study of Southern Literature for the best book in Southern literary studies.

New releases
            Moira Crone, a former director of the MFA writing program at LSU and author of three short story collections and a novel, has published “The Not Yet,” about a group of people called the “Heirs” who never die leaving the rest of humanity to scrape out of living in a dystopian New Orleans in 2121. The book is published by UNO Press.
             Carolyn Morrow Long takes on the “most haunted house in New Orleans” in “Madame Lalaurie, Mistress of the Haunted House.” When fire broke out in the French Quarter home of Madame Delphine Lalaurie, people found slaves bound and tortured inside. The public was horrified, sending the family from the city and the Lalauries living in exile in France. Today, people claim the Lalaurie mansion is haunted, a regular feature of the city’s ghost tours. A resident of New Orleans and Washington, D.C., Long is retired from the National Museum of American History and the author of “A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau.”
            Novelist, playwright, storyteller and college instructor Joe Reese of Lafayette has published “And the Flowers Began to Dance: A Novel of Chicago.” Mia Walker, the heroine of the novel, expects to live a quiet life as the docent at The Chicago Art Institute. Instead, she finds herself involved in international art smuggling. For more information and to obtain a copy, visit www.TigerEyePubs.com.

New children’s titles
            The amazingly talented William Joyce of Shreveport, known for his animated films and TV series, has published a delightful board book titled “The Man in the Moon,” which explains how the man on our nighttime orb got there in the first place. The book begins Joyce’s “Guardians of Childhood” series, which explain the origins of the Tooth Fairy, Santa and the Sandman, among others, all lovingly illustrated with exquisite attention to detail. These details — celestial maps, tiny creatures in the background, whimsical designs — are what children will pour over, in addition to the story.
            Joyce has also begun “The Guardian” series for young readers. “Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King” is the first in the series, a chapter book explaining the origin of St. Nick, written with Laura Geringer.
            Pelican Publishing of New Orleans has produced two new children’s titles — “The Buzz on Honeybees” by Cathy Kaemmerlen, illustrated by Kathy Coates and “When You’re a Pirate Dog and Other Pirate Poems” by Eric Ode, illustrated by Jim Harris. “Honeybees” extols the incredible virtues of the honeybee while “Pirate Poems” takes kids on a pirate adventure through rhythm.

Book events
            Former Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry will be signing “Driving Mr. Yogi: Yogi Berra, Ron Guidry and Baseball’s Greatest Gift” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Lafayette Barnes & Noble, 5705 Johnston St. in Lafayette.
            The Lafayette Public Library Foundation will hold its Awards Luncheon and Annual Meeting beginning at 11 a.m. Friday at the City Club at River Ranch. There will be a special screening of the 2012 Academy Award-winning best animated short film, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by Moonbot Studios of Shreveport, plus presentations to honorees J.C. Chargois, Foundation Award; Dorothy Stevens, President’s Award; and Broussard, Poche, Lewis & Breaux, LLP, Major Donor Award. Tickets are $30; call Pamela Stroup at 981-3425 or 278 7166.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at chere@louisianabooknews.com.