Sunday, August 11, 2013

New Orleans' George Bishop follows up with delightful coming-of-age story

             It’s 1973 in the small town of Terrebonne outside of Thibodaux and Comet Kohoutek has been spotted. For Alan Broussard, a geeky science teacher, the comet’s arrival means a chance to shine and for his intelligence to be validated among kids too bored to care. For his 14-year-old son, “Junior,” the comet’s arrival mirrors his adolescent feelings, a fireball of energy falling in love for the first time.
            George Bishop pens this coming-of-age tale in “The Night of the Comet,” his follow-up novel to his impressing debut, “Letter to My Daughter.” In addition to father and son’s hope for exciting possibilities, both of which may be painfully crushed, there’s Alan’s wife, Lydia, also bored with her life and her tedious husband. She dreams of more, much like her daughter, Meagan, itching to leave home and seek out broader horizons.
            The Broussard family lingers in limbo until the comet arrives, but its presence and the events surrounding its arrival may not be the answer to their prayers.
            As in his previous novel, Bishop offers a delicate look inside a breaking family, examines the hopes and dreams of youth that stale as people head through life and the expectations we sometimes attach to stars.
            Bishop earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has lived and taught in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India and Japan. He now lives in New Orleans.
New releases
            Bennett Sims of Baton Rouge has penned a zombie novel titled “A Questionable Shape” in which his character Mazoch returns home to find his father’s home a mess and his father missing. In the midst of a zombie epidemic, he creates a list of his father's haunts and enlists help in tracking him down. However, hurricane season threatens to wipe out any undead not already contained, and eliminate all hope of finding Mazoch’s father. Sims is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’ Workshop, and has had stories published in A Public Space, Tin House and Zoetrope: All-Story. He currently teaches at the University of Iowa, where he is Provost Postgraduate Visiting Writer in Fiction.

Now in paperback
            Last year on Aug. 23 a book was published that marked the 100th anniversary of the alleged kidnapping of Louisiana toddler Bobby Dunbar, a story that fascinated America at the time and riveted recent listeners when an episode aired on National Public Radio’s “This American Life.” The case became a book, “A Case for Solomon,” by Tal McThenia and Bobby's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, and the paperback version is out now.     
                   The story follows 4-year-old Dunbar, who disappeared after enjoying an afternoon at the family camp on Swayze Lake near Opelousas. The parents believed the boy had been kidnapped and eight months later were certain a boy fitting Bobby’s description was found in Mississippi. What followed was and still is one of the most fascinating cases in America history, one in which DNA finally solved the 100-year-old mystery.
            If you haven’t read the hardback, now’s your chance to get a copy.
            Also out in paperback is Nathalie Dupree’s “Comfortable Entertaining: At Home with Ease and Grace” (University of Georgia Press), with photography by Tom Eckerle. The cookbook won a James Beard award years ago for best cookbook and is now being reissued in paperback.

Acadian Day
            Acadian Culture Day will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Vermilionville, focusing on family folklore and including a genealogy station, table Francaise, cooking demonstrations, boat tours and canoeing, artist demonstrations, games and crafts for children, film screenings, music in the Performance Center by Recolte Band and Al Berard Family Band, and more. Admission is free. For information, visit

Book events
            Lolis Eric Elie signs “Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at 9 Le Musée de f.p.c. and Community Books, 2336 Esplanade in New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “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