Sunday, January 12, 2014

'Tilted World' a love story set against 1927 flood

             Tom Franklin, author of the New York Times bestseller “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” and award-winning poet Beth Ann Fennelly, have teamed up for a novel surrounding the 1927 flood in Mississippi in “The Tilted World.”
            Hard-working Dixie Clay Holliver meets a smooth-talking traveler in Alabama and agrees to leave her family, marry him and move back to his small town of Hobnob, Mississippi. Jesse Holliver turns about to be a bootlegger and their marriage disintegrates, especially after the loss of their first-born child. Dixie Clay throws herself into working the still in an effort to fill her days and because she excels in the process.
            The book begins with the appearance of federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, Ham Johnson, who arrive in the flood-prone town following the disappearance of two fellow agents who’d been on Jesse’s tail. In the middle of the torrential rains, the river growing daily to the tops of the town’s levee and an altercation with Jesse, the agents find an abandoned baby boy. Ted brings the child to Dixie Clay to rear and the two are immediately drawn to one another.
            “The Tilted World” follows the developing relationship between Ted and Dixie Clay, the baby’s appearance that offers a balm to Dixie Clay’s soul and the prospect of a sabauteur in town who may blow up the levee in exchange for money from a New Orleans interest.
            Fans of the “Great Flood” will enjoy this small town insider’s approach through a fictional story, and the relationship that develops between Dixie Clay and Ted is heartwarming amidst the terror of the Mississippi opening its mouth to devour the town. At times, however, the book drags, which is unfortunate since the plot structure of a love affair between a bootlegger and a federal agent offers wonderful conflict. For the most part the seams between the two writers are invisible but occasionally the voice appears tangibly different. But don’t let my minor disappointments deter you, book reviewers are raving about the story.

New releases
            New Orleans poet and UNO graduate Gina Ferrara has just published a new collection of poetry titled “Amber Porch Light.” Ferrara is also the author of a 2006 chapbook, “The Size of Sparrows.” Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including The Poetry Ireland Review, The Briar Cliff Review, and Callaloo. She is currently at work on a collection of poems about the leprosaurium located in Carville.
            Frank de Caro, a folklorist and professor emeritus of English at LSU, has published “a memoir that explores why all our stories matter” titled “Stories of Our Lives: Memory, History, Narrative” by Utah State University Press. Featuring personal stories from De Caro’s life and years of field research as a folklorist, the book is part memoir and part exploration of how the stories we tell shape our sense of self. De Caro is also the author of “Louisiana Sojourns: Travelers’ Tales and Literary Journeys” (1998, with Rosan A. Jordan), which received the Louisiana Humanities Book Award, and other books.
             “Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of Seldon Hackney” is a collection of essays by one of the nation’s most distinguished Southern historians, a man who served as provost of Princeton University, president of Tulane University and the University of Pennsylvania, and chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The book contains essays from 18 historians, former colleagues and students of Hackney. The book is edited by Raymond Arsenault and Orville Vernon Burton.
            Shaquana Jackson of Abbeville has just published a novel titled “Now That the Cover is Removed,” available online through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. The book follows three girlfriends where when the truth is revealed their friendships take a beating. Read more at her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/authorshaquana.jackson.

Spring picks
            Members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance choose books each winter, known as the Okra Picks, as those they are excited about selling. Here are a few Southern titles SIBA wants you to read. Look for reviews of these books in coming months to this column. They are:


            “The In-Between Hour” by Barbara Claypole White (Mira Books);

            “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd (Viking);
            “Starting Over: Stories by Elizabeth Spencer” (Liveright Publishing);
            “The Last Days of California” by Mary Miller (Liveright Publishing);
            “The Secret of Magic” by Deborah Johnson (Amy Einhorn Books);            
            “Without Mercy: The Stunning True Story of Race, Crime and Corruption in the Deep South” by David Beasley (St. Martin’s Press);
            “This Dark Road to Mercy” by Wiley Cash (Morrow)

            “The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing” by Sheila Turnage (Kathy Dawson Books);
            “One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band” by Alan Paul (St. Martin’s);
            “A Snicker of Magic” by Natalie Lloyd (Scholastic);
            “Long Man” by Amy Greene (Knopf); and
            “Down South: Bourbon, Pork, Gulf Shrimp & Second Helpings of Everything” by Donald Link (Clarkson Potter).
            For more information, visit sibaweb.com/okra.

Books by UL authors
            There have been several books recently published by UL-Lafayette graduates.
            Leslie Moise, who has a docorate in English from UL, published “Love is the Thread: A Knitting Friendship” with Pearlsong Press.
            Don Landry of Baton Rouge published “Boxing: Louisiana’s Forgotten Sport.”
            John Hornung has self-published four ebooks in the last two years.
            Deborah Little, who lives in Montgomery, Ala., has published “Growing Up Little: Uptown New Orleans and Rural Alabama.”
            April Fallon, a UL graduate and currently a professor of English at Kentucky State University, published “Universe of Discourse” with Finishing Line Press under the name of A.D. Fallon.
            Roy Bourgeois published his memoir, “My Journey from Silence to Solidarity,” which details his call to ministry and the founding of the School of Americas Watch.
            Daniel Haulman, chief of the Organizational Histories Branch of the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, has published “What Hollywood Got Right and Wrong about the Tuskegee Airmen in the Great New Movie, ‘Red Tails.’” He is also the author of “The Tuskegee Airmen and the ‘Never Lost a Bomber’ Myth.”  
            Tony Leuzzi published a collection of interviews with leading American poets titled “Passwords Primeval.”

Book events
            “The Story of Felicia Fuksman: Holocaust Survivor” begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at South Regional Library. Through photos and video clips, Katherine Watson, Southern Institute for Education and Research’s Goldring Teacher Fellow, will tell the story of Holocaust survivor Felicia Fuksman, her early childhood, experiences during World War II and her arrival in New Orleans.
            French Story Times will occur on select Wednesdays and Saturdays at Lafayette libraries. Bedtime Stories in French
will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday and Feb. 12

and special Saturday Story Times in French
begin at 11 a.m. Jan. 25 and Feb. 22 at South Regional Library.
            Children ages 5-12 can make a penguin collage at 4 p.m. Thursday at the South Regional Library. Preregistration is required.
            Nunu Arts and Culture Collective in Arnaudville will host authors
Philip Andrepont, Pat Morrow and Warren Perrin on Friday for their monthly potluck at 1510 Courtableau Road, Arnaudville. The three have written a pictorial history of St. Landry Parish titled “Images of America St. Landry Parish.” Copies of the book will be available. Visit www.nunucollective.org/ for more information.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, 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 cherecoen@gmail.com.