Artober Nashville: Saturday's Highlights for the 2013 Southern Festival of Books



As part of the festival's focus this year on the convergence of literature and health, New York Times/New Yorker contributor Katy Butler will discuss her book Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death (11 a.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room IA), which challenges the insistence on prolonging life long after the quality of life has gone.

• Because of George Singleton, we've been known to say to no one in particular, "This itches, y'all," and fall over laughing. You'll have to read his 2003 short-story collection The Half-Mammals of Dixie to find out why — or ask him at the "Masters of the Short Story" panel with Bret Anthony Johnston, noted for his striking collection Corpus Christi, and Jamie Quatro, whose Lookout Mountain-set collection I Want to Show You More is one of the year's most heralded debuts (11 a.m., Legislative Plaza, Room 16).

• With former Vice President Albert "Evidently You Can't Call Me Al" Gore drawing people from across the plaza for his 11:30 a.m. talk at War Memorial Auditorium, that may free up some room in panels that might be packed otherwise (and may be still). That includes Edgar Award nominee Ace Atkins (noon, Nashville Public Library, Auditorium), the author of the Quinn Colson thrillers as well as the man chosen to carry on the legacy of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. Auburn fans may show up just to shake the hand of the former defensive end, who memorably sacked Florida QB Danny Wuerffel that undefeated 1993 season.

• The Oxford, Miss.-based husband and wife team of Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly are generating a huge buzz with The Tilted World (noon, Nashville Public Library, Grand Reading Room), their suspense novel about a female bootlegger set against the backdrop of the unimaginably vast 1927 Mississippi River flood.

• At this point, it's probably a good idea to snag a bite from the festival's nearby food trucks — you'll need your strength for navigating the logjam ahead, even if you're not attending Andrew Solomon (see story here) or Ayana Mathis (see story here). Up against each other at 12:30 p.m. are Slash Coleman (Nashville Public Library, Conference Room IB) — whose comic memoir The Bohemian Love Diaries will undoubtedly strike a chord with other Evel Knievel worshipers whose grandfathers danced at the Moulin Rouge — and the high-powered panel of novelists Dale Kushner (The Conditions of Love), Elliott Holt (You Are One of Them) and Anton DiSclafani, whose The Yonahlassee Riding Camp for Girls was one of the summer's juiciest reading recommendations (Legislative Plaza, Room 12).

• Then again, it's difficult to pass up history in the flesh — the only description for civil rights movement hero Rep. John Lewis (1 p.m., War Memorial Auditorium), who tells his life story in the lauded graphic novel March: Book One with Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell.

• We were going to go to the celebration for Herman Parish's bedtime-story favorite Amelia Bedelia (1 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Auditorium) — but instead of Herman we thought they said "vermin," so we ran shrieking to Jedi master of Southern comic writing Clyde Edgerton (1 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Grand Reading Room).

• One of the SFB's rarely touted pleasures is the chance to hear many fine contemporary poets read their work in person. Case in point: Mary Jo Salter, co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry, whose collection Nothing by Design (1:30 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room IB) the Scene praised in its pages a few weeks ago. (See "Bullet in a Dream," Sept. 19.)

• Another SFB pleasure is the chance to catch a literary star of tomorrow on the way up. In that spirit, we recommend Brent Hendricks (2 p.m., Legislative Plaza, Room 30), a poet of considerable promise who made a stunning leap to nonfiction with this year's A Long Day at the End of the World — a personal perspective on the notorious 2002 mass desecration of bodies at Georgia's Tri-State Crematory, where one of the mishandled corpses was that of Hendricks' father. He's appearing with Wendy Reed (An Accidental Memoir: How I Killed Someone and Other Stories).

• Another memoir with a gripping true-crime angle, Michael Hainey's After Visiting Friends takes the author, a GQ deputy editor, on a quest to uncover the truth behind his father's mysterious death in a street on Chicago's North Side. Scene managing editor Jack Silverman moderates a panel on "Reporting Your Life" with Hainey and David Berg, whose memoir Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family (2 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Special Collections Room) was voted this year's best summer read by online readers of The Guardian.

• Quite a few visitors will likely be planning their late afternoons around Bill Bryson (3:30 p.m., War Memorial Auditorium), Nashville author Cathie Pelletier (3 p.m., Legislative Plaza, Room 30), the Complete Poems of James Dickey panel with Christopher Dickey, Ward Briggs and Ron Rash (4 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Auditorium), or Karen Joy Fowler (4 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Grand Reading Room), whose novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has commanded attention ever since Barbara Kingsolver gave it a widely circulated rave in The New York Times Book Review this summer.

• Of special note: Scott McClanahan (3 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room IA), whose West Virginia memoir Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place is one of the year's most talked-about debuts — not least of all for accusing fellow SFB guest Lee Smith and others of perpetuating an "Appalachian Minstrel Show" with their fiction. And it's doubtful there'll be a timelier presentation than Pulitzer Prize winner and The American Prospect co-founder Paul Starr on his Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Health Care Reform (3:30 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room IB).


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