Artober Nashville: Friday's Highlights, Southern Festival of Books



If you're among the expected tens of thousands of visitors at this weekend's Southern Festival of Books — people who love authors, reading and readers — you've probably already worked out a schedule that resembles March Madness brackets. If, however, you're simply daunted by the plethora of talent appearing this weekend — and we don't blame you if you are — we offer highlights here every day for each of the festival's three days. We also suggest you consult the comprehensive festival schedule at the Humanities Tennessee site and the remarkable coverage at

FRIDAY, 10-12

First up: acclaimed novelist Padgett Powell, who continues his experimental vein of late in You & Me, a novel written entirely as a liquor-stoked dialogue between two dudes. Say, did you enjoy The Interrogative Mood, that novel he wrote completely in questions? Why, yes I did. (Noon, Nashville Public Library, Conference Room IA.)

• Revered Abraham Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer holds the Emancipation Proclamation up to scrutiny in Emancipating Lincoln: The Proclamation in Text, Context and Memory (noon, Nashville Public Library Auditorium). For a contemporary slant on race and presidential politics, there's New York Times international correspondent Rachel Swarns discussing her American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama (1 p.m., Room 12, Legislative Plaza).

• The success of the Coen Brothers' True Grit brought welcome attention to the source novel's author, Charles Portis, as distinctive a comic voice as the 20th century produced. Jay Jennings gathers 50 years of previously uncollected Portis works (including a play!) into Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany (noon, Room 30, Legislative Plaza).

• A bored housewife with a bloody past finds herself in Luxembourg among The Expats in a devious espionage tale from first-time novelist Chris Pavone (noon, Room 12, Legislative Plaza). For a sunnier view of human nature, try self-made Franklin insurance tycoon turned philanthropist Randall Baskin discussing his memoir Growing Rich (noon, Room 16, Legislative Plaza).

Andrew Derr, onetime recipient of a Vanderbilt Grantland Rice scholarship, tips his hat to another sportswriting great — the late Nashville Banner legend Fred Russell — in his biography Life of Dreams (1 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conf. Room II).

• A triathlete, trained seismologist and writing mentor to Afghan women, Naomi Benaron won the Bellwether Prize for her first novel Running the Rift; it's the basis for the panel "In Spite of Violence: Novels of Turmoil and Tenacity" with Knoxville novelist Christopher Hebert's The Boiling Season, an account of a Caribbean servant's rise that has drawn comparisons to The Remains of the Day. (1 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Conference Room IA)

• "First forgive the silence / That answers prayer, / Then forgive the prayer / That stains the silence," Mark Jarman wrote in "Five Psalms," as succinct a statement of the paradoxes of divinity as we've ever read. Jarman, one of the city's literary heroes and a pioneering narrative formalist, will read from Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (1:30 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Special Collections Room).

Lauren Groff's previous novel The Monsters of Templeton was eagerly passed among readers; we've been hearing lots of love from local book clubs for her latest, Arcadia, set against the backdrop of a utopian commune in the 1970s. She speaks at 2 p.m. in the Nashville Public Library Auditorium, opposite Attica Locke as well as the "Novels of Experiencing Womanhood" panel with authors Jeanne Ray (Calling Invisible Women) and Charity Shumway (Ten Girls to Watch) over in Legislative Plaza's Room 16.

• Governess, remote estate, brooding hero — check, check and double-check as Margot Livesay pays homage to Jane Eyre in her well-reviewed The Flight of Gemma Hardy (3 p.m., Nashville Public Library, Grand Reading Room). Plan on dodging crowds at the library, however, between the "A Few Honest Words" panel with Naomi Judd and NPR/New York Times contributor Jason Howard (Auditorium), The Books That Mattered memoirist Frye Gaillard (Conference Room 1a), and constitutional scholar Kent Greenfield on The Myth of Choice (Conference Room 2), all at 3 p.m.

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