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From the halls of academe to bookstores, libraries to dive bars, Nashville in 2012 is looking stellar for the written and spoken word

By Steve Haruch

Wells Tower
  • Wells Tower

Around this time last year, we were lamenting the loss of a local bookselling institution and wondering what would fill the vacuum. Now we’re celebrating the lack of a vacuum — our literary scene doesn’t suck! And we’re not alone: The opening of Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes’ Parnassus Books in Green Hills in November drew the attention of The New York Times, among the many outlets to take note. (Tin House published an appreciation penned by Nashville novelist Adam Ross, in which he notes, “Hayes and Patchett are thrilled: Parnassus has already far exceeded initial sales projections. More satisfyingly, the city’s goodwill has floored both.”) Add to that the Humanities Tennessee brainchild Salon@615 — arguably the biggest and best new literary series to hit Music City in recent memory — and the opening of the new joint Barnes and Noble/Vanderbilt bookstore and you’ve got some seriously good news for word persons.

Vanderbilt University is more than holding up its end of the bargain, too, bringing an impressive range of writers to Nashville in 2012. This Thursday, Jan. 12 , brings a reading by daring fiction writer Wells Tower , author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned and some of the most adventurous journalism you’re likely to read (7 p.m., Buttrick Hall 101; see Critics’ Picks). On Jan. 19 , poet, essayist and cultural critic Lewis Hyde will speak on what he calls the “cultural commons” — the sprawling collection of ideas, innovations and works of art that comprise our cultural inheritance — which are the subject of his latest book, Common as Air (4 p.m. at Wilson Hall 115). Later the same day (and on the same campus), acclaimed writer Lorrie Moore , author of Self-Help, Anagrams, Like Life and Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? will read from her evocative, artful and disquieting fiction as part of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series (7 p.m. at the Jean and Alexander Heard Library Community Room). Look for more VU events below.

Salon@615 kicks off its 2012 schedule this Thursday, Jan. 12, with a reading by author Robert K. Massie (see story), and keeps things going strong with an appearance by Erin Morgenstern , author of The Night Circus, on Thursday, Jan. 26 (6:15 p.m. at Nashville Public Library’s treasure of a downtown main branch).

A retail partner for the Massie and Morgenstern readings, the aforementioned Parnassus Books is now starting to fill out its own in-store event schedule: Robert Leleux , author of The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving, leads things off at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30 . And Robert Goolrick , author of Heading Out to Wonderful, will appear at Parnassus at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 15 .

Up north of I-440, Hillsboro Village mainstay BookMan/BookWoman hosts free appraisals for rare and unusual books at 5 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. The store will also be hosting numerous author events, including a Feb. 14 appearance by Mark Etheridge , author of Grievances. (The film Deadline is set to premiere the same week, and is based on Grievances.) Call 383-6555 to reserve a signed copy (5 p.m. at BookMan/BookWoman).

Meanwhile, East Nashville dive bar Dino’s has become a gathering point for a literary event of a smokier sort: Poetry Sucks! A Night of Poetry, Music and All Sorts of Bad Language has packed engaging local and visiting writers, scrappy rockers, and a laid-back vibe into a tight space — with rousing results. Nickole Brown, Jake Adam York and Janaka Stucky are among those scheduled to appear later in the year. See Critics’ Picks for a rundown of this week’s lineup.

Lorrie Moore
  • Lorrie Moore

And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a short list of other upcoming highlights:

Jan. 26: Alicia Ostriker at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.
Jan. 26: Poet’s Corner feat. Diana Ault Morningstar ; 7 p.m. at Scarritt-Bennett Center.
Jan. 28: Rosemary Zibart , author of True Brit; 1 p.m. at Parnassus Books.

Feb. 9: Bonnie Jo Campbell , fiction writer and author of the novel Once Upon a River; 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.
Feb. 16: Poets Rick Hilles and Lorraine Lopez , 7 p.m. at Wilson Hall 126, Vanderbilt University.
Feb. 23: Poet’s Corner feat. Tanya Jarrett ; 7 p.m. at Scarritt-Bennett Center.
Feb. 23: Spring Literary Symposium: Sustainability and Creative Writing, presented by Alison Hawthorne Deming and John Lane ; location TBA, Vanderbilt University.
Feb. 27: Taylor Polites , author of The Rebel Wife, 6 p.m. at Parnassus Books.

March 15: Manuel Muñoz , novelist and author of What You See in the Dark; 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.
March 23: Symposium on Poetry and Translation presented by Rick Hilles ; time TBA, Wyatt Center, Vanderbilt University.
March 24: Poetry Sucks! A Night of Poetry, Music and All Sorts of Bad Language feat. Zachary Schomburg , Janaka Stucky and Chet Weise ; 8 p.m. at Dino’s.
March 29: Elizabeth Spires , poet and author, most recently, of The Wave-Maker; 7 p.m. at Buttrick Hall 101, Vanderbilt University.


Sarratt’s Independent Lens series stars in a strong lineup of winter cinema fare

By Jim Ridley

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, coming to Sarratt's International Lens series Feb. 25.
  • Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, coming to Sarratt's International Lens series Feb. 25.

Thirty years ago, if you wanted to see revival screenings of classics, the newest foreign films, cult movies and nuggets of regional and documentary cinema, there was only one theater in Nashville that showed them reliably — and it wasn’t The Belcourt in Hillsboro Village, which was playing the likes of the Mel Brooks remake of To Be or Not To Be. It was Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema , which for decades functioned as the city’s repertory theater until home video, cable and administrative indifference allowed the campus cinema to dwindle in the early 2000s.

Over the past five years, though, Sarratt has reclaimed some of its old luster, thanks to one of the best arts programs in the city: the International Lens film series, which offers free weekly screenings representing a rainbow coalition of countries and continents, typically introduced by a Vanderbilt faculty member, staffer or student with knowledge of the culture. Included this semester are films from more than 15 countries, among them both North and South Korea, and local premieres by world masters such as Portugal’s indefatigable 103-year-old Manoel de Oliveira (The Strange Case of Angelica, screening Jan. 18).

A few of the films are known quantities. An arthouse hit from the late 1990s, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s lovely After Life (Jan. 19) mixes documentary and fantasy in a celestial way station where the recently departed select the memory they’ll restage to keep for all eternity. 12 Monkeys (March 21), Terry Gilliam’s 1995 reworking of Chris Marker’s sci-fi short “La Jetée,” gives Brad Pitt one of his twitchiest character roles while anticipating the apocalyptic concerns of the new year. Speaking of which, Sarratt dusts off a pair of troubling end-times visions: Pier Paolo Pasolini’s scandalous Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Feb. 25) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s terrifying study of viral alienation Pulse (April 12).

But the majority of the selections are films unlikely to play even The Belcourt. Some are unreleased titles such as Where Are You Going Moshe? (Feb. 21), a Moroccan comedy about a bar owner desperate to hang onto his last Jewish customer, or Pardon (March 22), a Turkish tragicomedy about three friends whose lives swirl the drain when they’re mistaken for terrorists. Some are foreign-language films that simply slipped through the cracks, including The Hedgehog (March 27), the film version of Muriel Barbery’s best-seller The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Miral (April 10), the latest from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly artist-turned-director Julian Schnabel.

Perhaps most valuable, from an outreach standpoint, are the many topical documentaries studded throughout the semester. Their subjects range from the effect of the immigrant experience on black America (Kobina Aidoo’s Neo-African Americans, Feb. 10) to an organization that helps North Korean refugees escape to new lives in China at great peril (Ryan Downer’s Hiding, Feb. 16). Music figures prominently in two selections: Martin Scorsese’s The Blues: Feel Like Going Home (Feb. 7), to be introduced by its screenwriter, Vanderbilt writer-in-residence Peter Guralnick; and The Mighty Uke (Feb. 23), a paean to the ukulele revival to be hosted by Vanderbilt senior lecturer and in-demand Nashville instrumentalist Jen Gunderman.

A full schedule may be found at Watch the Scene each week for screening information.

Michael Fassbinder in Shame, opening next month at The Belcourt
  • Michael Fassbinder in Shame, opening next month at The Belcourt

• Bowing to public demand — stoked, no doubt, by the success of the current My Week With Marilyn The Belcourt has devoted its first retrospective of the year to Marilyn Monroe. Present are her iconic roles in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (Feb. 11-12) and John Huston’s The Misfits (Feb. 18-19), as well as lesser-known titles such as the Fritz Lang-Clifford Odets melodrama Clash by Night (Jan. 21-22) and Otto Preminger’s sole Western River of No Return (Jan. 28-29). The one most likely to intrigue audiences, though, is Laurence Olivier’s The Prince and the Showgirl (Feb. 4-5) — whose tortured making is My Week With Marilyn’s subject.

• The Belcourt’s first-run calendar spotlights a number of year-end awards contenders: Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan in director Steve McQueen’s NC-17 sex-addiction study Shame (Jan. 20); Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey (Jan. 27); Tilda Swinton in Lynne Ramsay’s demon-seed psychological thriller We Need To Talk About Kevin (February); and one of the new year’s most talked-about movies, the devastating Iranian domestic drama A Separation (February). Watch also for a pair of acclaimed documentaries, Pianomania (Jan. 15-19) — in which a Steinway tuner goes to nerve-wracking lengths to satisfy some of the world’s most exacting concert pianists — and Dragonslayer (Jan. 18-19), a dreamy meditation on skateboarding.

• In honor of actor Jeffrey Combs and director Stuart Gordon, whose one-man Edgar Allan Poe show Nevermore is coming Jan. 19 to the Nashville Public Library, The Belcourt shows their beloved splatter epic Re-Animator at midnight Jan. 20-21. See next week’s Scene for an interview with the two. Next up at midnight: the original Fright Night (Feb. 3-4).

• Another of the city’s best screening series, ITVS Community Cinema , resumes at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Nashville Public Library with Sharon La Cruise’s Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock , a portrait of the black community leader who stood her ground in aiding the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School. Next is More Than a Month (Feb. 11), in which filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman launches a tongue-in-cheek quest to dismantle Black History Month. All screenings are free and open to the public. See for a full schedule.

The Frist Center ’s film programming usually seems like an afterthought, but the spring schedule contains a pair of goodies projected on DVD: Lawrence Kasdan’s nifty 1981 neo-noir Body Heat (Jan. 20) — watch for Ted Danson as a tap-dancing lawyer — and Guillermo del Toro’s career-making fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth (March 16). All screenings are free and open to the public.


Grammy-nominated Alias and Nashville Symphony spearhead a busy winter classical season

By John Pitcher

Jon Kimura Parker
  • Jon Kimura Parker

“Winter is not a season,” wrote Sinclair Lewis, “it’s an occupation.” For Nashville’s classical music fans, it’s more like a labor of love, an annual avocation that compels us to attend an exhausting number of exhilarating concerts, all of which are guaranteed to warm the soul and fire the imagination.

Two of Nashville’s leading classical groups are spending the cold-weather months basking in the iridescent glow of Grammy nominations. The Nashville Symphony Orchestra was nominated in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category for its recording of Joseph Schwantner’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra. The Alias Chamber Ensemble , meanwhile, received a nod in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category for its world-premiere recording of Gabriela Lena Frank’s Hilos. Not surprisingly, the NSO and Alias will both be performing adventurous contemporary American works this winter.

The highlight of the NSO’s winter season comes in February, when the orchestra, under the direction of music director Giancarlo Guerrero , performs John Adams Doctor Atomic Symphony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (Feb. 9-11 ). Adams, arguably America’s best-known and most successful living American composer, adapted this symphony from his 2005 opera Doctor Atomic, which deals with nuclear scientist Robert Oppenheimer and the testing of the first atomic bomb. The symphony features music from the opera’s overture and various interludes, as well as orchestral arrangements of important arias, such as Oppenheimer’s “Batter My Heart.” Appropriately enough, Guerrero will pair the Adams with Haydn’s Military Symphony.

Alias has long specialized in performing adventuresome new music. This season, the ensemble has been lavishing attention on American composer Kenji Bunch , whose music will be featured on an upcoming Alias disc. Alias recently commissioned a new French horn work from Bunch, which will receive its world-premiere performance at the ensemble’s March 3 concert at the Blair School of Music. The ensemble’s winter concert will showcase several other contemporary works, including Bunch’s Luminaria (2002), Stevan Tickmayer’s Three Variations on the Theme of J.S. Bach (2005), Kevin Keller’s Riding the Purple Twilight (2008) and Christopher Norton’s Open Door, Peninsula Field (2009).

Not to be outdone in the world-premiere department, the Blair String Quartet will present the first performance of American composer Michael Hersch 's new quartet From a Closed Ward on Feb. 1 7 at the Blair School of Music. Hersch found inspiration for his work from the relentlessly creative printmaker Michael Mazur’s early 1960s etchings and lithographs titled Closed Ward, which depicted the unbearable torment of inmates in a mental asylum. Following the world premiere in Nashville, the Blair String Quartet — violinists Christian Teal and Cornelia Heard , violist John Kochanowski and cellist Felix Wang — will take this work on the road, performing it this spring in Philadelphia and New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Music City Baroque prefers its music to be old and historically informed. But that doesn’t mean it’s averse to breaking new musical ground. This winter, the group will present Nashville’s first-ever period-instrument performance of J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor. Composed in bits, pieces and chunks over an extended period from 1724 to 1749, the B-minor Mass is a lofty, sublime and idealized work that attempts to summarize the grand tradition of the European Mass in a single perfect piece. Bach never heard his mighty Mass performed in its entirety during his lifetime. So Music City Baroque’s authentic rendition of the work on March 25 at St. George’s Episcopal Church is an event not to be missed — no ifs, ands or sackbuts about it.

Thomas Hampson
  • Thomas Hampson

Other highlights:

Jan. 20: The Blakemore Trio — pianist Amy Dorfman , violinist Carolyn Huebl and cellist Felix Wang — present the world premiere of Adam Schoenberg’s Luna Y Mar. The group will also play Haydn’s Trio No. 18 in A major and Dvorak’s Trio in F minor. Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall

Jan. 26: Baritone Thomas Hampson, one of the Metropolitan Opera’s leading stars, presents his “Song of America” project at the Blair School of Music. His recital will include the music of Copland, Barber, Ives, Hopkinson, Griffes and Thomson. Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall

Jan. 26-28: Pianist Garrick Ohlsson joins the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski to perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. In 1970, Ohlsson became the first American pianist in history to win first prize at the International Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland. Expect his interpretation of Chopin’s E-minor concerto to be as authoritative as it gets. The concert will also feature Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor. Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Feb. 23-25: Pianist Angela Hewitt performs Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of associate conductor Kelly Corcoran . The concert at the Schermerhorn also includes Blair School of Music alum Daniel Bernard Roumain ’s Dancers, Dreamers and Presidents and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3. Schermerhorn Symphony Center

March 8-10: Violinist Cho-Liang Lin performs Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 63 with Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra . Classical fans may need to break out the vodka to stay warm at this all-Russian concert, which also features Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60, “Leningrad.” Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

March 19: Giancarlo Guerrero conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in a special concert at the Schermerhorn. Guerrero was appointed principal guest conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra’s annual Miami residency last year. For its one-night stop in Nashville, the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral,” Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor with pianist Gabriela Montero . Schermerhorn Symphony Center

March 29-31: Pianist Jon Kimura Parker performs Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of guest conductor Gilbert Varga . The orchestra will also perform Kodály’s Dances of Galänta and Franck’s Symphony in D minor. Schermerhorn Symphony Center

March 30: Pianist Craig Nies concludes his five-year survey of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier with a recital at the Blair School of Music. In addition to Bach, the concert will also include a selection of Debussy preludes to mark the 150th anniversary of the great French composer’s birth, along with a performance of Beethoven’s monumental Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, Op. 106, “Hammerklavier.” Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall.

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