Former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist and features writer Kyle Brazzel, who left Little Rock to work for the business side of the New Yorker and now does freelance writing, has an excellent appreciation at The Awl of Charles Portis' first novel, "Norwood," on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
Tonight marks the return of 4th Friday in SoMa, a new monthly event organized by businesses on South Main Street, which will stay open later than usual to accommodate the local community and showcase SoMa's latest offerings. The Root Cafe will be serving dinner until 9 p.m., Loblolly Creamery will be up and running until 8 p.m. — other participating restaurants include Midtown Billiards, Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom, South on Main and Community Bakery.
The University of Arkansas Press has released its Spring 2016 catalog, and it's a great list, particularly for poetry fans and Arkansas history buffs. There's an oral history of the Arkansas Democrat, a monograph on Bill Clinton's racial politics (blurbed by Cornel West) and a new edition of Waymon Hogue's "Back Yonder: An Ozark Chronicle," edited by Brooks Blevins. "Back Yonder," which will be out in April, was originally published in 1932 and is the first of the press' new Chronicles of the Ozarks series.
The Arkansas Literary Festival has announced its 2016 lineup, a list that includes Sloane Crosley ("I Was Told There'd Be Cake"), Adam Hochschild ("King Leopold's Ghost"), Peter Guralnick ("Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock'n'roll"), Kiese Laymon ("How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America") and more. The festival will be held April 14-17 in downtown Little Rock.
C.D. Wright could be two things at once. In her poetry, she was a voice from very far away that spoke directly and intimately to our secret interiors. In her life, she was a venerable genius who shocked younger generations of poets by constantly championing our work and encouraging us to write ferociously on our own terms.
The Oxford American, the quarterly literary magazine based in Little Rock, announced this afternoon that interim editor Eliza Borné will take over as editor-in-chief, the magazine's third since it was founded in 1992. A Little Rock native, Borné has been an editor at the magazine since 2013, and previously worked at the Nashville publication Bookpage.
The Fayetteville Literary Festival is fast approaching, with events scheduled Oct. 1-7 at the Fayetteville Public Library. The University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation announced this morning that the novelist and essayist Zadie Smith will appear at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5.
A new book, "Scars: An Anthology," which aims to "examine the range and nuance of experience related to scars of the body," features five writers from Little Rock, including Erin Wood (also the book's editor), Jason Wiest, Phillip Martin, Andrea Zekis and Lea Clyburn.
This year's revival of the legendary Arkansas poet Frank Stanford continues with the release of Third Man Books' "Hidden Water: From the Frank Stanford Archives," the second Stanford collection to arrive in 2015, this one compiling "unpublished poems, drafts, never before seen photos, and correspondences between Stanford, Allen Ginsberg, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Alan Dugan, and more." To promote the book, here's David Berman — the great poet and front man of the now-defunct band Silver Jews — reading an untitled Stanford poem.
Buried in a news item yesterday about the movie "Lego Batman," The Hollywood Reporter mentioned offhandedly that actor Michael Cera has acquired the rights to "Masters of Atlantis," the brilliant, absurdist cult-farce by Little Rock author Charles Portis. "Cera aims to write the adaptation as not only an acting vehicle but a directing project as well," they report.
James Salter, the great impressionist writer who died last week, aged ninety, in his home state of New York, had a small history in Arkansas. He spent several months here in the early ’40s. It was during his first life, years before he began writing, his military life. He lived for a spring and summer in Pine Bluff, for flight training. “The field was east of town,” he remembered in his memoir, "Burning the Days" (1997). “The flying school there was run by civilians.” He sketched his instructor: “an ancient, perhaps in his early forties, crop duster from a town in the southwest part of the state, Hope, which he described as the watermelon capital of the world. His name was Basil York. We were probably among scores of young men he had taught to fly . . .”
At a press conference this afternoon, CALS made a number of programming announcements, including the summer film lineup for the Ron Robinson Theater. Their "Rewind" series continues with "Monty Python & The Holy Grail" (6/26), "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" (7/10), "Beetlejuice" (8/14) and "Good Will Hunting" (8/15). Their new "Great Directors" series includes Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps" (6/27), Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather Pt. 2" (7/11) and Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" (8/15). The "Kid Flix" series includes "The Goonies" (6/27) and "Song of the Sea" (7/11), and for the week of July 26-August 1, the theater will screen all eight Harry Potter films — offering the whole Hogwarts experience, complete with butterbeer at the concession stand, etc.
The Oxford American has an exclusive stream today of a new song from Paragould native Iris DeMent, whose new album, "The Trackless Woods," will be released August 7. To further commemorate the record, the magazine has republished Little Rock author Kevin Brockmeier's essay-appreciation of DeMent, which originally appeared in their 2007 music issue and which focuses particularly on her album "My Life," which Brockmeier calls "one of exactly two albums I own that I wouldn’t hesitate to call perfect."
The Oxford American announced today that Roger Hodge, who took over as editor-in-chief of the Little Rock-based magazine in late 2012, has stepped down to take a position as national editor of The Intercept, an online publication launched last year by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill. Managing editor Eliza Borne will serve as interim editor of the Oxford American and Hodge will stay on as editor at large, according to a press release issued this morning. Borne is a former Oxford American intern and has been an editor at the magazine since February 2013. Previously she worked as an associate editor at BookPage.
John Hornor Jacobs doesn’t have much time to sip wine from plastic cups, mingle with the literati, or ponder the state of literary affairs, because his agent sold eight books in a single year last year, and he’s been hustling to get those contracts fulfilled ever since. Jacobs, a Little Rock native and Central High graduate, will return to the Arkansas Literary Festival this month to make up for it, his first time back at the event since 2011.
A friend just pointed me to this interesting post by Ian Crouch of the New Yorker about the U.S. Postal Service's brand-new Maya Angelou stamp, which was officially issued last week in a ceremony featuring Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. The stamp features a quotation — "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song" — that, as the Washington Post pointed out, wasn't actually written by Angelou, but by the poet Joan Walsh Anglund.
The Little Rock-based Oxford American magazine has released the cover and details of its Spring 2015 issue, which will be on newsstands March 15. The issue features Hal Crowther, Jamie Quatro, Ron Rash, Little Rock writer Jay Jennings and Jeremy B. Jones, whose great piece on an ancestor's bizarre coded diary is online as of this morning. The issue also features a profile of documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee (by novelist William Giraldi), fiction by John McManus and a pretty stunning, ~12,000 word feature in which writer Justin Nobel tracks the path of a tornado outbreak that hit the South in April 2011
At a press conference at the Ron Robinson Theater this afternoon, Arkansas Literary Festival chair Brad Mooy announced the lineup for the 2015 event, due to be held April 23-26. The list includes filmmaker and author John Waters, Pulitzer Winner Rick Bragg, Ya-Ya Sisterhood series author Rebecca Wells, novelists Megan Abbott, Benjamin Percy, Brock Clarke and Jamaica Kincaid and "Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl" creator Issa Rae.
"March: Book One," the best-selling collaboration between North Little Rock native Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin, was one of 2013's best-received graphic novels, and today the follow-up, "March: Book Two," has been released by Top Shelf.
Little Rock journalist Suzi Parker, author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt" and a former contributor to Salon, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News and other outlets, recently self-published her first novel, "Echo Ellis: Adventures of a Girl Reporter," about "a Southern reporter living in Bill Clinton's Arkansas who often finds herself in dangerous yet thrilling situations."
Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.