Jim Harrison keeps churning out quality writing

bookJim Harrison is an American phenomenon. Not only has he written more than 30 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction — the last category includes a fine cookbook, The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, and a memoir, Off to the Side, which is a worthwhile account of his triumphs and failures in life — but he has, during all these years of writing, maintained a standard of excellence rare among his contemporaries. His books are indelibly marked by his style, which we will examine briefly below, and by certain themes: outsiders, love between men and women, failure, and America’s changing landscape and values. 

Another AT book, but a new set of lessons

bookAn online visit reveals hundreds of books written on hiking the Appalachian Trail. These range from Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, which is the witty account of a man who hiked part of the trail, to Bill Walker’s SkyWalker: Close Encounters of the Appalachian Trail, in which the author gives us vivid and humorous portraits of some of his fellow trekkers, to Paul Stutzman’s Hiking Through, which tells of the author’s quest for peace and freedom on the Trail. There are at least a score of books offering practical advice on how to hike the Trail; there are even a few that deal solely with preparations for the hike. 

New Burke novel is not to be

bookIn Light of the World (ISBN 978-1-4767-1076-1, $27.99), James Lee Burke once again gives readers writing cut and polished like a fine diamond. Unfortunately, what he actually has to say and the story he has to tell is so flawed that if this novel were a diamond, the plot and most of the characters would be ground into dust and used for manufacturing.

The lost West in all its violent glory

bookI have always had a fondness for great, sprawling epics, especially if they chronicle the downfall of a family/dynasty that acquired great power and wealth only to destroy themselves through ruthless acts involving betrayal, greed and arrogance. Invariably, they build mansions, acquire awesome estates and develop a lifestyle that allowed them to move through a cosmopolitan world of wealth and privilege; yet invariably they come crashing down, destroyed by drugs, alcoholism and/or moral rot.

A realistic, refreshing look at teaching

bookFor most students, parents, and teachers, autumn rather than spring is the season of budding growth, new life, and hope.

Carden’s new book depicts Appalachian bestiary

By Newton Smith • Contributor

Gary Carden, local bard, playwright, host of the Liars Bench and reviewer for The Smoky Mountain News, has once again come up with a surprising publication. 

Miracles and the miraculous in everyday life

bookEvery once in a while, we encounter a situation so strange and so far removed from the natural order of things that we label the event a “miracle.” (In my own case, this would involve getting eight straight hours of sleep in a single night.) The unexplained healing of some horrific, normally fatal illness; synchronistic convergences so strange that they go far past mere coincidence; the appearance of some apparition — a deceased relative, an angel, the Virgin Mary — bearing private, detailed and accurate information to a human recipient: these are some of the occasions which startle us into breaking out the concept of a miracle to explain or at least acknowledge the unexplainable. 

Oil thicker than blood in Texas

bookReviewers of Philipp Meyer’s new novel, The Son (ISBN 978-0-06-212039-7, 561 pages, $27.99) have compared his epic story of the West to books as varied as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Blood Meridian, and Lonesome Dove. His account of Texas from its founding as a republic to the late twentieth century does have elements of all three books — Marquez’s blend of fantasy and realism, the violence and sometimes stark prose of Cormac MacCarthy, the sweep and spread of Larry McMurtry’s writing — but these comparisons may confuse as much as elucidate the reader. Meyer is very much his own man in this fine book.

Kingsbury gives us a comfortable summer read

bookIn The Bridge (ISBN 978-1-4516-4701-3, $19.99), Karen Kingsbury treats readers to a tale of romance and tribulation centered on a bookstore in Franklin, Tenn. Molly Allen and Ryan Kelly meet at Nashville’s Belmont University, where they become best friends.

A book to help wade through self-help industry

bookIn The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer, and Throttle Your Inner Child (ISBN 0-465-05486-2), renowned neuropsychologist Paul Pearsall turns a jaundiced eye to the world of self-help books.

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