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Art Scene in Athens, Alabama: Local Southern Authors Rule

Posted: Aug 24, 2009


The literary scene is booming in the small town of Athens, Alabama. In the past year at least four authors have published their work. Cornbread Chronicles (2008) is a hilarious collection of essays by local attorney and historian Jerry Barksdale. Cornbread Chronicles is always entertaining and often gut-bustingly funny. This week Swampland is featuring two short pieces from this delightful book. (Photo of Barksdale and Scott Holt courtesy of Roger Bedingfield.)

In the past few months three other Athens writers have published books: A Full-Grown Man (2009), the second novel by Athenian Bill Hunt; The Hook Man, the second in the Tales From Blue Springs series by Richard (aka R) Garth; and Fairly Odd Mother: Musings of a Slightly Off Southern Mom by Kelly Kazek. Kazek's book will make its debut at the Art on the Square event in Athens on September 12.

Bill Hunt’s first novel, a kind of fictionalized memoir, The Last Witness From a Dirt Road explores segregation and race relations in the 1940s and 50s in the Deep South as seen through the eyes of the 12-year-old son of a Louisiana sugar plantation overseer. Again set in Bill’s native Louisiana, A Full-Grown Man explores the social mores of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, with the compelling themes of relationships, family, tangled in the messiness of living a life.

Garth's The Hook Man is the sequel to The Hatchet Woman (I kid you not), the second of a series of tales set on Elk River and environs of North Alabama. I quote from the book blurb for Garth's first book. "The Hatchel Woman by R Gath is, at its core, a tender story of lost innocence and lost eyeballs. It is, in turns, sad, scary, and funny. Say what you will about the author, the story is fine. "

I am looking forward to purchasing my autographed copy of Fairly Odd Mother at Art on the Square next month. Kazek is Managing Editor for the Athens News-Courier. Essays in her recent book as well as those of Jerry Barksdale first appeared as columns in the News-Courier.

Keep your computer dial tuned to Swampland for reviews of and excerpts from the above books in the next few months. Meanwhile, watch for an announcement about the Pat Conroy Sweepstakes. This fall Writers of the South Facebook Group, Swampland, and Nan A. Talese/Random House Inc. are sponsoring a contest. Ten copies of Conroy's latest novel South of Broad will be awarded to the top ten finalists. Watch Writers of the South Facebook page and RiverVue for contest details.

--by Penne J. Laubenthal


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