Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

October 11, 2017
by jenniferpuryear

Southern Festival of Books Special: Top Ten

Nashville’s 29th Annual Southern Festival of Books roars to life this weekend – Friday October 13th to Sunday the 15th – with authors and booklovers converging on War Memorial Plaza (and the Library) in high spirits! Brand new this year: Humanities Tennessee partners with Watkins College of Art to bring Handmade & Bound, celebrating the art of handcrafted zines, artist books, and all things printed on paper. You’ll find Handmade & Bound in a tent at War Memorial Plaza throughout the Festival. You’ll find authors and readers drinking and carousing – I mean enjoying stimulating conversation – at Authors in the Round on Friday night and the Literary Death Match on Saturday night– come and enjoy!

Today’s post features the ten authors I’m most excited about at this year’s Southern Festival (alphabetical order). Check out the list of all participating authors here. (You’ll have a different top 10 of course – please forgive me for missing your fave, and please feel free to school me in the comments!)

Jami Attenberg, All Grown Up

“From The New York Times best-selling author of The Middlesteins comes a wickedly funny novel about a thirty-nine-year-old single, childfree woman who defies convention as she seeks connection.”

Friday, October 13, 2:00pm – 3:00pm, NPL (Nashville Public Library) Commons Room

Jami Attenberg is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Middlesteins and Saint Mazie. She has contributed essays about sex, urban life, and food to The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and Lenny Letter, among other publications. She divides her time between Brooklyn and New Orleans.

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Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach

(Winner of Pulitzer Prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad)

“With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.”

“Immensely satisfying… an old-fashioned page-turner, tweaked by this witty and sophisticated writer… she works a formidable kind of magic.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Friday, October 13, 12:00pm – 1:00pm, NPL Conference Room 1AB

Jennifer Egan is the author of five books of fiction, including A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Books Critics Circle Award; The Keep, a national bestseller; the story collection Emerald City; Look at Me, a National Book Award Finalist; and The Invisible Circus, which was adapted into a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.

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Omar El Akkad, American War

“Powerful… As haunting a postapocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy [created] in The Road…. Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, is an unlikely mash-up of unsparing war reporting and plot elements familiar to readers of the recent young-adult dystopian series The Hunger Games and Divergent.” – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Saturday, October 14, 1:00pm – 2:00pm, NPL, Special Collections

Omar El Akkad was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar until he moved to Canada with his family. He is an award-winning journalist and author who has traveled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantanamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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James Grymes, Violins of Hope

Winner of the 2014 National Jewish Book Award (Holocaust)

“A stirring testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of music, Violins of Hope tells the remarkable stories of violins played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust, and the Israeli violin maker dedicated to bringing these inspirational instruments back to life.”

Saturday, October 14, 2:00pm – 3:30pm, NPL Auditorium

James Grymes is an internationally respected musicologist and a critically acclaimed author. He is a professor of musicology at the University  of North Carolina at Charlotte. Grymes and violin restorer Avshi Weinstein speak about the Holocaust and the power of music with a brief performance by Nashville Symphony concertmaster Jun Iwasaki (violin) who will play one or more of the “Violins of Hope” and principal keyboardist Robert Marler (piano).” For more on other Nashville events surrounding the Violins of Hope, see

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Eleanor Henderson, The Twelve Mile Straight

An Amazon Best Book of September 2017: Unflinching and immersive, The Twelve-Mile Straight is a panoramic portrait of 1930s Georgia, where poverty and violence collide with wealth and family – born and bred, white and black, rich and poor.

Saturday, October 14, 11:00am – 12:00pm, NPL Commons Room

Eleanor Henderson was born in Greece, grew up in Florida, and attended Middlebury College and the University of Virginia. Her debut novel, Ten Thousand Saints, was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2011 by the New York Times and a finalist for the Award for First Fiction from the Los Angeles Times and was adapted into a film in 2015. An associate professor at Ithaca College, she lives in Ithaca, New York, with her husband and two sons.

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Nicole Krauss, Forest Dark

“The award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The History of Love conjures an achingly beautiful and breathtakingly original novel about personal transformation that interweaves the stories of two disparate individuals – an older lawyer and a young novelist – whose transcendental search leads them to the same Israeli desert.”

Saturday, October 14, 9:30am – 11:00am, NPL Auditorium

Saturday, October 14, 2:00pm – 3:00pm, NPL, Conference Room 1A

Nicole Krauss is the internationally bestselling author of three novels: Man Walks Into a Room, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year; The History of Love, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Saroyan Prize for International Literature; and Great House, a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award. Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Krauss lives in New York.

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Daniel Sharfstein, Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War

“The epic clash of two American legends – their brutal war and a battle of ideas that defined America after Reconstruction.”

Saturday, October 14, 2:00pm – 3:00pm, NPL Conference Room 1B

Daniel Sharfstein is a professor of law and history at Vanderbilt University and a  2013 Guggenheim Fellow. His first book, The Invisible Line: A  Secret History of Race in America, received the J. Anthony Lukas Prize. He lives in Nashville.

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Corabel Shofner, Almost Paradise

“A heartfelt debut about a spunky girl determined to save her family and find her way home.

Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life changes the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly jailed for assisting with the crime.”

Saturday, October 14, 3:00pm – 4:00pm, NPL Teen Studio

Corabel Shofner is a wife, mother, former attorney, and author. She graduated from Columbia University and was on law review at Vanderbilt University Law School. Her shorter work has appeared or is forthcoming in Willow Review, Word Riot, Habersham Review, Hawai’i Review, Sou’wester, South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, and Xavier Review.

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Don Winston, Our Family Trouble

“A child in danger. A family in denial. A mother on the verge.

From the author of S’wanee, The Union Club, and The Gristmill Playhouse comes a parent’s unholiest nightmare. Set in Nashville and based on the legend of the Bell Witch.”

Friday, October 13, 3:00pm – 4:00pm, NPL Conference Room 1B

Don Winston grew up in Nashville and graduated from Princeton University. After a stint at Ralph Lauren headquarters in New York, he moved to Los Angeles to work in entertainment. He lives in Hollywood.

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Gabrielle Zevin, Young Jane Young

A variation on the Monica Lewinsky saga, “[t]his book will not only thoroughly entertain everyone who reads it; it is the most immaculate takedown of slut-shaming in literature or anywhere else. Cheers, and gratitude to the author.”  – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Saturday, October 14, 3:30pm – 4:30pm, NPL Auditorium

Gabrielle Zevin is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Her eighth novel, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, spent more than four months on the New York Times Bestseller list, reached #1 on the National Indie Bestseller list, and has been a bestseller all around the world. She has also written books for children and young adults, including the award-winning Elsewhere.

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Festival director Serenity Gerbman is a genius of organization and patience. Thank her if you see her!



October 5, 2017
by jenniferpuryear

And the Nobel Goes to – Kazuo Ishiguro!

In a return to sanity, the Nobel Committee has chosen British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro as this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature! He must be particularly thrilled to follow someone he’s called his “hero” – Bob Dylan.  

Ishiguro was born in Japan in 1954, but his family moved to England in 1960.

From an exceptional article in The Guardian:

“Ishiguro attended the local state primary school [in Guildford] where a progressive headmaster encouraged freedom of choice in study, which meant he did very little maths but spent a lot of time inventing spy stories. Despite this he won a place at Woking County Grammar school on an interview – ‘I think it was a system that allowed middle-class kids who messed up the test to get in’ – where he was the only ‘non-white kid’ in the school…

The Ishiguros were active churchgoers – he later became head chorister – but says he is still surprised ‘at the generosity and neighbourliness that met us’, just 15 years after the war. ‘People were incredibly kind to our family and went out of their way to help.’ He says the war was openly talked about at home (his mother, Shizuko, survived the Nagasaki atomic bomb aged 18) and outside. But the only times he can remember being uncomfortable were when playing war games at primary school, ‘where [I] would always campaign for us to fight against the Germans not the Japanese’….

Woking Grammar was a very traditional school that provided him with ‘probably the last chance to get a flavour of a bygone English society that was already rapidly fading’. He remembers the standard of art and music being very high. ‘My friends and I took songwriting very, very seriously. My hero was and still is Bob Dylan, but also people like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell and that whole generation. We would endlessly discuss the relationship between words and music and how they had to come alive within the context of performance.’ Ishiguro remains a serious guitar player with a collection of different instruments. Beagley, who has played music semi-professionally since school, recalls that Ishiguro was ‘fairly quiet and a bit of a swot, but in musical terms he was very much the director and was always quick to suggest a way of doing something or phrasing something that he thought might be interesting. And he was, and is, pretty good. He can certainly entertain people and I don’t think the quality of his stuff would get people leaving in droves.'”

In an interview with Bomb magazine, the interviewer asked Ishiguro, “You were born in Japan and came to England when you were five… How Japanese would you say you are?

“I’m not entirely like English people because I’ve been brought up by Japanese parents in a Japanese-speaking home,” Kazuo said in an interview. “My parents didn’t realize that we were going to stay in this country for so long, they felt responsible for keeping me in touch with Japanese values. I do have a distinct background. I think differently, my perspectives are slightly different.”  

The interviewer continued, “Would you say that the rest of you is English? Do you feel particularly English?

“People are not two-thirds one thing and the remainder something else. Temperament, personality, or outlook don’t divide quite like that. The bits don’t separate clearly. You end up a funny homogeneous mixture.”

Photograph by Francesco Guidicini/The Times/NI Syndication/Redux

Here’s a more complete (brief) biography from the Swedish Academy:

“Kazuo Ishiguro was born on November 8, 1954 in Nagasaki, Japan. The family moved to the United Kingdom when he was five years old; he returned to visit his country of birth only as an adult. In the late 1970s, Ishiguro graduated in English and Philosophy at the University of Kent, and then went on to study Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Kazuo Ishiguro has been a full-time author ever since his first book, A Pale View of Hills (1982). Both his first novel and the subsequent one, An Artist of the Floating World (1986) take place in Nagasaki a few years after the Second World War. The themes Ishiguro is most associated with are already present here: memory, time, and self-delusion. This is particularly notable in his most renowned novel, The Remains of the Day (1989), which was turned into film with Anthony Hopkins acting as the duty-obsessed butler Stevens.

Ishiguro’s writings are marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place. At the same time, his more recent fiction contains fantastic features. With the dystopian work Never Let Me Go (2005), Ishiguro introduced a cold undercurrent of science fiction into his work. In this novel, as in several others, we also find musical influences. A striking example is the collection of short stories titled Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009), where music plays a pivotal role in depicting the characters’ relationships. In his latest novel, The Buried Giant (2015), an elderly couple go on a road trip through an archaic English landscape, hoping to reunite with their adult son, whom they have not seen for years. This novel explores, in a moving manner, how memory relates to oblivion, history to the present, and fantasy to reality. Apart from his eight books, Ishiguro has also written scripts for film and television.”



















Congratulations, Mr. Ishiguro!!

Bacon’s Top Pick: The Buried Giant.


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