Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

February 27, 2017
by jenniferpuryear

Celebrity Pals at The Porch

Katie McDougall and Susannah Felts, photo by Heidi Ross

Katie McDougall and Susannah Felts, photo by Heidi Ross

I interrupt your conversation about the Oscars to bring today’s news of a wonderful Nashville fundraiser featuring celebrity pals… but first, about the Oscars. Is anyone else feeling a profound sense of relief – I’ve made lots of mistakes, big mistakes, but thank God I didn’t make that mistake – ? 

No mistake about it, Susannah Felts and Katie McDougall brighten Nashville’s literary scene through The Porch Writers’ Collective, Nashville’s Independent Center for Writing.  Their annual fundraiser is approaching, and Mary Laura Philpott helps spread the good word today, here and at Musing

From Mary Laura: Ah, celebrity pals: Oprah and Gayle. George and Brad. Tina and Amy. Mary and Wally.

You know, Mary Gauthier and Wally Lamb.


Lamb and Gauthier have been friends and mutual fans ever since they appeared together at a festival in New Orleans several years ago, so it makes perfect sense that they’d be paired up for The Porch Writers Collectives annual fundraiser in Nashville, which brings literary and musical legends together for a night of storytelling and performances. This year’s event, Mercy & Magic, takes place Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Green Door Gourmet.

Susannah Felts and Katie McDougall, founders of The Porch, couldn’t believe their luck when McDougall met Gauthier last year at an event for Deepak Chopra at Vanderbilt. Gauthier not only agreed to join The Porch’s event but enthusiastically recommended that her pal Lamb come on board as well. “Music and literature work on my mind and spirit in different but complementary ways, and I hazard a guess that many people feel the same way,” says Felts, a longtime Gauthier admirer. “As Mary will tell you, she seeks the truth in her songs. She’s a rare breed, the kind of artist whose work leaves you changed.”

unnamedSpeaking of art that changes everything: Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone has a memorable place in literary history. Look at that cover – can you remember where you were in your life when everyone was reading it? The coming-of-age tale about a troubled young woman named Delores came out in 1992 but took its place in every purse/beach bag/bookshelf in 1996, when it became the fourth-ever selection in Oprah Winfrey’s brand-new book club. The novel launched Lamb onto the literary scene as a storyteller with a knack for capturing distinctive voices.

His follow-up novel, I Know This Much Is True, about a pair of twin brothers, one of whom is schizophrenic, was also anointed by Oprah, and by the time his third novel, The Hour I First Believed, arrived a decade later, fans trusted Lamb to deliver an arresting read. Wishin’ and Hopin’We Are Water, and I’ll Take You There (released just last fall) have all been New York Times bestsellers as well.

As the author of several short stories, Mary Gauthier is no stranger to fiction herself, although you probably know her words best from her award-winning song lyrics. Not only was her own first major label release, Mercy Now, a top-10 selection by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Billboard Magazine, but her second album, Drag Queens in Limousines won best Folk/Singer-Songwriter Song at the Independent Music Awards (not to mention the unofficial award of best title ever among anyone who loves drag queens, limousines, and brilliant rhymes). Artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Tim McGraw, and Blake Shelton have recorded her songs. A regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry, she is currently at work on a book about the art of songwriting (yay!).

Guests of the Mercy & Magic event are in for a magical time indeed, says Felts, who isn’t giving away too many details of what will happen onstage except to say that we’ll get to “see how two artists and art forms throw off sparks when brought together.”

* * *

Mercy & Magic: An Evening with Mary Gauthier and Wally Lamb

Come hear two legendary artists read between the lines and sing the stories behind the songs in a memorable event that supports the creative, educational, and outreach programs of The Porch Writers’ Collective. Tickets are still available, but this event may sell out soon – so get yours while you can:

6:30 p.m. – VIP Reception (tickets: $150) – includes a meet-and-greet reception before the show with wine, beer, a signature cocktail, and heavy hors d’oeuvres

7:30 p.m. – doors open for main event, which begins at 8 p.m. (tickets: $50)





February 26, 2017
by jenniferpuryear

Pepper and The Dark and Stormy Night

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It was a dark and stormy night. Pepper pawed at the back door, jumping up on her hind legs to scratch at the panes of glass she could reach – anxious to get out.

“Come!” She called to me. “Come!”

I put my book down.

“Seriously, Pepper?” I replied. “That is actually a one-way word. Me to you. We’ve discussed this! And you are awfully impatient to get out in this terrible weather,” I noted.

“I hear a strange rustle bustle, a whispering and a muttering, and I want to investigate,” she told me.  

“You’re the brave one tonight,” I observed, but she was already gone.

I came back inside and lit a candle against the dark. I couldn’t concentrate on my reading. I knew that the Hideous Troll, unhappily biding its time in the Bamboo Forest, was not the only thing that hid in the Three Acre Wood.

The minutes crept by, each one longer than the last. I ate a cookie, then buttered toast. I heated water in the kettle for tea until it shrieked.

Finally I put on my raincoat and opened the back door. “Pepper, come!” I called, against the wind. No response. I walked down the stairs and deep into the yard. “Pepper, come!” I repeated, again and again, as the rain slashed my face.

I found her, still as stone, in the Rock Garden. Drenched. I knelt down and petted her about the face. “Peppy,” I said. “Peppy, come in.” She followed me.

Back inside, I toweled her off. I gave her a handful of Milkbones, which seemed to revive her a bit.

“Pep, what happened out there?” I asked softly.

“The voices…” she answered. “I went beyond where the Grickle-grass grows, past the Bamboo Forest, into the Great Brambly Thicket. And that’s when I started hearing the voices in my head, it was like I was talking to myself, saying things like I am a Bad Dog, I will never catch a squirrel, I do not deserve to be happy, and then – worst of all – I hate myself. I heard that over and over. I hate myself.”

“Oh Peppy,” I cried, hugging her close despite the fact that she does not in point of fact love to be hugged. “You were hearing the 10,000 Idiots. They live in the Great Brambly Thicket. They grow in strength at night. They say such terrible things, such powerful untruths, but in the deep dark stormy night their voices are hard to resist.”

“Yes, they were hard to resist,” she echoed.

“Peppy, I’m so proud of you. You didn’t get lost in the Great Brambly Thicket. You made it all the way back to the Rock Garden. You almost made it back Home. Next time, come straight back Home, where you are deeply loved and loving. The 10,000 Idiots are powerful. But you are, too.”

She licked me right on the face, which in point of fact isn’t my favorite thing, but which actually felt just right.



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If you haven’t heard of the Bamboo Forest or the Hideous Troll, you might click here.

If you’re interested in the provenance of the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night,” you’d be surprised by how much you can learn at Wikipedia!

For more on the 10,000 Idiots, stop in at Mason-Dixon Knitting.