Archive for June, 2008

Nobody But the People Excerpted in Southern Political Report

Monday, June 9th, 2008 by Josh

The Southern Political Report has posted an excerpt of Nobody But The People: The Life and Times of Alabama’s Youngest Governor, Warren Trest’s authorized biography of former Alabama Governor John Patterson. The excerpt recounts the murder of Patterson’s father, attorney Albert Patterson, an event that spurred John Patterson into politics and ultimately to the governorship.

Read the entire excerpt on the Southern Political Report website.

The Washington, D.C.-based Southern Political Report has examined government and political affairs news for thirty years in thirteen states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Nobody But The People: The Life and Times of Alabama’s Youngest Governor is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite online or local book retailer.

Calvin Kytle, Author of Like a Tree, Dies at 88

Thursday, June 5th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Calvin Kytle, author of the Depression-era novel Like a Tree, died June 5, 2008; he was 88.

Kytle was also the author of the young-adult biography Gandhi, Soldier of Nonviolence and Who Runs Georgia? with Congressman James Mackay. He founded Seven Locks Press in 1978, publishing authors including Bill Moyers. He worked as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Calhoun, Ga., Times, as well as an executive for Nationwide Insurance company. Kyle served as deputy director of the US Community Relations Service, created by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, from 1964-1965.

Calvin Kytle, author of Like a Tree

Kytle released his first novel, Like a Tree, at age 87. Like a Tree tells the story of the Krueger family, and how they survived the spirit-breaking years of the 1930s Depression. Foremost among the Krugers is Douglas, who struggles with mental illness throughout his life. Kytle paralleled Douglas’s achievements and setbacks with that of the country’s, fully demonstrating how the fate of the United States and the lives of its people are intertwined.

Like a Tree takes as its focus the South’s often-overlooked white liberal minority, which worked quietly and underground fighting prejudice, segregation, and ignorance. The novel stands as a testament to the perseverance, love, good will, and the fortitude of ordinary human beings. Vernon Jordan called Like a Tree “a sweeping, elegantly crafted story that explores Atlanta’s and the South’s complex racial and social past.”

Calvin Kytle was married for more than sixty years to the former Elizabeth Larisey, also an author. They retired to Carolina Meadows retirement community in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1991.

Like a Tree is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Kathryn Tucker Windham Celebrates Ninetieth Birthday with Music, Laughter

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008 by Josh

Happy Birthday, Ms. Windham! NewSouth joins the over two-hundred people who gathered last Sunday, June 1, at the Selma Public Library in wishing Kathryn Tucker Windham a happy ninetieth birthday. Guests at the library serenaded Alabama’s favorite storyteller with the sound of comb music, played with a comb and wax paper.

As Ms. Windham described, “I’m a great believer in laughter. That’s why I think these comb concerts work, because they make people laugh.”

Click to watch a video of Kathryn Tucker Windham’s birthday party courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser.

Kathryn Tucker Windham is one of America’s best-loved storytellers. She began writing as one of the first women daily newspaper reporters in Alabama. After a successful career as a journalist, she turned to writing books of ghost stories and folklore. She remains one of the most popular performers at national storytelling festivals and has been a featured commentator on National Public Radio and Alabama Public Radio. She lives in Selma, Alabama.

Ms. Windham’s Alabama, One Big Front Porch, re-released by NewSouth in 2007, is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

David Rigsbee Remembers Poet, Novelist George Garrett

Monday, June 2nd, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Poet David Rigsbee offered this remembrance of Southern novelist and poet George Garrett, who died at the end of May 2008, at 78.

A poet of Jonsonian inclinations—which is to say, classical (in form), sardonic, epigrammatic, and academic (in the best sense), George Garrett found an itinerant sophistication and wordliness sometimes inadequate for coming to terms with the world’s savvy indifference to the characteristics he valued most: sympathy, tenderness, wit, public responsibility, and the sanctity of private passion. But his best poems succeed and are most humanly appealing when, as was not infrequently the case, the most gracious moments were scaled back by modest and witty admissions of his own shortcomings. As a device, being in-the-know serves not only as check against the grandiosity that commonly shadows our ideals, it also configures the speaker in such a way that we stand to calibrate the truth of his expressions against a known measure.

Garrett created an ambient sympathy through the revelation of imperfection, and this creation in turn modeled a larger sympathy—one of his cornerstone themes. Moreover, because the speaker allowed the reader to have something on him, he relinquished the right to put on the kind of rhetorical moves that tempt lesser poets to dispense with the spade work of making meaning. For instance, in “Luck’s Shining Child,” the poet-teacher decompresses both himself and his pedagogy:

When I cross the gravel parking lot
one foot winces

and I have to hop along on the other.
My students believe I am trying
to prove something.

They think I’m being a symbol of
dichotomy, duality, double-dealing,
yin and yang.

I am hopping because it hurts.
Because there is a hole in my shoe.

Of couse the irony is that literature, including this poem, often is a kind of double-dealing, but the further point is that misuse of language, whether via rhetoric or any other linguistic means, was never a right in the first place, particularly for poets. It can never by conferred, accepted, or for that matter, usurped—as a result of which language acquires a sanctity like that of life itself.

There are poets of language and poets of disposition. Garrett’s strength lay in the fact that he often seemed one at the moment when he was most being the other. This trick made him the most Elizabethan of southern poets, and it should come as no surprise that he wrote three best-selling novels about the period, The Death of the Fox (1971), about poet and courtier Sir Walter Ralegh, The Succession, about Elizabeth I (1983), and Entered from the Sun (1990), about the death of poet and playwright Christopher Marlow. Elizabethan richness and the attraction of such a close involvement with prosodic variety—as symbolic of diminishing, but still recoverable (if only quotational or elegiac) harmonies, allowed Garrett to create expectations of fullness and presence that ran counter to postmodern discoveries of emptiness and absence in the same poetic culture.

Interestingly, while circling the English language’s high historical moment by means of its poets (one—Ralegh—a consummate man of letters and the world) and declaring by example his own affiliation with the sympathies and communitarianism created by such an intensity of shared language awareness, Garrett declined to incorporate Shakespeare within this pantheon. In fairness, it should be said that the missing center is less likely to be the postmodernist’s blind spot, aporia, or missing center, than the (always) final destination of a gradus ad parnassum.

David Rigsbee’s poetry collection The Red Tower is forthcoming from NewSouth Books.