Archive for September, 2013

Author Rod Davis reviews Making War at Fort Hood in Texas Observer

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Brian Seidman

South, America by Rod DavisRod Davis’s forthcoming South, America is being compared to the works of James M. Cain and Mickey Spillane, and described as “a powerful evocation of pre-Katrina New Orleans and as absorbing a tale of love and evil to come out of this town since Ace Atkins and Tony Dunbar.” The soul-searching and trouble-finding protagonist, ex-TV reporter Jack Prine, was once an Army intelligence officer in Korea and it shows in both his skills and his penchant for taking risks.

It’s no accident that Davis, himself a veteran of Korea during the Vietnam Era, stays involved in advocacy and remains interested in the fates of those who have left the military. In the September issue of The Texas Observer, Davis shows that interest in his review of Making War at Fort Hood by Kenneth MacLeish, a fascinating study of the true effects of military service on those whose lives are forever changed by it.

Rod Davis’s South, America will be released by NewSouth Books in December. While you wait, don’t miss Davis’s debut novel, the PEN Southwest fiction award-winning Corina’s Way, which Kirkus Reviews called a “spicy bouillabaisse, New Orleans-set … romp, told in an old-fashioned style and with traditional southern charm.”

Weekly Standard, NC Bookwatch look at making of a Southern liberal in Ayers’s In Love with Defeat

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 by Brian Seidman

In Love with Defeat by H. Brandt AyersAnniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers’s explores “the making of a Southern liberal” in his new memoir, In Love with Defeat. To some, a “Southern liberal” might be an oxymoron, something Ayers discusses in his book and that two new reviews of In Love with Defeat have picked up on.

In a review that aired on North Carolina Bookwatch, D.G. Martin points out that Ayers’s “progressive views set him apart from many of his fellow Southerners, whose culture and basic values he respects and shares. At the same time, this attachment to his Southern heritage sets him apart from non-Southerners who share his basic political views but cannot understand his attachment to the positive features of Southern culture.”

It is this dichotomy that Edwin Yoder also notes in a Weekly Standard review, that “as the great historian C. Vann Woodward taught us, the South is incurably peculiar—’un-American’ in the sense that its scarred history often negates the nation’s positive myths of victory and optimism. Its collective identity is marked by atypical experiences of poverty, defeat, and racial evil. … What Ayers means by a love of defeat is that his political and cultural tribe of Southern liberals (impatient with Jim Crow and bent on overthrowing its evils) were born to incompleteness.”

As an example, Yoder cites the formation of the L. Q. C Lamar Society by Ayers and others, intending to preserve the South’s cultural legacy while attracting new business opportunities to the South. They were ultimately overwhelmed, as Ayers describes in In Love with Defeat, by progress that eroded Southern culture; Ayers compares the thoroughly modern Atlanta to Charleston and Savannah that still preserve the Southern aesthetic.

Martin spotlights the end of Ayers’s book, in which the author “is still caught between his liberal leanings and his identification with Southerners who do not share those views. … Maybe it is a tough puzzle to understand, but [as] former Mississippi Gov. William Winter says, Ayers comes ‘as close to explaining who we Southerners are and why we act as we do,'” even if that explanation comes in the form of recognizing the contradictions inherit in the Southern identity.

Writes Yoder, “Brandt Ayers is one of those notable heirs of the knight of La Mancha, resolved to better his world, heedless of cynicism. If this was in some ways an impossible dream, he stuck to his mission, and Anniston, Alabama, the South, and the nation are the better for it.”

Read D.G. Martin’s review, archived in the Charlotte Observer, and Edwin Yoder’s review from the Weekly Standard.

In Love with Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal by H. Brandt Ayers, is available in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Remembering Sheldon Hackney, 1933-2013

Friday, September 13th, 2013 by Brian Seidman

Sheldon HackneyNewSouth Books announces with sadness the passing of Sheldon Hackney, whose life and work inspired a new book — a “festschrift” called Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of Sheldon Hackney, due out in November.

One of the volume’s editors, Ray Arsenault, and one of the essay contributors, Charles Joyner, each sent these tributes to their friend and mentor.

“Sheldon Hackney died this morning, September 12, at the age of 79, at his home in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. He is now at peace, surrounded by his loving family — his wife Lucy, his son Fain and daughter-in-law Melissa, his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Brian, and his eight grandchildren. Some of Sheldon’s colleagues and former students have been preparing a volume of essays in his honor — a volume that will be published late next month. Sheldon knew about this effort and seemed to take great pleasure from it. Last night Pat Sullivan was able to visit with Sheldon and to show him an advance copy of the cover and the introductory chapter that profiles his remarkable life. Perhaps we can take some comfort in knowing that this brought a smile to his face–and that he surely had some sense of how much we love and admire him. Peace to his spirit.”

— Ray Arsenault, editor, Dixie Redux, John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History, University of South Florida

“Sheldon’s scholarship, his teaching and his leadership left an extraordinary legacy. Many make a mark in one of those, some in two, but few in all three. It has be our privilege to be his students (whether in the classroom or on the page) and to share his friendship. I am saddened at his death, but here on the edge of the Atlantic I look out at the horizon and think of what someone said at my father’s funeral many years ago: On this side of the horizon, we are lamenting ‘there he goes, but on the other side of the horizon they are smiling ‘here he comes.'”

— Charles Joyner, Burroughs Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Southern History and Culture at Coastal Carolina University

Sheldon Hackney’s book The Politics of Presidential Appointment is available from NewSouth Books or your favorite bookstore.

Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of Sheldon Hackney is available for pre-order from NewSouth Books. The 19 contributors, all distinguished historians, include Arsenault and co-editor Orville Vernon Burton, Joyner, and Drew Gilpin Faust, William R. Ferris, Lani Guinier, Steven Hahn, Randall Kennedy, J. Morgan Kousser, Peyton McCrary, Stephanie McCurry, James M. McPherson, David Moltke-Hansen, Michael O’Brien, Thomas Sugrue, Patricia Sullivan, and J. Mills Thornton.