Not long ago I visited a part of Alabama where a lot of people were reading Frank Turner Hollon’s novella, The Pains of April (MacAdam/Cage, 114 pp., $7.50, paperback), a book popular with local reading groups. The narrator is an 86-year-old widower, former lawyer, and Gulf Coast rest-home resident, who reminisces about his life amid activities such as playing cards, watching television, and sneaking out with friends to get a tattoo. And he makes an interesting observation about small-town life: “When a very good carpenter comes into a community, he makes the entire profession better. He raises the bar for good carpenters and puts the bad carpenters out of business. When a very good lawyer comes into a community, there can be a different result. He has the power to destroy the system itself. He has the ability to turn justice around. He can prove the innocent man guilty and set the guilty man free. He can make sense out of nonsense and have a jury laughing at the truth.”
June 15, 2009
Tags: Aging, Alabama Authors, Book Reviews, Books, Gulf Coast, Lawyers, Lawyers in Fiction, Southern Literature
April 10, 2009
Winston Groom’s ‘Vicksburg, 1863’ — The Creator of Forrest Gump Reconsiders a Pivotal Moment in the Civil War
Tags: Alabama Authors, Civil War, Confederacy, Mississippi, Vicksburg, War, Winston Groom
Just back from a great talk by Winston Groom at a signing for his new nonfiction book, Vicksburg, 1863 (Knopf, 496 pp., $30). I didn’t take notes because a friend and I stopped by on our way to a Maundy Thursday service and planned to listen for just a few minutes. But the talk was so captivating we stayed for all of it and just made it to the church on time.
A few points stood out: Gettysburg is better known than Vicksburg and often viewed as more important to the Civil War. But by dint of its strategic location on the Mississippi, Vicksburg had more geographic value. Two years of bloodshed might have been avoided if the South had offered the North terms for ending the war as catastrophe loomed. After its besieged forces surrendered on July 4, 1863, the day after Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, Vicksburg didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July for a century.
Groom’s talk was full of lively details about how the residents of the Vicksburg tried to stay alive while trapped. Some ate mule meat or eluded artillery fire by digging caves – later intentionally destroyed — that might held fascinating clues to how people survived the devastation of 1863.
If you’d like to know more, an excerpt from the book appears on the Knopf site. The publisher also has posted a quote from a review by John Sledge, the books editor of the Mobile Press-Register, who “There have been many books about Vicksburg, but none better than this.”
© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.