Author: Lemuria (Page 2 of 16)

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Building Castles between here and New Orleans

Written by Jim Pathfinder Ewing 

Meeting Katy Simpson Smith at a book signing and reading at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS, I was immediately captivated by her infectious smile, her sweet presence, her unassuming grace. She seemed baffled that her first book, The Story of Land and Sea, had excited such interest in the book world.
As the publisher HarperCollins describes it: Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, the novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave—characters who yearn for redemption amid a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.
But it’s much, much more.
It was happenstance that I was at Lemuria at all, much less buying her book. I had stopped by to have some signed first editions put in mylar so they might wear better on the shelf, and Adie and Maggie who work there, asked me if I was coming to the signing. What signing? I asked.
They told me about this young writer, 28, who grew up in Jackson and was making waves with her debut novel. In Jackson? How could I not know her? So, I bought the book and stayed, and was the first person to greet her when she arrived. We chatted and I thought, hmmm, sweet lady.
Little did I know that the surface of this woman was like the ocean she described — smiles and laughter like jumping fish and mermaids — covering unfathomable depths where leviathans live unceasing and unknown.
Once I picked up the book, I was hooked.
Lyrical, poetic, masterful, each page is a delight. I found myself not worrying about the plot, each page its own reward. My thoughts about the book became a barely conscious narrative itself: 
 
I don’t want it to stop. She skirts through the puzzles of people’s hearts like sure fingers on combination locks, first left, then right, then left again, releasing understandings that roll through me like waves. 
Young and old, they are all the same: transparent to her in magical ways. I am mesmerized as the pages glide by, getting my sea legs in this voyage of discovery. I cannot put the book down.
As the chapters flow, and I take breaks now and then, to rest, recuperate, gather myself. I plunge back again and again; from sea to land, from land to sea, taking deep breaths, from a gathering intelligence of who is who and how, to knowing I was unknowing, only thinking I knew. I gasp as each chapter forms a sea change in the facets revealed about each character. 
In the first chapter, my feet on solid ground, I don’t like Asa, the grandfather. He’s a hateful, self-righteous man, through his clinging to religion. In the next, I see him as a young man, and my heart breaks for him; I am him. How did that happen? And I hate Helen, the mother, his daughter, for her cold, callous pretension; even, as before, I had felt the husband’s and the granddaughter’s longing and loss for her. Now, I see, I had only seen her as a ship on the horizon, her gallant sails, the dim outline, defiant and wonderful as she sailed into the golden sunset of memory. But wait! What’s this! Quick as a riptide, the roles change again. Helen, the mother, in love; Asa turning, turning … into what he will become.
We delve deeper and deeper, exploring, finding, shifting, changing.
As the pages turn and mount, I grow fearful the book will end, and where will I be? On sea or land? 
 
Now, having made the voyage, I am spent; in awe and slightly resentful. Like the father, a privateer, she has stolen my admiration. It’s a prize hard won. Enduring.
Since I met her at the book signing, and sat with her, and conversed, and heard her speak to an audience, I wonder: How can someone so young, this author, fathom so many diverse people, and present them in all their mystery and unconscious revelation?
I think back to the photo I took of her, so full of life and easy laughter; how can such depth of knowledge reside there? Her bright face, her youthful demeanor, are like the book’s cover: beautiful, well crafted, but the inner pages tell a different story: of love and loss, poignant hopes and crushing realities. Unless you take the time to hear her words in your own mind, you will never know certain secrets that are universal, hidden in your own heart.
It is a joy and a wonder to have a Jackson author of such talent. She could live and write anywhere. But she doesn’t, building her castles between here and New Orleans.
I look forward to her next book, on land, sea or air.
Here’s a story about her in the New Orleans Times-Picayunehttp://www.nola.com/books/index.ssf/2014/08/katy_simpson_smith_grabs_natio.html
Jim PathFinder Ewing has written six books, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. His latest is “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating” (Findhorn Press, 2012). His next book — about which he is mysteriously silent — is scheduled to be released in Spring, 2015. Find him on Facebook, join him on Twitter @EdiblePrayers, or see his website,www.blueskywaters.com

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Building Castles between here and New Orleans

Written by Jim Pathfinder Ewing 

Meeting Katy Simpson Smith at a book signing and reading at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS, I was immediately captivated by her infectious smile, her sweet presence, her unassuming grace. She seemed baffled that her first book, The Story of Land and Sea, had excited such interest in the book world.
As the publisher HarperCollins describes it: Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, the novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave—characters who yearn for redemption amid a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.
But it’s much, much more.
It was happenstance that I was at Lemuria at all, much less buying her book. I had stopped by to have some signed first editions put in mylar so they might wear better on the shelf, and Adie and Maggie who work there, asked me if I was coming to the signing. What signing? I asked.
They told me about this young writer, 28, who grew up in Jackson and was making waves with her debut novel. In Jackson? How could I not know her? So, I bought the book and stayed, and was the first person to greet her when she arrived. We chatted and I thought, hmmm, sweet lady.
Little did I know that the surface of this woman was like the ocean she described — smiles and laughter like jumping fish and mermaids — covering unfathomable depths where leviathans live unceasing and unknown.
Once I picked up the book, I was hooked.
Lyrical, poetic, masterful, each page is a delight. I found myself not worrying about the plot, each page its own reward. My thoughts about the book became a barely conscious narrative itself: 
 
I don’t want it to stop. She skirts through the puzzles of people’s hearts like sure fingers on combination locks, first left, then right, then left again, releasing understandings that roll through me like waves. 
Young and old, they are all the same: transparent to her in magical ways. I am mesmerized as the pages glide by, getting my sea legs in this voyage of discovery. I cannot put the book down.
As the chapters flow, and I take breaks now and then, to rest, recuperate, gather myself. I plunge back again and again; from sea to land, from land to sea, taking deep breaths, from a gathering intelligence of who is who and how, to knowing I was unknowing, only thinking I knew. I gasp as each chapter forms a sea change in the facets revealed about each character. 
In the first chapter, my feet on solid ground, I don’t like Asa, the grandfather. He’s a hateful, self-righteous man, through his clinging to religion. In the next, I see him as a young man, and my heart breaks for him; I am him. How did that happen? And I hate Helen, the mother, his daughter, for her cold, callous pretension; even, as before, I had felt the husband’s and the granddaughter’s longing and loss for her. Now, I see, I had only seen her as a ship on the horizon, her gallant sails, the dim outline, defiant and wonderful as she sailed into the golden sunset of memory. But wait! What’s this! Quick as a riptide, the roles change again. Helen, the mother, in love; Asa turning, turning … into what he will become.
We delve deeper and deeper, exploring, finding, shifting, changing.
As the pages turn and mount, I grow fearful the book will end, and where will I be? On sea or land? 
 
Now, having made the voyage, I am spent; in awe and slightly resentful. Like the father, a privateer, she has stolen my admiration. It’s a prize hard won. Enduring.
Since I met her at the book signing, and sat with her, and conversed, and heard her speak to an audience, I wonder: How can someone so young, this author, fathom so many diverse people, and present them in all their mystery and unconscious revelation?
I think back to the photo I took of her, so full of life and easy laughter; how can such depth of knowledge reside there? Her bright face, her youthful demeanor, are like the book’s cover: beautiful, well crafted, but the inner pages tell a different story: of love and loss, poignant hopes and crushing realities. Unless you take the time to hear her words in your own mind, you will never know certain secrets that are universal, hidden in your own heart.
It is a joy and a wonder to have a Jackson author of such talent. She could live and write anywhere. But she doesn’t, building her castles between here and New Orleans.
I look forward to her next book, on land, sea or air.
Here’s a story about her in the New Orleans Times-Picayunehttp://www.nola.com/books/index.ssf/2014/08/katy_simpson_smith_grabs_natio.html
Jim PathFinder Ewing has written six books, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. His latest is “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating” (Findhorn Press, 2012). His next book — about which he is mysteriously silent — is scheduled to be released in Spring, 2015. Find him on Facebook, join him on Twitter @EdiblePrayers, or see his website,www.blueskywaters.com

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: The best days are ahead

Written by Paul Bonds, owner of Beanfruit Coffee Company 

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “What made you get into coffee in Mississippi–specifically Jackson?” When you think about it, Jackson doesn’t meet the typical market criteria for specialty coffee. It’s not cold and rainy, it’s pretty conservative, and doesn’t have a major university in the vicinity. So why did I begin BeanFruit Coffee Company here and not some other city?

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When I was kid, I used to love the show In the Heat of the Night, a drama/mystery television series that was based in the small fictional town of Sparta, Mississippi. Most of the cases that occurred on the show were solved in the fictional town. However, when the cases got too complex, they would travel to Jackson to get a higher authority involved to solve the case. Jackson was considered the “big city” on the show, and because I grew up in a small town in Mississippi like Sparta, I could totally relate. I’ll never forget the first time I traveled to Jackson as a child. I was fascinated by the big buildings, shopping malls, colleges, etc. Growing up in the tiny “one-horse town” I’m from made downtown Jackson seem like Times Square. The potential of what could happen here just got me excited. I firmly believe that excitement still exists. I also think it’s great to be a part of all the things that are starting to happen here.

Great local restaurants like Parlor MarketLa Finestra, and Walkers, just to name a few, are paving the way for Jackson’s high-quality cuisine scene. Who would have thought that a single coffee shop in Fondren would one day lead to a coffee roasting operation with 10 plus cafés all over Mississippi? Cups: An Espresso Café did it, and they started in Jackson over 20 years ago. All of those factors and so many other examples give me hope for this area’s future. Sure, I know Jackson isn’t without its problems but I truly believe this city’s best days are ahead, not behind.

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Building with what you have

Written by Scott M. Crawford, Ph.D

Friends of mine Rachael Taylor and Kelly Cook from Broadmeadow United Methodist Church approached me this morning as I arrived for church.  They were leading the Children’s Bible Study and asked the kids, “What are you grateful for?” The answer was a unanimous, “I’m grateful for my LEGO’s!!!”  Of course, being a bit of a LEGO fan myself (ever so slightly), this made me smile.  Rachael and Kelly asked if there was some way to incorporate LEGO’s into a spiritual message to teach the children.  This blog is my answer.

scott7

As fans of LEGO JACKSON may already know, it is an idealized version of Mississippi’s Capital City, in which all are welcome, everyone cares for each other, and people bring about justice and equity for all.  One of the first buildings I wanted to create was my home church, Broadmeadow United Methodist.  It’s a very traditional looking church, with a tall white steeple.  Unfortunately, that kind of steeple is very difficult (almost impossible) to recreate in the right scale, proportional to the minifigures that populate LEGO JACKSON.

Building with LEGO often results in this kind of quandary.  Having a great idea but not having the pieces available (if they even exist at all).  Complicating everything is that the more one builds, the fewer pieces you have left in the collection, no matter how carefully they might be organized for easy retrieval.

Living with a chronic, progressive, debilitating disease like multiple sclerosis is a lot like that.  It can be described as “the gift that keeps on taking.”  Ones strength, cognitive resources, coordination, and stamina are all taken away slowly but surely…sometimes quite abruptly.

Yet, we are all called to “BUILD” something meaningful with our lives.  None of us have the same set of pieces, and although we may try to get more through education, hard work, and creativity, there are always limits.

My life as a clinical neuropsychologist ended when I got a severe form of progressive MS.  It was not unlike the time when vandals broke into my storage unit and destroyed a large part of LEGO JACKSON.  It was devastating.  I’d worked very long and hard to create a life I thought was meaningful, and it was taken away.  I was left to “pick up the pieces” and “start over” with “plan B.”

I now have a lot fewer “pieces” than I had before.  MS affects my cognition, although most people do not notice.  Chronic exhaustion limits what I do despite my “workaholic” personality.  Some days it is hard to get out of bed, and it is always a struggle to speak loud enough to be heard (my vocal cords are paralyzed).

There are very few things that I’m absolutely certain of, but one of them is that we are all tasked with creating something meaningful with what we have available.  To me, that means serving on various disability related boards and committees, and inspiring others to care for each other and our city through LEGO JACKSON.

I couldn’t build the exact likeness of my own church, so I examined what I DID have, and came up with a design for a “Cathedral” to represent a place where the people of LEGO JACKSON could revere their Creator.  LEGO JACKSON’s Cathedral debuted in 2010.

If I had the pieces, I’d like to someday build a Mosque, Jewish Temple, and other places of worship.

scott6

You’ll notice I repurposed “wheels” for stained glass windows.

 

scott5

scott4I scrounged enough clear pieces to create a “stained glass cross” behind the altar.

 

scott3

scott2

 

I worked hard to recreate details like the altar cross, pipe organ, baptismal font, and bread/wine.  Jedi Knights serve for “monks”.

scott

 

It didn’t turn out to be my church, but it serves the people of LEGO JACKSON well.

Remember, in life, we are asked to build something meaningful using fewer pieces than we wish we had.

Be creative.  Keep building.  Never stop.

-Scott

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at lemuriabooks.com. 

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Building with what you have

Written by Scott M. Crawford, Ph.D

Friends of mine Rachael Taylor and Kelly Cook from Broadmeadow United Methodist Church approached me this morning as I arrived for church.  They were leading the Children’s Bible Study and asked the kids, “What are you grateful for?” The answer was a unanimous, “I’m grateful for my LEGO’s!!!”  Of course, being a bit of a LEGO fan myself (ever so slightly), this made me smile.  Rachael and Kelly asked if there was some way to incorporate LEGO’s into a spiritual message to teach the children.  This blog is my answer.

scott7

As fans of LEGO JACKSON may already know, it is an idealized version of Mississippi’s Capital City, in which all are welcome, everyone cares for each other, and people bring about justice and equity for all.  One of the first buildings I wanted to create was my home church, Broadmeadow United Methodist.  It’s a very traditional looking church, with a tall white steeple.  Unfortunately, that kind of steeple is very difficult (almost impossible) to recreate in the right scale, proportional to the minifigures that populate LEGO JACKSON.

Building with LEGO often results in this kind of quandary.  Having a great idea but not having the pieces available (if they even exist at all).  Complicating everything is that the more one builds, the fewer pieces you have left in the collection, no matter how carefully they might be organized for easy retrieval.

Living with a chronic, progressive, debilitating disease like multiple sclerosis is a lot like that.  It can be described as “the gift that keeps on taking.”  Ones strength, cognitive resources, coordination, and stamina are all taken away slowly but surely…sometimes quite abruptly.

Yet, we are all called to “BUILD” something meaningful with our lives.  None of us have the same set of pieces, and although we may try to get more through education, hard work, and creativity, there are always limits.

My life as a clinical neuropsychologist ended when I got a severe form of progressive MS.  It was not unlike the time when vandals broke into my storage unit and destroyed a large part of LEGO JACKSON.  It was devastating.  I’d worked very long and hard to create a life I thought was meaningful, and it was taken away.  I was left to “pick up the pieces” and “start over” with “plan B.”

I now have a lot fewer “pieces” than I had before.  MS affects my cognition, although most people do not notice.  Chronic exhaustion limits what I do despite my “workaholic” personality.  Some days it is hard to get out of bed, and it is always a struggle to speak loud enough to be heard (my vocal cords are paralyzed).

There are very few things that I’m absolutely certain of, but one of them is that we are all tasked with creating something meaningful with what we have available.  To me, that means serving on various disability related boards and committees, and inspiring others to care for each other and our city through LEGO JACKSON.

I couldn’t build the exact likeness of my own church, so I examined what I DID have, and came up with a design for a “Cathedral” to represent a place where the people of LEGO JACKSON could revere their Creator.  LEGO JACKSON’s Cathedral debuted in 2010.

If I had the pieces, I’d like to someday build a Mosque, Jewish Temple, and other places of worship.

scott6

You’ll notice I repurposed “wheels” for stained glass windows.

 

scott5

scott4I scrounged enough clear pieces to create a “stained glass cross” behind the altar.

 

scott3

scott2

 

I worked hard to recreate details like the altar cross, pipe organ, baptismal font, and bread/wine.  Jedi Knights serve for “monks”.

scott

 

It didn’t turn out to be my church, but it serves the people of LEGO JACKSON well.

Remember, in life, we are asked to build something meaningful using fewer pieces than we wish we had.

Be creative.  Keep building.  Never stop.

-Scott

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at lemuriabooks.com. 

We Are the Music Makers

About a dozen years ago, my book pal Katherine Walton introduced me to the fine work of Tim Duffy. His first book, Music Makers, was nearing publication and she wanted us to become friends. I loved Tim’s first book so much that Lemuria kept it in our blues section until it went out of print. The effort in that first book was special; and it was my introduction to the music of Willie King of Macon, MS. Willie’s music is inspiring to me personally, and fortunately I was able to develop a friendship with him before he passed in 2009.

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We Are the Music Makers is Tim’s new effort, put together with his lovely wife Denise, to celebrate the last 20 years of the Music Maker Relief Foundation and it’s work. Together they have helped over 300 musicians, arranged over 9.693 grants for artists, and have promoted 4,384 performances. They have produced CD’s and have released 1,996 songs by 365 partner artists. (A companion CD set is included in the new book)

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On October 11 of this year, Music Makers had a fun-filled music weekend in North Caroline to celebrate their 20th year of work. I had the good fortune to attend and hear over 50 Music Makers musicians share their stories and tunes for 2 days.

group photo

Over the years with Music Makers, Tim has helped many Mississippi artists including Othar and Sharde Turner, Jack Owens, Joe Lee Cole, Como Mamas, Ironing Board Sam (of 930 Blues Cafe fame) and Willie King. Music Maker support continues, and two of their new artists are some of my favorites: New Orleans bluesman Ernie Vincent and my pal Willie James Williams, Willie King’s great juke joint drummer.

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Another way Music Makers is celebrating 20 years is in their traveling photo exhibit, which will be stopped at the B.B. King museum in Indianola from October 23 to November 30. I was able to experience this exhibit while in North Carolina and it is reflective of Tim’s amazing contributions to music today.

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On Wednesday, October 14 at 5:00, Tim will be at Lemuria to sign We Are the Music Makers. If you love the blues, come meet Tim and become a friend of Music Makers. I think it would be great fun for Mississippi to have more support for and with this fine organization.

 

We Are the Music Makers: Preserving the Soul of America’s Music                                                               Pictures and stories by Denise and Timothy Duffy                                                                                   Nautilus Press, 2014                                                                                                                                       $38

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: Heat, Redfish, and Regret

Written by Matthew Guinn, a Jackson native and author of the Edgar Allen nominated book The Ressurrectionist. The following selection is a part of an upcoming essay collection titled 601. 

I came to Mississippi hoping to be a writer. I was just out of the University of Georgia, where I had read Larry Brown and been floored by his lyrical naturalism, and of course I was aware of the others—that grand pantheon running back to Faulkner and kept alive in that present day of 1992 by the likes of Larry, Barry, Steve Yarbrough, Richard Ford. Eudora Welty and Shelby Foote were still alive, and there were others to come: Tom Franklin, Cynthia Shearer, Donna Tartt. The concentration of literary talent was incredible.

Athens, Georgia, had that kind of artistic brilliance, but in music. The B-52s and R.E.M. had put the town on the map, and Widespread Panic was building its momentum; we used to go see them monthly at the Georgia Theater. I remember when ticket prices went up, from $3.50 to $4, some suspected that Panic had sold out.

It wasn’t too uncommon to cross paths with these musicians. Kate Pierson and Michael Stipe still lived in Athens then, and you might pass them on a streetcorner downtown, or shopping in Wuxtry Records, where the guitarist for Guadalcanal Diary worked. But Athens had a code regarding its celebrities: it was absolutely verboten to approach them. It was understood that you could perhaps nod in passing, but to speak would be a breach of decorum, and to engage one of these luminous talents in conversation would be downright gauche.

So perhaps you can imagine how I felt when, in the fall of ’92, in Jackson for the first time, with my soon-to-be fiancée and in-laws, eating at the Mayflower, I realized that the man at the table behind ours was Willie Morris. There, with a female companion and a brown-bagged bottle on the table, sat the former editor of Harper’s, the man who wrote North Toward Home and The Courting of Marcus Dupree. Eating broiled redfish like the rest of us.

“Don’t look,” I said, “but Willie Morris is at the next table.”

My future father-in-law looked over his shoulder—brazenly—at the table. Willie caught his eye and the two nodded to one another. “You should go talk to him,” my future in-law said. “Since you want to be a writer.”

I didn’t. Could not bring myself to interrupt his meal, to barge in, to impose on his time. I wouldn’t have in Athens and didn’t think I could in this new locale.

Mayflower_1_CMYK_DSC8376

What I didn’t realize at the time was just what it meant that Willie was a Mississippian, and a Jacksonian to boot. I hadn’t yet come to understand that in this new, strange terrain—with its flat vistas and searing temperatures—good manners took precedence over all else, that Mississippi holds itself to a higher standard of social graciousness than anywhere else. That Willie would have obliged me with a few minutes of his time—would likely even have asked me a few questions about myself.

I’ve come to suspect over the years—this has been my fourteenth Mississippi summer—that the heat has something to do with it. That manners do indeed, as Flannery O’Connor said, save us from ourselves. As though without them to hold us in check, we’d all snap from the heat index come July and August. And by September, we’d be down to the last Jacksonian standing.

God knows how much I could have learned from Willie Morris, how much a single conversation might have helped me with craft, tone, rhythm. In time, in Oxford, I would come to know Larry Brown. And find that he was a kind and generous man who made time to advise and help younger, struggling writers. That some unspoken standard obliged him to do it. I know now that Willie held himself to the same standard.

But I would never get to know Willie. Years later I was on a flight to Jackson from Atlanta with my squalling infant son on my lap, crying the entire trip. I’d shaken William Styron’s hand in the aisle when we boarded. I was thinking the entire flight, I hope Styron doesn’t put me together with this crying—I have aspirations to a writing career. Then, when we landed, I met Richard Ford at the baggage claim. From the same flight. Incredible. Staggering. Jackson.

They were flying in for Willie’s funeral. Too late to introduce myself, as I should have, that night in ’92, in the Mayflower. I could have. But I did not realize it at the time. Did not know, then, that Mississippi is that kind of place, that Jackson is that kind of a town.

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at lemuriabooks.com. 

Pulitzer finalist brings Civil War general to life in biographical narrative.

Article by Jana Hoops originally published in the Clarion-Ledger on Saturday, October 4 2014.

New York Times best-selling author S.C. Gwynne will mark the release of his highly acclaimed “Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson” with a stop at Lemuria Books at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

s.c.gwynnebycoreyarnold

S.C. Gwynne (Photo: Special to The Clarion-Ledger )

This is Gwynn’s second venture with Scribner and his first release since the extraordinary reception of his “Empire of the Summer Moon” in 2010. It was the success of “Empire,” which earned him a spot as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, that enabled Gwynne to make that fortunate transition to full-time book writer.

He has spent most of his career as a journalist, working as a magazine writer and editor for both Time and Texas Monthly; and as a reporter for two daily newspapers. He is also the author of “Selling Money” and “Outlaw Bank.”

Gwynne holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University and a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter.

“Rebel Yell” is a sweeping 672-page biographical narrative of the personal and military life of an enigmatic, brilliant Civil War general, and a detailed account of the conflicts Stonewall Jackson commanded for the Confederacy. You have included your extensive research efforts for this book in 60 pages of notes, bibliography and photo credits. How long did it take you to write this book?

About four years.

What inspired you to take on a project of this magnitude?

I have been fascinated by the Civil War for a long time and finally just decided to take a shot at it. What interested me most about Jackson was the idea of personal transformation — how an obscure, eccentric physics professor could, in 14 months, become the most famous military man in the world.

Tell me about the title of the book.

Thomas J. Jackson got his nickname “Stonewall” for his remarkable performance at the Battle of First Manassas, or First Bull Run, in 1861. After making a spectacular defensive stand against Union assaults, he ordered his men to charge, and “Yell like the Furies.” What the men of his five Virginia regiments then did was what later became known as the “Rebel Yell.” Since Jackson and his men invented it, I thought it would be a good idea for a title.

Who should read this book?

I have spent my career writing for general audiences, and I have written “Rebel Yell” the same way. I wanted it to be accessible to as many people as possible. I would assume my readers would have at least some interest in and familiarity with the Civil War, but they don’t have to be buffs or fanatics. I would hope that buffs would like it, too.

As a long-time journalist writing a biographical work about a historical figure, was it hard to keep your objectivity about your main character when you had “spent” so much time with him?

You bring up a good point, and as a reporter you understand the phenomenon. Over the years Jackson books tend to fall into two categories: either the writer loves him unconditionally and believes he can do no wrong or, more recently, the writer’s goal is to tear the Jackson myth down, expose his flaws.

My own feeling is that Jackson was a great and tragic American hero. He was a great man. I fully embrace his flaws. They are part of him and part of his greatness. I think that in many ways his idiosyncrasies are the most interesting things about him. You may have seen the movie “Patton.” What makes General George Patton interesting are his flaws — his vanity and ambition. And, what makes General Douglas MacArthur interesting — to me, anyway — are his flaws as much as his amazing talents. They are all American heroes.

Your accounts of Jackson’s personality show a dichotomous figure who was at once a devout Christian and a violent crusader for the cause of the South. Your book also describes him as a serious and eccentric leader, yet devoted to his family and his soldiers. In two years’ time, he rose from an obscure school teacher to a military leader of legendary proportions. Describe the figure you discovered through your vast research.

Jackson is a phenomenally complex character. I found him to be something of a dual personality. In public he was a stiff, odd, silent man with all sorts of eccentricities. In private with his two wives (he remarried after the death of his first wife) and sister-in-law he was joyous, sometimes boisterous, and loving. He loved Shakespeare and Gothic architecture, gloried in sunsets, was a first-rate gardener, and taught himself to be completely fluent in Spanish. This side of him was unknown to the public.

Why is Stonewall Jackson important in American history?

He was one of the most important factors in the first two years of the Civil War. His amazing partnership with Robert E. Lee changed the course of that war and very likely extended it. Without their victory at Second Manassas, Richmond might have fallen.

Jackson represented what the South considered to be the best of itself. He came along just when hopes were at their lowest. What the Confederacy had desperately needed, in a war that it was obviously losing at that point, was a myth of invincibility, proof that their notions of the brave, chivalrous, embattled Southern character were not just romantic dreams, proof that with inferior resources they might still win the war. Jackson gave them all that.

“Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson”By S.C. Gwynne

Scribner, Hardback, 672 pages, $35.

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S.C. Gwynne will be at Lemuria on Tuesday, October 7 at 5:00. 

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: The Medgar Evers Historic House

Written by Minnie Watson, curator of the Medgar Evers Historic House

For those visiting Mississippi, Jackson is fast becoming the most popular place to be in terms of good food, great entertainment, wonderful historical sites to see, and fantastic service–all delivered with warm welcomes and friendly smiles. How do I know this? Well, this is what I hear on a daily basis from tourists who visit the Medgar Evers Historic House. No matter what state or country they call home, they tell me, “People in Jackson are some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met. Everybody speaks to you, give directions as to the best places to eat, shop and sites you need to visit.” They usually end their comments with “This is my first time in Jackson but it certainly won’t be my last.” I simply smile and say, “We’ll welcome you with open arms and a big smile.” When the Medgar Evers’ Historic House opened its doors to visitors some 17 years ago, one could not have not imagined nor understood the impact that this modest house, home to Medgar, his wife, and their three children, would have not just on Jackson and Mississippi, but the entire world.

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As curator of this Historic House, it has been my pleasure to welcome visitors from basically every State in the United States and other countries as well as. I cannot tell you the impact that this position has had in my life. People come to see where “Medgar Wiley Evers, Field Secretary for the Mississippi NAACP, lived and died.”  Contrary to what they may have heard about Mississippi in general and Jackson in particular, while  visiting the House they get a chance to see the South, Mississippi, and Jackson through my eyes and experience, as one who has lived in Mississippi all of my life.  We share experiences, both good and bad, that happened during our growing up in a world perplexed with many problems. We usually come to the agreement that no matter what state we lived in, problems existed then and still do in some form or fashion. The difference, perhaps, is how we dealt and/or deal with the problems. As curator, I cannot tell you how many repeaters I have welcomed to Jackson and to the Evers House. As time goes on, I am sure there will be many, many more in the future. After all, Jackson’s “Welcome Mat” is always out and the Medgar Evers Historic House doors are always open.

 

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at lemuriabooks.com. 

Let’s Talk Jackson Guest Post: St. Paddy’s Day Parade

Jim PathFinder Ewing has written six books, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. His latest is “Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating” (Findhorn Press, 2012). His next book — about which he is mysteriously silent — is scheduled to be released in Spring, 2015. Find him on Facebook, join him on Twitter @EdiblePrayers, or see his website,www.blueskywaters.com

 

IrishGirl_CMYKIt’s huge now, but back in ‘82 or thereabouts, the germ of what would become Mal’s St. Paddy’s Parade had an unlikely start as the brainstorm of, um, shall we say, a handful of “happy” people at the old George Street Grocery. A bunch of Clarion-Ledger and Jackson Daily News folk were sitting around and somebody – Orley Hood? Lolo Pendergrast? Raad Cawthon? — said: “You know, we ought to have a parade.”

Everybody thought that was a swell idea to just jump into their cars and go downtown whooping and hollering. Since at the time I had an MG convertible, they tried to get me to join the “parade,” so they could sit on the back with the top down and wave at people, but I had been “visiting” there for a while and didn’t want to get pulled over by police. They went on without me, circling the Governor’s Mansion, the Clarion-Ledger building, and other sites of interest, and came back all happy and boisterous — and thirsty for more liquid inspiration.

I don’t know if Malcolm White counts that as the first parade or not. But after that, the parade became a real event with several of the same characters involved. By the way, the chief of security at the bar was none other than longtime sheriff Malcolm McMillin, who was a moonlighting Jackson police officer at the time; so I guess you could say, he was in on it, too.

Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at lemuriabooks.com. 

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