Sunday, June 15, 2014
Some books taunt me: YOU could never write a book this good, they whisper. Others take me places (and times) I might never visit otherwise. Some make me care about ideas and issues I didn't before. Some books make me laugh out loud; some make me cry.
When I started reading The Shoe Burnin': Stories of Southern Soul, I wanted to have been at the party, that first gathering years ago when the firewood ran out and old shoes started going into the fire--with one stipulation. Each one deserved a story.
Eventually, some of the original players and others they've net along the way came together to share their stories. Sometimes shoes play a key role, but at other times, a reader will have to look for them, the way moviegoers learned to watch for Hitchcock's cameo in each film. Edited by Joe Formichella, the collection contains fictional tales, memoir pieces, poems, and on the CD that comes with the book, songs and spoken word pieces. Often the lines blur between fiction and nonfiction. As Jennifer Paddock notes in "Burning Blue," "the more you remember something the less accurate it becomes."
Some of the names I knew personally. North Carolina singer-songwriter Michael Reno Harrell shares stories from his life that explain how he ended back in music, how he wrote one of the first songs he recorded, and how he learned empathy. Hickory poet Scott Owens has a piece, and Ed Southern, director of the North Carolina Writers Network, tells a story of two Carolina men who decide to go help with the cleanup and rebuilding in Alabama after the last round of devastating tornados. Novelist Suzanne Hudson (In the Dark of the Moon; In a Temple of Trees) is represented, as is North Carolina native Shari Smith transplanted in my home state of Alabama.
The short pieces could have been read in any order (and I've found myself going back to several of them), but Chuck Cannon's "Holding onto This One, " which closes the collection, read like it was written by someone who'd been living his life right beside mine, particularly the memories of growing up as the child of the preacher of a conservative Southern church.
Someone else reading may be struck in different ways by the pieces in this collection, but any writer--Southern or not--will have to exercise great restraint to avoid leaving pencil notes in the margins. And I dare say that any reader will look at shoes just a little differently from now on. I would swear mine have started reminded me of their stories too.
Posted by Nancy at 5:03 PM