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Archive for December, 2011

Best new books around the South for 2012

By Gina Webb

Happy New Year, readers! We could not imagine better timing than Day 1 of 2012 for a first look at the hottest upcoming titles set in the South or written by Southerners, including two much-anticipated music books and novels by emerging authors you won’t want to miss.

January

“A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty,” Joshilyn Jackson (Grand Central, $25.99).

Just as Mosey Slocumb turns 15, a long-hidden grave unearthed in the backyard threatens to ruin everything her grandmother has struggled to win for the teen since Mosey’s drug-addicted mother brought her home to Mississippi. Jackson’s signature style — the feisty, bighearted voice of “Gods in Alabama” and “Backseat Saints” — propels this funny, dark whodunit, where strong women who’ve made bad choices band together to come out on top.

“The Evening Hour,” A. Carter Sickels (Bloomsbury, $15).

Intense, edgy storytelling and a distinctive voice mark newcomer Sickels’ novel, set in a …

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Best of the South books 2011

By Gina Webb

In yet another outstanding year for Southern writing, so many books did what we love best — opened a window into an exotic universe that, at first unfamiliar, turned out to have a lot in common with the one we know. Here are our favorites from 2011.

Fiction

“Silver Sparrow,” Tayari Jones (Algonquin). Set in Atlanta during the ’80s, Jones’ third novel opens with a startling confession: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” Witherspoon’s two daughters, sisters Dana and Chaurisse, takes turns narrating this unforgettable story of two families living only miles apart, one legitimate and one “secret,” and the painful differences — and unexpected familiarity — of their separate worlds.

“Swamplandia!,” Karen Russell (Knopf). The alligator-wrestling Bigtrees — the Chief, his wife, son, and two daughters — have run Swamplandia!, their ramshackle island theme park for years. But when a mainland park drives them out of …

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Culture notes: Printmakers show at Young Blood; Jiha Moon receives prestigious grant; Aurora Theatre tapping N.Y. talent for March musical

VISUAL ARTS
Making an impression

More than 40 artists and outfits will participate in the exhibit “Go South: Southern Printmakers,” opening with a 7-10 p.m. reception Jan. 7 at Young Blood Gallery.

The show, including Atlanta printmakers Terry Dilling and Methane Studios as well as Yee-Haw Industries of Knoxville, Tenn., promises a broad survey of contemporary printmaking techniques, from reliefs to intaglio printing. Through Jan. 28. 636 N Highland Ave., Atlanta. 404-254-4127, www.youngbloodgallery.com.

Jiha Moon honored
Atlanta artist Jiha Moon has been awarded a 2011 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant of $25,000, the first metro artist to be so honored in many years. Moon will have a solo show at Midtown’s Saltworks gallery opening on April 14.

Atlanta artist Alejandro Aguilera, also represented by Saltworks, will be featured in a High Museum solo exhibition, “About the Modern Spirit,” opening Feb. 18. HOWARD POUSNER

THEATER
Help with gangster …

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High Museum curators would like to sell you on these seven works

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

It’s not exactly a poetry slam or a series of spoken word monologues, but the short videos featuring High Museum of Art curators making their cases for particular works to be added to the institution’s permanent collection are nonetheless creatively done and refreshingly fun to watch.

As seen at www.high.org/collectorsevening (and also on YouTube), the seven curators are hawking particular pieces that will compete against one another for acquisition during the High’s third annual Collectors Evening on Jan. 20.

At the 6:30 p.m. dinner benefit at the W Atlanta Midtown, aimed at adding selections to the Midtown museum’s 12,000-plus-piece permanent collection, the curators heading seven High departments will try to “sell” the audience. Guests will then cast their votes, and the High will buy the four works with the most support.

The cheapest ticket is $500, but the videos are of course free and show a lighter side of the curatorial staff, such as …

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Culture notes: Woodruff’s Bankoff, Breman’s Leavey retiring

ARTS
Woodruff chief retiring
Joseph Bankoff, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, revealed his plans to retire on May 31 in a recent e-mail to staff. Bankoff, 66, has led the Southeast’s largest arts center since 2006 and is credited with developing a strategic plan and a 25-year master plan, approved in 2009, that will guide the Woodruff’s growth.

Bankoff was at the helm when plans were scuttled earlier in 2009 for architect Santiago Calatrava’s fanciful $300 million design for an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra concert hall at 14th and Peachtree streets. The master plan now calls for the ASO facility to be tucked into the front of the Woodruff campus one block north on Peachtree. However, there is no time-frame for relaunching fund-raising, which will wait for the economy and the orchestra’s finances to improve.

A long-time Atlanta attorney before he became an arts administrator, Bankoff also has pushed the four Woodruff divisions — the High Museum of Art, Alliance …

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NEA gives 10 grants to Atlanta groups; who got what for what

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced 863 grants totaling $22.5 million to organizations and individual writers across the country, including 10 to Atlanta groups. Some of the awarded projects have yet to be formally announced, allowing a window into plans of several of the metro groups.

The 10 recipients and the works the grants will fund, according to the NEA, include:

  • Art Papers, $30,000, to support the publication of six annual printed issues, online (expansion of archival issues as well as the commissioning of new content for Web and mobile devices) and the Arts Papers Live! public lecture series.
  • Atlanta Ballet, $20,000, to help in the creation of “Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin,” plus study materials for student audiences.
  • Center for Puppetry Arts, $30,000, to support the development and performances, with related educational activities, of Calvin Alexander Ramsey’s “Ruth and the Green Book,” to be …

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Horizon Theatre 2012 season to include 1 encore, 3 premieres

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Having come up big at Atlanta’s version of the Tonys in November, winning 10 Suzi Bass Awards including the coveted Audience Choice Award for Outstanding Season, Horizon Theatre has announced a 2012 season with one encore, two world premieres and one Southeastern one.

The Little 5 Points troupe founded in 1983 will open the year with a reprise of “Avenue Q,” this year’s 2011 hit that alone scored seven Suzis. The Broadway musical with puppets will run Jan. 13-Feb. 26.

The new plays are:

  • “The Waffle Palace: Smothered, Covered, and Scattered 24/7/365,” a world premiere by actor-playwright and WMLB-AM host Larry Larson and his longtime partner in mayhem Eddie Levi Lee, May 11-June 24. The Midtown-set comedy is being billed as a “roller coaster of humor, music, and imagination.”
  • “Sheddin’,” a world premiere by Thomas W. Jones II, an Atlanta-set generational comedy with a hip-hop beat, July 13-Aug. 19.
  • Donald Marguiles’ Broadway drama “Time …

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‘Lost Memory of Skin’ By Russell Banks

Book Review
Fiction
“Lost Memory of Skin”
By Russell Banks
Ecco, 432 pages, $25.99

By Gina Webb

banks“They were pariahs of the most extreme sort, American untouchables, a caste of men ranked far below the merely alcoholic, addicted, or deranged homeless. They were men beyond redemption, care, or cure, both despicable and impossible to remove and thus by most people simply wished out of existence.”

Sex offenders. Not exactly our favorite substratum of American culture. But are we too quick to judge? Their lives and that of a college professor who studies them form the basis for a startling new novel by one of our greatest chroniclers of American life, Russell Banks.

In “Lost Memory of Skin, ” Banks (”Continental Drift, ” “Rule of the Bone, ” “Cloudsplitter, “) opens an investigation of sorts into a shantytown settlement under the fictional Archie B. Claybourne Causeway in Miami, where a colony of convicted sex offenders has been living peaceably for the past five years.

Via two …

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Big names in Big Easy: 2012 Jazz & Heritage fest lineup announced

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Wednesday announced a star-studded lineup for the 2012 event, April 27-29 and May 3-6, including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Foo Fighters, the Eagles, Zac Brown Band, Florence + the Machine, Feist, John Mayer, Herbie Hancock, Ne-Yo, Al Green, My Morning Jacket, Jill Scott, Bon Iver, Janelle Monae and Paulina Rubio.

Additional names announced Wednesday: Trombone Shorty, Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Bunny Wailer, Bonnie Raitt, Irma Thomas, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Dr. John, Yolanda Adams, Iron & Wine, Pete Fountain, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Steel Pulse, Rebirth Brass Band, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Esperanza Spalding, Funky Meters, Levon Helm Band with special guest Mavis Staples, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Aaron Neville, Steve Earle, Galactic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band 50th Anniversary Jam, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Ani DiFranco, Givers, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue …

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With reissues, one-man show, Lewis Grizzard’s writings return

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

Fans of Lewis Grizzard, who authored books including “Elvis Is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself,” should be feeling pretty good themselves right about now due to a veritable renaissance in the Southern humorist’s work.

NewSouth Books and Green-E Books are reintroducing a number of long-out-of-print titles by the AJC columnist, who died in 1994, and a touring one-man show drawn from his life and writings is returning in January to Stone Mountain’s ART Station.

NewSouth Books has re-released “Elvis Is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself” and “They Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat” in paperback and e-versions. Green E-Books has re-released four other titles as e-books: “If Love Were Oil, I’d Be About a Quart Low,” ” Don’t Bend Over in the Garden Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes,” “I Took a Lickin’ and Kept on Tickin’ and Now I Believe in Miracles” and “When My Love Returns From the …

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