Archive for August, 2011

Book review by Roy E. Perry: “Erskine Caldwell: The Journey from Tobacco Road” by Dan B. Miller

August 24, 2011

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

************

Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit Lambscoft.org.  Thank you.

************

Book review by Roy E. Perry: “Erskine Caldwell: The Journey from Tobacco Road” by Dan B. Miller

Mark Twain once wrote, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Dan B. Miller (Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University) has written a biography, Erskine Caldwell: The Journey from Tobacco Road) concerning which Twain’s aphorism is a propos. As I read Professor Miller’s volume, I was greatly impressed that he continually chooses “the right word” to paint his convincing portrait of Erskine Caldwell. Of the many biographies I have read, his work is one of the best I’ve ever discovered.

Portraying Caldwell as a complex and complicated man, Miller provides an even-handed and fair picture of his subject, warts and all, a man of ingratiating strengths and infuriating weaknesses, a man who could often sink into sullen, moody silence or erupt in angry outbursts, but who could also be generous and unselfish—neither saint nor devil.

William Faulkner (no mean writer himself) one opined that Erskine Caldwell was one of the five greatest writers of his (Faulkner’s) generation. Of Caldwell’s 25 published novels, at least two of them deserve to be placed in the first rank in the canon of American literature: Tobacco Road (1932) and God’s Little Acre (1933). A third novel is almost as good: Trouble in July (1940). Caldwell also wrote 150 short stories, “Kneel to the Rising Sun” being perhaps the best among them.

What kind of writer was Erskine Caldwell. Was he a comic satirist? an amoral sensationalist? a social propaganda writer? a plain realist? Miller writes, “He was, of course, all these things—a politically conscious writer, with no interest in political dogma, a social realist with a strong taste for the surreal and grotesque, an instinctive and uncalculating artist well versed in current American literature and literary theory.”

Critics often disparaged Caldwell’s novels, because of their steamy sex and gratuitous violence, as being “obscene,” “pornographic,” and “low-class,” and his works were often banned in various cities. Perhaps so, but the best of his works are never boring, and his “comedy” has an undercurrent of tragedy, including vivid descriptions of racial intolerance and violence, the bigotry of religious fundamentalism, the sufferings of the poor, and a strong concern for social justice, the latter bred into him by his beloved and respected minister father, who was his chief muse.

I wish I could convey adequately what an excellent, informative, and satisfying biography this is. It’s evident that a lot of research went into this work, and the style and word choice is remarkable. I recommend this book highly. Kudos to the author! Bravo, Dan B. Miller!

Roy E. Perry of Nolensville, Tennessee was a book reviewer for the ‘Nashville Banner’ and ‘The Tennessean’ for more than thirty years. Now retired, he also was an advertising copywriter at a Nashville publishing house for more than twenty-five years.

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.

 

 

 

Theater Review: “Rising & Falling . . . ” by Valerie S Hart

August 22, 2011

By Dave Carew

Some works of art are so strikingly original, so beautifully conceived and rendered, that no review can truly do them justice. After having seen this past Friday’s performance of Valerie S Hart’s Rising & Falling . . . at the Darkhorse Theater, that is my essential response to this play. But let me add a few thoughts . . . things that rolled around in my head, heart, and soul as the aftermath of this remarkable play washed over me.

The American poet Robert Bly once said no boy becomes a man until he can fully embrace and immerse himself in grief. Something of that redemptive idea is at work in this play: the idea that America’s collective response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—and, specifically one artist’s response—are aspects of a matrix of a collective grief we need to embrace if the horrifying, watershed events of that day—and so many days that followed—are to be imbued with any meaning or redemptive power.  In an exquisitely rendered braiding of action lines, Rising and Falling . . . presents to us a grieving mother of a 9/11 victim, an artist publicly humiliated and vilified for his attempt to create art from the ashes of the Twin Towers, and classic mythological figures who illuminate how immutable human paradigms and collective grief can help us make some inner, personal sense of the seemingly senseless.

Previous posts on Underground Nashville (see below) have gone into more detail about this play, and featured a pre-performance interview with playwright Valerie S Hart, so I won’t repeat myself here. But I will say, in summation, this:

Rising & Falling . . . is stunningly good; an absolute must-see for anyone who cares about the artistic possibilities of the American theater.

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.

 

Record Review: Acklen Park

August 18, 2011

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

************
Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit Lambscoft.org.  Thank you.

************

Record Review:
Acklen Park

By Dave Carew

Formed in 2010, Acklen Park is a six-member, “we’re more than country” band that has been playing high-visibility Nashville venues such as 12th & Porter, 3rd & Lindsley, and The Rutledge during the build-up to this, its first record release. The band has just released “Lost” as its debut single, and is engaged in a promotional campaign aimed at getting the single played on country stations nationwide.

From the initial strains of this album—on the kick-off song “Love You / Need You”—it is apparent why this band stresses its “more than country” moniker. Though most of the album would fit comfortably on country radio, the blast-off feels more like Tom Petty-esque roots rock.  It’s as if the band is signaling from the outset, “Yes, we can write Music Row-style hits. But don’t pigeonhole us. We’ll take you beyond that.”

Whoever chose to make “Lost” the debut single had an ear not only for outstanding country songwriting, but for a potential break-out hit. Sharp and vivid in its imagery and storytelling, the song features the kind of catchy melody that could have it emanating from radios coast to coast. Fans of Lady A and Sugarland take note: Your new favorite band has just arrived.

For more information about Acklen Park, visit AcklenParkOnline.com.

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers