The Failed Rebellion that Jump-Started the War
I know a Good Story / March 13, 2015

They say there’s one day a year when everyone’s Irish and that’s St. Patrick’s Day.  Well, that’s what I’ve heard in America, where everyone insists they’re part Irish and celebrates March 17th like it was their personal 4th of July.  On such matters, I defer to the late Frank McCourt who said “A well-placed bomb at the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade would wipe out the cream of Irish mediocrity”.  (Thank heavens he said it before 2001; today, a remark like that would land a quipster on the no-fly list).  Me, I wish my family was Irish but my mother’s people mainly came from England and Italy and my dad’s Celtic ancestors sailed to America after they were “unfriended” in Scotland and Ireland.  In other words, they were Ulster Scots.  But, like lots of people I know, I’m a big fan of the Auld Sod and I can give you a reason why.  No one I know can break your heart the way Irish writers and Irish stories do.  And given the time of year this is with the the tide of Easter rising, the Irish tale I go back to is Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916.  Seldom…

In Praise of a Stubborn Soul
I know a Good Story / March 5, 2015

Ordinarily, we don’t honor disobedient people. Our history does, as many rebels are the  heralds of overdue change, but in this world where most folks “go along to get along” the contrary soul is a resented member of a community.  Every town has these intractable dissenters who, even when they are right, still alienate their peers with their hard-headed ways. Born outsiders, these nonconformists follow their own lonely stars though life, with few friends for love or guidance, not because they want to be difficult but because time and circumstance force them into this uneasy role.  That is the theme of T. K. Thorne in her second historical novel, Angels at the Gate, and it stars one of the Bible’s most baffling women: Lot’s wife, the woman who disobeyed a command from God’s angels and looked back, at cost of her life.  I never understood the behavior of Lot’s wife when I read her story in Sunday School.   To me, when the town is literally falling to pieces around your ears and two white-garbed, winged men suddenly appear, shouting “Run for the hills and don’t you dare look back!” it’s time to follow orders and get the heck out of…

It’s Time for a Southern Book
I know a Good Story / March 3, 2015

I think things are headed towards Spring.  That sounds crazy after last week’s snow storm, but Saturday the sun was pouring down like paint over the Sherwin Williams globe and there was a warmth in the light I hadn’t felt since September.  The sunlight is life here in the Deep South and it’s a birthright we’ve come to expect like warm food and good stories.  There’s a lot about this land that’s cringe-inducing but not our warmth and not our stories.  Like the land, they are strong and good and so linked to this place that many could not have appeared anywhere else on earth.  It takes a Southerner to sculpt some of these tales. The light and heat are characters inside Carson McCuller’s Ballad of the Sad Cafe. The setting is a Georgia summer and if you read it, you’ll fall under the story’s spell and start pulling at the side of your collar to let in a little cool air.  There was none in Georgia, not during those summers before air-conditioning when people woke up sweating and laid themselves down to sleep on damp, wrinkled sheets at night, half way to dehydration.  The heat is an omnipresent character,…