Although it’s still 80-some degrees here in Tuscaloosa, we are embracing the Fall spirit, and nothing says “Fall” quite like curling up with a good book. This season our recommendations include fresh fictions, spooky stories, and war-time tales. So while we may have to hold off on the chunky sweaters, hot apple cider, and hayrides, it’s never too early to fall into reading.
The Moon Over Wapakonta by Michael Martone
American Midwest with the gift for discovering the marvelous in the mundane. In these stories Martone shows us how traveling across time zones from Ohio to Indiana is a form of time travel; how a beer bottle can serve as a kind of telescope, how Amish might power their spaceships with windmills as they travel through space and time. These stories capture the paradox of feeling that one is in the heart of the country while at the same time in the middle of nowhere, of natives who find themselves strangers in their once familiar, but now strange, lands.
On display is a love of obsolete technologies, small-town whimsy, home movies of proms and birthday parties, steam engines and baseball games. If Italo Calvino lived in Indiana rather than Italy, these are the fictions he might have made.
Send the Alabamians by Nimrod Thompson Frazer
Send the Alabamians recounts the story of the 167th Infantry Regiment of the WWI Rainbow Division from their recruitment to their valiant service on the bloody fields of eastern France in the climactic final months of World War I.
To mark the centenary of World War I, Send the Alabamians tells the remarkable story of a division of Alabama recruits whose service Douglas MacArthur observed had not “been surpassed in military history.” The book borrows its title from a quip by American General Edward H. Plummer who commanded the young men during the inauspicious early days of their service. Impressed with their ferocity and esprit de corps but exasperated by their rambunctiousness, Plummer reportedly exclaimed:
In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in
time of peace, for Lord’s sake, send them to somebody else!
The Jeffrey collection by Kathryn Tucker Windham
One of the best-known and widely shared books about the South, Thirteen Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey has haunted the imaginations of generations of delighted young readers since it was first published in 1969. Written by nationally acclaimed folklorists Kathryn Tucker Windham and Margaret Gillis Figh, the book recounts Alabama’s thirteen most ghoulish and eerie ghost legends.
Following the overwhelming success of 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, Windham and Jeffrey began to journey across the South assembling more ghastly tales that repeat Windham’s winning combination of traditional folklore, Southern history and culture, and family-friendly story-telling. In five additional books, Windham’s disembodied friend roams the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida to recall more timeless, spine-tingling tales of baneful and melancholy spirits that spook the most stoic heart.
Time in the Barrel by James P. Coan
Con Thien, located only two miles from the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Vietnam, was a United States Marine Corps firebase that was the scene of fierce combat for months on end during 1967. Staving off attacks and ambushes while suffering from ineffectual leadership from Washington as well as media onslaughts, courageous American Marines protected this crucial piece of land at all costs. They would hold Con Thien, but many paid the ultimate price. By the end of the war, more than 1,400 Marines had died and more than 9,000 sustained injuries defending the “Hill of Angels.”
More than a retelling of military movements, Coan’s engrossing narratives focus on the sheer sacrifice and misery of one Marine’s experience in Vietnam. Through his eyes, we experience the abysmal conditions the Marines endured, from monsoon rainstorms to the constant threat of impending attack. Climatic moments in history are captured through the rare, personal perspective of one particularly astute and observant participant.
Mythical Trickster Figures by William J. Hynes and William G. Doty
Mythical Trickster Figures, is the first substantial collection of essays about the trickster to appear since Radin’s 1955 The Trickster. Contributions by leading scholars treat a wide range of manifestations of this mischievous character, ranging from the Coyote of the American Southwest to such African figures as Eshu-Elegba and Ananse, the Japanese Susa-no-o, the Greek Hermes, Christian
adaptations of Saint Peter, and examples found in contemporary American fiction and drama.
The many humorous trickster stories included are fascinating in themselves, but Hynes and Doty also highlight the wide range of features of the trickster–the figure whose comic appearance often signifies that the most serious cultural values are being both challenged and enforced.
Big City by Marream Krollos
Marream Krollos’s Big City is astructurally innovative work of prose composed of vignettes, verse, dialogues, monologues, and short stories. Alone, they are fragments, but together they offer a glimpse of the human condition and form a harmonized narrative of desire, loneliness, and beauty. Through language that builds, destroys, and violates, Krollos maps the geography of our contemporary condition, a haunting meditation on human togetherness and isolation.
Krollos plays with the tension between the voice of the lonely “I” produced by the urban experience and the polyphony of the city itself. A city is a chorus and a collection of traces; it is a way of being with others and the concretization of the social divisions that keep people apart. As a lifelong city dweller, Krollos is obsessed with the way that cities shape our experiences of the world, our ideas about inside and outside and self and other.
By mapping the emotional highs and lows of particular (though often anonymous) beings, the book creates a geography of the urban consciousness. The sensation of reading this lyric work of fiction is akin to how one experiences an attentive walk in an unknown city: one becomes attuned to the tenor of its many voices, how the languages lift and flourish, and how the micro and macro became integrally linked.
Points of Honor by Thomas Boyd
Points of Honor: Short Stories of the Great War by a US Combat Marine is based on author Thomas Alexander Boyd’s personal experiences as an enlisted Marine. First published in 1925 and long out of print, this edition rescues from obscurity a vivid, kaleidoscopic vision of American soldiers, US Marines mostly, serving in a global conflict a century ago. It is a true forgotten masterpiece of World War I literature.
The stories in Points of Honor deal almost entirely with Marines in the midst of battle—or faced with the consequences of military violence. The eleven stories in this collection offer a panoramic view of war experience and its aftermath, what Boyd described as “a mass of more human happenings.” The themes are often antiheroic: dehumanization, pettiness, betrayal by loved ones at home, and the cruelty of military justice. But Boyd’s vision also accommodates courage and loyalty. Like all great works of war literature, this collection underscores the central paradox of armed conflict—its ability to bring out both the best and worst in human beings.
This reissue of Points of Honor is edited, annotated, and introduced by Steven Trout. Trout provides an overview of Thomas Boyd’s war experience and writing career and situates the stories within the broader context of World War I American literature.
“March has picked up where Aesop and Don Marquis left off, prick- ing vanities and exposing antics of chronic phonies. . . . Here are damning truths about the Noblest Animal, here is vitriol without venom. richard Brough catches the full flavor in his illustrations.” —New York Times Book Review
“As one reads the fables one is haunted by the resemblance of March to his natural predecessor, Ambrose Bierce. The two men had much in common: their work is criss-crossed with similar themes; both were ridden with personal demons; both viewed life with bitterness; each was a minor genius; and each was the most neglected writer of his time.” – Nelle Harper Lee, Alabama Alumni News
The Great War in the Heart of Dixie by Martin T. Olliff
There has been much scholarship on how the U.S. as a nation reacted to World War I, but few have explored how Alabama responded. Did the state follow the federal government’s lead in organizing its resources or did Alabamians devise their own solutions to unique problems they faced? How did the state’s cultural institutions and government react? What changes occurred in its economy and way of life? What, if any, were the long-term consequences in Alabama? The contributors to this volume address these questions and establish a base for further investigation of the state during this era.
Wolfhounds and Polar Bears by Col. John M. House, US Army (Ret.)
In the final months of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson and many US allies decided to intervene in Siberia in order to protect Allied wartime and business interests, among them the Trans-Siberian Railroad, from the turmoil surrounding the Russian Revolution. American troops would remain until April 1920 with some of our allies keeping troops in Siberia even longer.
Wolfhounds and Polar Bears: The American Expeditionary Force in Siberia, 1918–1920 may well be the most detailed study of the military aspects of the American intervention in Siberia ever undertaken, offering a multitude of details not available in any other book-length history.
The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold by Kate Bernheimer
As a child, Lucy dreams of talking fairies and lives contentedly in the wooded suburbs of Boston; she grows up to be a successful animator of fairy-tale films. Or does she? She claims at moments to be a witch in the woods.
Like her sisters, who appeared in Bernheimer’s first two novels (The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold and The Complete Tales of Merry Gold), Lucy has a secret, but she is unable to fasten onto anything but brightness. Novelist Donna Tartt writes, “Lucy’s particular brand of optimism, blind to its own shadow, is very American—she is innocence holding itself apart so fastidiously that it becomes its opposite.”
This novel is a perfect end to the Gold family series, and the perfect introduction, for new readers, to Bernheimer’s enchanting body of work.