The Not-So-Calm Before the Storm: Jesmyn Ward’s Katrina Story

Katrina doesn’t arrive until Salvage the Bones is almost over, but the hurricane has always been coming. She broods over the whole of Jesmyn Ward’s epic 2011 novel, even when the only one who seems to know she’s on the way is Esch’s Daddy, whose preparations seem excessive to his four children living with him […]

A New Style Guide for Word Lovers: Dreyer’s Droll Diversion

It sounds like faint praise to say that a book is diverting. We want our books to be gripping, engrossing, un-put-down-able. Or, if the tome in question is a reference book, we’d prefer that it be reliable, comprehensive, and comprehensible. Sorry. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style meets none of those […]

How a Mississippi Man’s Struggles with Weight Tell the Truth about America

“America understands itself as God’s handiwork, but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men.”  —Ta-Nehasi Coates, Between the World and Me I confess that I picked up Heavy, Kiese Laymon’s staggering memoir about growing up bright and black in Mississippi, with more than a little curiosity about the obesity […]

#10 Heartlands Best Reads of 2018: Turtles All the Way Down

What does it take to be a Heartlands Best Read of 2018? —Alex has to have read the book. This is a big limitation right from the get-go, but, hey, it’s reality. —Excellent writing. Good stories, good prose, good poetry. You won’t get there on the ideas alone. —A strong sense of place. —Preference is […]

Why We Don’t Care About ‘The National Water Situation’

“For all my love of rivers, ‘our nation’s rivers’ have not moved me once.  The rivers that move me are those I’ve fished, canoed, slept beside, lived on, nearly drowned in, dreamed about, sipped tea and wine by, taught my kids to swim in, pulled a thousand fish from, fought and fought to defend.  I’ve […]