Today begins the 25th anniversary of the Southern Festival of Books, one of the cultural mainstays that has helped build and define Nashville. With it’s attendance and popularity growing by leaps and bounds, the festival has secured appearances by some excellent contemporary authors, Meg Wolitzer, Chuck Palahniuk and Rick Riordan will all be there. Perhaps appropriately, in light of Nashville reinventing itself, these headlining authors take an anti-bible-thumping approach to spirituality. In fact, hell in its various imaginings seems to be a visceral presence this year.
I plan to post thorough reviews over the next few days, but here are some highlights of the Southern Festival’s featured jaunts into the netherworld.
In Chuck Palahniuk’s Doomed, Madison Spencer returns to take us along on the second phase of her journey through hell, and her deeper understandings of the soul. Doomed is the sequel to Damned, which I reviwed this winter, click here to see the beginning of the story. Mr. Palahniuk will speak at 2:30 on Sunday the 13th in War Memorial Auditorium.
Meg Wolitzer brings us a more indirect, but no less real version of purgatory as she depicts the adolescent mania and adult malaise of lifelong friendships in The Interestings. Ms. Wolitzer will speak Friday the 11th at 3:30.
Finally, Rick Riordan brings us back to the mythological underworld we all know and love in the latest episode of The Heroes of Olympus series. Mr. Riordan will speak on Sunday the 13th from 4:00-5:00 in War Memorial Auditorium.
If there was ever an original definition of hell it might be having a chimpanzee for a sister. Karen Joy Fowler will speak at the festival about her much discussed on NPR novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.
Finally, if anyone in Nashville or elsewhere needs a break from all this hellatious reading, I highly recommend The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion for some lighthearted, serious-minded love. Mr. Simsion will also be at this year’s festival.
It’s quite a lineup. Get off your computer and go see it :).