Hear Jay Jennings discuss nonfiction writings of Charles Portis today at noon as part of CALS Legacies & Lunch series

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglasses, closeup and text

Jay Jennings is the foremost expert on the writings of Charles Portis. (And a very talented writer himself!)  Today (July 3) at noon, he will speak about Portis at the CALS Butler Center Legacies & Lunch series.

Charles Portis is well known for his novels, such as the classic True Grit, but his journalism, travel writing, and other short works—many of them touching on his Arkansas roots—remained largely unknown until the collection Escape Velocity was published by Butler Center Books in 2013. Author/editor Jay Jennings, editor of that tome, will discuss the process of bringing together this miscellany and how it relates to Portis’ career.

The program starts at 12 noon in the Darragh Center of the CALS Main Library Branch.

Legacies & Lunch is a free monthly program of CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies about Arkansas related topics. Program are held from noon to 1 pm on the first Wednesday of the month. Attendees are invited to bring a sack lunch; drinks and dessert are provided. A library parking discount is available for attendees.

Advertisements

18 Cultural Events from 2018 – OXFORD AMERICAN celebrates 50 years of TRUE GRIT

Image result for true grit 50 oxford americanThroughout April, the Oxford American magazine haled a series of events to mark “50 Years of True Grit.” It culminated with programs over the weekend of April 20-21, 2018, to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of the beloved novel by Charles Portis, one of the magazine’s most acclaimed contributors.

The festivities included panel discussions, readings, tours, museum exhibits, film screenings, and a special Saturday-night variety show, featuring comedy, music by Portis’s fellow Arkansas native Iris DeMent, and appearances and performances by the book’s notable fans.

Published by Simon & Schuster in 1968 (after it was first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post), True Grit earned immediate popularity and critical praise as a rousing frontier adventure tale in which fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross seeks to avenge her father’s murder with the aid of a down-at-the-heels federal marshal named Rooster Cogburn. Over the past half-century, readers of all ages have come to treasure the book as a classic of American literature. The book has inspired two award-winning films-the 1969 version, which earned John Wayne his sole Academy Award, and the 2010 remake by Joel and Ethan Coen starring Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges.

“So few books stand the test of time but True Grit’s literary reputation and its popularity have only grown in fifty years,” said Jay Jennings, a senior editor at the Oxford American and editor of the collection Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany. “We thought the book’s landmark anniversary deserved a big celebration in the state that is the setting for much of the book and the home of both the author and the magazine.” Portis has published a number of humor pieces in the Oxford American and in 2010 was awarded the magazine’s inaugural prize for Lifetime Achievement in Southern Literature.

In October it was announced that the Oxford American was the 2019 recipient of the Arkansas Arts Council’s Governor’s Arts Award for Folklife.

Little Rock Look Back: Dedication of LR High School Auditorium

On October 31, 1927, a recital took place in the auditorium of the new Little Rock High School which served as a dedication ceremony for the new high school auditorium.  The school had been serving students for several weeks by the time the recital took place.  The first day of school was Wednesday, September 14, 1927.

The star of the recital was Mary Lewis, a Little Rock High School graduate (from the previous location on Scott Street) who had made her Metropolitan Opera debut and become a toast of New York City.

The evening started with remarks from former Arkansas Governor Charles Brough, who had made a name for himself as an advocate for education before, during and after his stint in the statehouse.  He was followed by Miss Lewis, who sang over a dozen arias and musical selections.  For her first encore, Miss Lewis sang “Dixie.”  Her second encore was supposed to be “Home Sweet Home.”  After several attempts to sing it, she was so overcome with emotion that she had to abandon the effort.

For more on the opening event, read Jay Jennings’ excellent book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City.

The 1927 schoolbuilding replaced one built in 1905 at 14th and Scott Streets (with an auditorium completed a few years later at 14th and Cumberland).  This new building was located in the western edges of Little Rock on what had been city parkland.  The former West End Park was now site to Little Rock High School.  The adjoining Kavanaugh Field was a baseball field on which Earl Quigley’s football Tigers also played their games.

Architects John Parks Almand, Lawson L. Delony, George R. Mann, Eugene John Stern, and George H. Wittenberg (virtually all of Little Rock’s full-time working architects at the time) designed the $1.5 million structure, which the New York Times dubbed the most expensive school ever built in the United States at that time.

Featuring a combination of Collegiate Gothic and Art Deco architecture, Central High spans two city blocks, comprising over 150,000 square feet of floor space, upon its completion. Requiring 36 million pounds of concrete and 370 tons of steel, the finished product consisted of 100 classrooms (accommodating over 1,800 students), a fireproof 2,000-seat auditorium, a gymnasium, and a greenhouse.

The six-story structure (counting the bell tower and basement) features a middle section containing the auditorium with four classroom wings (two per side) flanking a reflection pool in the foreground of the building. Faced with brick, the building’s highlights include pilasters and colonnades of cut stone, double-hung window frames with twelve lights per sash, and a main entry terrace supported by a colonnade of five masonry arches rising above Corinthian columns of stone.

Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock High School Auditorium Dedicated

On October 31, 1927, a recital took place in the auditorium of the new Little Rock High School which served as a dedication ceremony for the new high school auditorium.  The school had been serving students for several weeks by the time the recital took place.  The first day of school was Wednesday, September 14, 1927.

The star of the recital was Mary Lewis, a Little Rock High School graduate (from the previous location on Scott Street) who had made her Metropolitan Opera debut and become a toast of New York City.

The evening started with remarks from former Arkansas Governor Charles Brough, who had made a name for himself as an advocate for education before, during and after his stint in the statehouse.  He was followed by Miss Lewis, who sang over a dozen arias and musical selections.  For her first encore, Miss Lewis sang “Dixie.”  Her second encore was supposed to be “Home Sweet Home.”  After several attempts to sing it, she was so overcome that she had to abandon the effort.

For more on the opening event, read Jay Jennings’ excellent book Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City.

The 1927 schoolbuilding replaced one built in 1905 at 14th and Scott Streets (with an auditorium completed a few years later at 14th and Cumberland).  This new building was located in the western edges of Little Rock on what had been city parkland.  The former West End Park was now site to Little Rock High School.  The adjoining Kavanaugh Field was a baseball field on which Earl Quigley’s football Tigers also played their games.

Architects John Parks Almand, Lawson L. Delony, George R. Mann, Eugene John Stern, and George H. Wittenberg (virtually all of Little Rock’s full-time working architects at the time) designed the $1.5 million structure, which the New York Times dubbed the most expensive school ever built in the United States at that time.

Featuring a combination of Collegiate Gothic and Art Deco architecture, Central High spans two city blocks, comprising over 150,000 square feet of floor space, upon its completion. Requiring 36 million pounds of concrete and 370 tons of steel, the finished product consisted of 100 classrooms (accommodating over 1,800 students), a fireproof 2,000-seat auditorium, a gymnasium, and a greenhouse.

The six-story structure (counting the bell tower and basement) features a middle section containing the auditorium with four classroom wings (two per side) flanking a reflection pool in the foreground of the building. Faced with brick, the building’s highlights include pilasters and colonnades of cut stone, double-hung window frames with twelve lights per sash, and a main entry terrace supported by a colonnade of five masonry arches rising above Corinthian columns of stone.

 

Eliza Borné named new editor of Oxford American

Eliza BorneEliza Borné is the new editor of the Oxford American, succeeding Roger D. Hodge, who left the magazine in June. Borné joined the magazine in 2013 as associate editor and was promoted to managing editor in 2014. Since June 2015, she has served as interim editor.
“This is wonderful news,” said Hodge, who recruited Borné in 2013. “Eliza is a brilliant editor and wonderful person—the Oxford American could not have made a better choice. I look forward to reading her magazine for many years.”
“I am incredibly proud of the work we have done under Roger’s leadership for the past three years,” said Borné. “We have published great stories that transcend genre and give our readers new perspectives on the South. With every issue, I am astounded again by the brilliance of our amazing writers, artists, and contributors. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead our talented editorial staff as we continue creating this vital and spirited magazine that I have loved since I was a teenager.”
Under Borné’s direction, the OA has maintained its high standard of excellence, publishing work as rich and varied as a 12-page poem by Nikky Finney; fiction by Catherine Lacey and Jamie Quatro; and a deep profile of a transgender drug counselor from the U.S.-Mexico border. Since 2013, she has worked with such acclaimed writers as Lauren Groff, Harrison Scott Key, Beth Ann Fennelly, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Sarah Menkedick, and many others. Pieces Borné edited have been recognized in Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing.
“Eliza is a member of the next generation of readers,” said Vincent LoVoi, OA board member and publisher of This Land Press. “Her keen insights and long-view will enable the OA to continue to grow in the new media environment. She has a timeless talent that will serve us well.”
Borné is the third editor of the Oxford American. Hodge led the magazine from September 2012 through June 2015, when he became the national editor of the Intercept. Hodge remains on the masthead as editor-at-large. Marc Smirnoff founded the Oxford American in 1992.
A native of Little Rock, Borné, 29, previously worked as an editor at BookPage, a book review publication based in Nashville. She graduated from Wellesley College and she lives in Little Rock with her husband, John C. Williams, an assistant federal public defender (whom she met when they were both Oxford American interns in 2006).
The Oxford American also welcomes longtime contributor Jay Jennings to the masthead as senior editor. Jennings brings decades of industry experience as a former editor with Sports Illustrated, Time Out New York, Artforum, and other magazines. He is the author of Carry the Rock: Race, Football, and the Soul of an American City and he edited Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany.

Creative Class of 2015: Jay Jennings

jennings_jayAuthor, raconteur, and music aficionado Jay Jennings contributes to Little Rock’s cultural life in a variety of ways as a participant and promoter. He may well know more about author Charles Portis, than the author himself.  When not traveling to discuss or create good literature, he is often found at various Little Rock music venues.

Jennings is a freelance writer whose journalism, book reviews and humor have appeared in many national magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Oxford American, and Travel & Leisure. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times Book Review and the San Francisco Chronicle, and is a past chair of the Arkansas Literary Festival.

He began his writing career as a reporter at Sports Illustrated, where he covered college football and basketball, followed by four years as the features editor at Tennis magazine. While at the latter, he edited an anthology of short stories and poetry, Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game(Breakaway Books, 1999), which the New Yorker called “a delight—and perhaps a surprise—to those who know and care about literature.” His work has been recognized by The Best American Sports Writing annual and has appeared in the humor anthology Mirth of a Nation: The Best Contemporary Humor. He is a two-time MacDowell Colony fellow in fiction and was awarded a grant in 2008 from the Arkansas Arts Council for a novel-in-progress. Most recently, he edited a collection of Charles Portis’s work, Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, which was published in 2012 by Butler Center Books and in paperback in 2013 by Overlook Press.

Carry the Rock: Race, Football and the Soul of an American City was his first book and was named a 2010 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

August 9 is National Book Lover’s Day

bldAugust 9 is National Book Lover’s Day (or Book Lovers Day or Book Lovers’ Day — take your pick).

However you punctuate it, today is a day for those who love to read.  It is set aside to encourage you to kick back and relax with a great book. From shaded spots under arching trees to being tucked up warm in bed, there’s no better way to celebrate today than to while the hours away lost in a book.

A few years ago Huffington Post offered these suggestions as activities for this “holiday.” I’ve annotated them with thoughts of my own.

1) Visit your local library (bonus points if you hum “A Trip to the Library” or “Marian, Madame Librarian” when you do)

2) Reread an old favorite (CliffsNotes don’t count-except for Faulkner because Mala Rogers said it was okay.)

3) Drop some literary references (commiserate a sports loss with a “there is no joy in Mudville;” describe something tiny as Lilliputian; express frustration with “Fiddle dee dee”)

4) Get a new bookshelf (or build one.  or get a book about how to build one.)

5) Give the gift of reading (read to someone — just make sure it is age appropriate — the original Grimm Folk Tales are not intended for pre-school audiences)

6) Hit up a literary haunt (Jay Jennings can probably suggest several Arkansas locations, or you can go to the Capital Bar–many journalists have scribbled notes on napkins there which have made there ways into political books)

7) Host your own book club (or crash your neighbor’s)

8) Host a book lovers party (or tell people you went to one dressed as the Invisible Man–either Wells or Ellison version)

9) Contact your favorite living author (just make sure there isn’t a restraining order because you already have tried this.  repeatedly. at inappropriate locations and times)

10) Donate (it does seem a sin to throw away a book. so pass it on)

 

So visit the Central Arkansas Library System or WordsWorth Books.  Make a pilgrimage to Piggott to see where Hemingway wrote part of A Farewell to Arms (which my classmates and I dubbed A Farewell to Leg because of the line, “I put my hand on my knee, it wasn’t there.”).  Crack open that book at home.  Go down a rabbit hole in search of your Green Light, your Dulcinea, or your Holy Grail.

For younger audiences, chew on a board book, marvel at a pop-up book, experience a scratch ‘n’ sniff book.

Whatever you do today, don’t let it go by without touching a book!  (Episcopalians have it covered with the BCP.)