Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Book Lovers, When in Atlanta

Keep your head down during the tornado season. Lord, what a mess.

Also, book folk, when in Atlanta you need to be certain to get over to Decatur—the City within a City—and check out the bookstore scene. The City of Decatur alone is worth the trip. It is very pedestrian friendly, offering a pleasant reprieve from our mostly car-oriented metropolis, and its notorious traffic. Decatur is also filled with interesting things to see and do, and has an excellent yearly calendar of terrific events, including the Decatur Book Festival. The City is right on the rail line, so getting to and from downtown Atlanta or the airport is fairly easy. It is also sandwiched in between Agnes Scott College and the Emory University Complex, both of which offer a regular mix of top-notch literary events. There’s Eddie’s Attic (think Indigo Girls and Shawn Mullins), the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Center, the DeKalb International Farmer’s Market (eat at the cafeteria), and one is just a stone’s throw from some other great Atlanta neighborhoods (Little Five Points, Virginia Highlands). If I sound like I work for the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, well, I am a former Decaturite, and just love the place.

But, back to Decatur’s bookstores. I want to mention one in particular: Wordsmiths Books. These folks have been making a stir in the Atlanta book world since they first opened. It’s a great independent with a really good web presence. In addition, they regularly partner with the Georgia Center for the Book (also in Decatur), the Decatur Library, and the Carter Center, in hosting author events. And they draw in some big names. Go check them out at www.wordsmithsbooks.com. Finally, be certain to visit all of Decatur’s bookselling community while you are there—share the wealth. America’s booksellers need all the help that they can get.

I look forward to assigning the editorial staff—me—of my new book news website to cover future book events in Decatur.

Decatur might well be Georgia’s literary center. I say, might. Right now, my personal vote goes to Athens. I feel so strongly about that that I am writing a book on the subject. Athens is, after all, home of the University of Georgia, the Georgia Writer’s Hall of Fame, the REM/B-52s/ Widespread Panic music legacy, the University of Georgia Press, Hill Street Press, The Georgia Review, and more writers than I can name (Terry Kay, Phil Williams, Judith Cofer, Coleman Barks, Loch Johnson, and the late James Kilgo to name just a few). For the sake of conversation, does anyone care to register a vote? Or suggest another contender? Tell me why, too. I am looking for story ideas.

While we are on the subject, if you are planning a literary tour of Georgia, I would like to recommend a possible travel guide. I just finished The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature, edited by Hugh Ruppersburg and John C. Inscoe and published in 2007 by the University of Georgia Press. It was enough to make a Georgia-born bibliophile pretty uppity. I realize that the title of the book sounds like something your high school English teacher might force on you, or perhaps a required text for a college freshman composition course. But this book has everything—history, adventure, romance, drama, politics, and sex. I like to think that I am fairly well read, at least where Georgia authors are concerned. Still, I found myself repeatedly thinking to myself, “Wow, who knew?” while I was reading this book. I am adding a link to the New Georgia Encyclopedia to my favorite links. Fellow Information junkies, be warned, the on-line NGE can suck you in in much the same way as, say, wikipedia.

Real Men Read.

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