Stumptown: The Book


Through a series of intricate "small world" connections, we discovered that our neighbor is from Forest Park. Did we know there's a book about Forest Park? she asked. No we did not. She let us borrow her copy. It was a thrill to find it in our mailbox. It's official! I thought, Our story!

The book is from Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. It was published for the 150th birthday of our hometown.

I was impressed by the production quality– perfect bound, matte finish, stately colors and slick design throughout. The book has lots of great old photos and follows the history of a few original Clayton County families who kept good records. The writing seemed vaguely promotional and focused on the heyday of white Forest Park. The final chapter is called "The Final Chapter," as if the city itself had a beginning, middle and end.

It didn't take me long to figure out that this was a publishing template, written by proud locals. And while I found the history exciting, this doesn't seem to be the final word. There was nothing about the encroaching airport and white exodus. I didn't really see my story anywhere in there... the book I want to read about Forest Park is still unwritten.

Oxford_arcadia InmanPark_arcadia GLAtlanta_arcadia

Now I'm seeing these books everywhere. The Oxford & Ole Miss edition at Square Books. The Inman Park edition for sale at a coffee shop. And last night, at a special table at Barnes & Noble, one called Gay and Lesbian Atlanta.

It made me think this would be a funny way to tell the story of Mountain View. There is something magical about book making– the finished thing in your hands feels timeless and legitimate. Like, if there's a book about it, it must be real.

Close to Flannery


We went to the Margaret Mitchell House last night to hear Brad Gooch talk about his just-published biography of Flannery O’Connor. I haven’t read the book yet and generally don’t like biographies but I went to the reading just to mingle with a crowd of O’Connor fans and experts for a night. Just to be close to the author who was close to my favorite artist.

Not that he ever met her. But he met her classmates and neighbors and editors. He managed to interview many of these folks in the last years of their lives. He traveled to Copenhagen to find the textbook salesman who had a brief romance with Ms. O’Connor- and now we know what it felt like to kiss her.

The Q&A session made me realize that we all desperately miss her and want to know her. Poor Mr. Gooch didn’t get many questions on the 5 year process of researching, writing and publishing this landmark biography. He was more like a medium at a séance. What did she mean when she said this or wrote that? What was her favorite food? Did she enjoy music? What would Flannery think of the movie “Doubt”?

I teared up when I heard that she owned 39 peacocks when she died at age 39. Mug leaned over and whispered that his heart was a-flutter. I guess that’s what we came for.

Defective Poetry


In class today we turned to Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein and I discovered that my anthology skips from page 162 to 227. Looks like they left out an entire signature during binding. It was like finding a four leaf clover.

And I wonder if Broadcast loves Stein? This is from their album Tender Buttons:

Book Prescription

So I’m at the School of Letters, surrounded by books and book lovers, readers and writers and critics. Everyday, I hang out in this old gothic library for a couple hours. I feel like that guy in the Twilight Zone who has all the time in the world to read and then breaks his glasses. My days are packed with references to books that I ought to read. I am keeping a running list:


Geography of the Imagination
by Guy Davenport
This collection of essays has come up in my Modern Poetry and Creative Nonfiction class. I remember lying about having read it in an interview when I was about 15. I have no idea what it’s about.


The ABC of Reading
by Ezra Pound
Because his essays are way more fun than his poetry. Because it was first printed in 1934 in these cute little pocket editions with the title typeset in Futura. It’s a classic “writer on writing” manifesto that is surprisingly funny and handy.


The Middle Passage
by Paul Metcalf
More “essays.” I actually read this in an afternoon, but I need to read more by Paul Metcalf and more that was published by The Jargon Society and the other Bauhaus émigrés hiding out in North Carolina. His nonfiction pieces are more like collages of news clippings, interviews, poetry and prose. He should’ve been a blogger.


The Habit of Rivers
by Ted Leeson
He writes about fly fishing, but not really about fly fishing. This guy did a short reading for our group yesterday and I was impressed with the way he weaves nerdy information into his personal observations in a way that’s compelling to someone who doesn’t care about fly fishing.


Young Men and Fire
by Norman Maclean
This is also the guy who wrote A River Runs Through It. I know, more fly fishing. This one is crafted around the oral histories of smokejumpers at the Mann Gulch forest fire. Maclean was 74 when he started writing it and died before it was “finished.”


Race and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century Atlanta

By Ronald H. Bayor
More historical research to beef up my paper on Moreland Avenue. Still trying to get my mind around modern nomads and short-sighted visions of community and southern identity. I am thinking of creating a map of the migratory movements of generations who have left Stumptown.


Like Something Flying Backwards
By C.D. Wright
Because I love it when people recommend living poets.



I've been looking for this book for a long time. I need all of y'all to read it so we can freak out together. Meanwhile, I feel a little anxious carrying around a book with a cover like this and posting it here. Will onlookers take me for a redneck or a liberal?

In reading it so far, I have been inspired to:
-Visit Mozeley Park and Peyton Forest
-Find the old Nathan Bedford Forest Klavern No. 1 on Whitehall Street
-Hunt down the original layout for "An Appeal for Human Rights" and reproduce it on T-shirts
-Call the author
-Grill my parents about school desegretation
-Take up my project on Moreland Avenue Baptist again
-Ask a real estate agent about the term "blockbusting"
-Pray for healing

Pleasantly cloned.


Last weekend we went on an outing to Signal Mountain. Road trips are a good time for getting acquainted. Nobody has to make eye contact. Outside the car flows a river of distraction. Inside, they are talking about great cities to move to, where the scene is artistic, young and progressive and the cost of living is reasonable. Austin, Portland, Madison and Bloomington. And I pitch in some trivia, kind of amused by the idea of picking up and moving to a place for a list of reasons like that. A place that looks good on paper. As if we had a choice.

Later on, my professor asks how we’re feeling about the program, are we happy with our decision? Everyone chimed in with their opinions, mostly affirmative: Well I looked at this and that program, in Vermont and Out West and upstate New York and This one is a good fit, etc. Again I found it hard to answer. This place is everything to me, but I don’t think of  it as a “choice,” but as a pathway that was opened up to me. To come or not to come, maybe, but this is it. The narrow path.

Late in the evening we got onto the really personal stuff. Again, everyone is talking about their choices. Lovers and marriage, whether to have children or not. Religion. Have you always been a Christian? And I’m answering before thinking: That’s the culture I was born into. That’s the way my family is.

I think about going back to myself ten years ago, saying: There it is, your future, handle it gently. It all seems so designed. Did I choose to be rooted to this place, this husband, this set of beliefs?

We are all evangelists for personal responsibility, the strength of our decisions, being proactive and all that. Meanwhile, with age, I’m getting skeptical about our so-called “choices.” Like Flannery O’Connor, I’m beginning to think there is a hidden world, a barely visible plan and we may deviate from it in smallish ways, but the plan exists all the same.

I am still thinking about the book Never Let Me Go. This novel masquerades as a science fiction mystery, but its the weirdest kind of treatise on free will. As the truth is slowly revealed about the characters, their twisted origins and their horrible fate, they never revolt. The “system” and fate are one in the same, irresistible. Its about how we all more or less accept the terms of our existence.

Who has dreamed up this plan for us? I look at the strip-malled landscape and wonder. These vast economies, systems of oppression, the paths of my class. We go about making our plans, but do we deviate at all from the ruts set out before us?