“This Side of the River,” by Jeffrey Stayton

Reviewed by Matthew Simmons 150 years after the end of the Civil War, I sit in Columbia, South Carolina. The banner that the local university’s football coach once called “That Damn Flag” has come down, to the joy of some and the consternation of others. In the spring of this year, I worked on a […]

Matt Simmons Interviews Drew Perry, Author of Kids These Days

MS:  Do you think this book had to take place in Florida? Is there a particular understanding of Florida in America, 2014, that makes it useful for what you’re doing here? Is Florida still a place of leisure and escape, like it was throughout the 20th century, or has it become something wild and untamed […]

March Read of the Month: “Kids These Days,” by Drew Perry

Reviewed by Matt Simmons Perhaps no trope is as evocative of southern writing as the “sense of place,” a concept that can be both incredibly limiting and powerfully productive in how we read about and respond to the American South. On the one hand, this trope may force us to read in search of southern […]

May Read of the Month: “The Kings and Queens of Roam,” by Daniel Wallace

Reviewed by Matthew Simmons One of the great frustrations of being a young person in a small town is how incredibly boring it seems.  Everything that happens seems to happen somewhere else, and wanderlust is an oppressive feeling, something inescapable, omnipresent, and, importantly, your greatest desire in the world.  This is true everywhere, it seems, […]

“Patterns on the Sand,” by Gamel Woolsey

Reviewed by Matthew Simmons One of the joys of going into a used bookstore is the possibility of finding some rare, forgotten treasure.  If you’re a bibliophile, like I am, you know the feeling I’m talking about: the excitement of taking something possibly magical home, the deep, satisfying joy of finishing that book, knowing that […]

November Read of the Month: “A Short Time to Stay Here,” by Terry Roberts

Reviewed by Matthew Simmons It is difficult to give Terry Roberts’s debut novel, A Short Time to Stay Here, the full and proper treatment it deserves.  This is not because it is a novel marked by “difficulty” of some experimental sense; to the contrary, it is a highly-readable, easily-digestible book.  But in that statement lies […]

July Read of the Month: “Blueberry Years,” by Jim Minnick

Jim Minnick’s The Blueberry Years, re-released in paperback a few weeks ago, proclaims itself, in the subtitle, as being a “memoir of farm and family.”  And so it is.  Yet, while Minnick is too humble to proclaim it as such, it is the reader’s prerogative to make of a book what it really and truly […]

“Fielder’s Choice,” by J. Mark Hart

Review by Matthew Simmons Years ago, after reading Richard Russo’s Mohawk, I decided I needed more flexibility in labeling fiction.  Obviously, there was pulp, there was genre fiction, and there was the rarified air of “lit-tra-ture.”  But what I’d found in Mohawk seemed to somehow occupy parts of all of those labels simultaneously and effortlessly.  […]