Category Archives: Southern


for sound track click at the end of the post
Thank you to Interesting Literature, for bringing this across my desk.

“If he had not been consumed by ambition and convinced that one day some newly-discovered rubbish heap would reward him, the disappointments he had suffered, let alone the fatigue and derision, would have made him give up the pursuit.”

Virginia Woolf’s “Solid Objects”

As a former literary scholar, as a person who questions the worth and meaning of the responsibilities of every day life, and as a person who collects and struggles with a clutter of odd things I find valuable,  I am grateful to think about this story.  My solid objects are china, truly interesting (to me) rocks, and art supplies or now-useless items with ‘potential’ for found art. Without that collecting and cluttering, might I give up the pursuit, not just of my collecting but of bothering with life at all?

It’s a somewhat middle class / first world problem, though. To a hammer everything looks like a nail, so I assume Virginia Woolf must have struggled in a similar, though probably harsher, ‘trap.’ She seems to have been too sheltered and just barely financially secure enough that she had no need to fight for life, but too smothered by gender and class norms and too unskilled to really break out into an independent life.

Writing and mental illness were the arenas where she fought her good fight. There was no resolution. There was only cessation.
I certainly question the worth of my aesthetic, my beliefs, my collections, my efforts, efforts I make and efforts I shirk. I wonder if she did as well. The lion’s share of my sense of meaning in my life comes from creative work- but the lion’s share and more of my time and energy are spent in the repetitive acts of living.  I am sifting my solid objects and my life every day, trying to discern whether and in which areas to bother. How very 2019. 
Some early Trap Music and a reference


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Filed under African, American, art, British, Music, quotable, reviews, social currents, Southern, trap, United Kingdom, virginia woolf, women

Music Alone Shall Live: Collections of American Song


Collectors, fans, and musicians may find these two works of interest.

I am watching a BBC documentary about earliest human history. The presenter suggests that what allowed European Homo Sapiens to outlive their more robust, better adapted cousins the European Neanderthals was – can you guess? – art and music. Art and music created cultural identity across broader geographic regions and for larger tribes and served to preserve the weaker, smaller brained Homo Sapiens.  With this perspective, the importance and influence of the arts for any culture has greater urgency than ever.

Song in America our Musical Heritage by Burl Ives (1962) collects 311 folk songs, arranged by Albert Hague. Even in our modern era the words of folk songs can vary widely from region to region, artist to artist, and decade to decade. It is good to have another reference, especially one so complete.

A Treasury of Stephen Foster (1946) includes historical notes that lend context to Foster’s work, including his use of themes from African slavery and minstrelsy. Cultural theft? A good faith attempt to strike universally recognizable sentimental notes of loss, longing, and fun in spite of it all?

“Foster composed about two hundred songs and a few instrumental pieces… a half dozen rank with the world’s greatest ballads; at least twenty-five of them have become American folksongs and more than fifty are well worthy of preservation.” Collected songs are arranged for piano by Ray Lev and Dorothy Berliner Commins.

If you are interested, please contact us at winecountrybooksnapa at gmail. Best wishes, and happy reading – or in this case, playing and singing.



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Filed under American, illustrated, Music

Read a little James Dickey, shed a little tear, do a little dance

James Dickey: Poems 1957 – 1967. Wesleyan University Press. First Edition.


Photo of James Dickey’s Poems 1957-1967 from Wesleyan University Press

I almost always crack each book I list, unless it is just a numerous and easily available edition of a well known title.

Today I took a minute to randomly read a James Dickey Poem. It was Buck Dancer’s Choice, from the section of the same name.

Then I had to go listen to the song, in several varying styles by several artists. Then I had to go look at videos of buck dancing, which according to Emmylou Harris’ teacher is NOT the same as clogging.

Then I had to wipe a tear.

And now I need some tap shoes. I want to wear them all day all around the house.

The poem and links to some of what I found in my explorations below.

Buckdancer’s Choice


So I would hear out those lungs,
The air split into nine levels,
Some gift of tongues of the whistler
In the invalid’s bed: my mother,
Warbling all day to herself
The thousand variations of one song;
It is called Buckdancer’s Choice.
For years, they have all been dying
Out, the classic buck-and-wing men
Of traveling minstrel shows;
With them also an old woman
Was dying of breathless angina,
Yet still found breath enough
To whistle up in my head
A sight like a one-man band,
Freed black, with cymbals at heel,
An ex-slave who thrivingly danced
To the ring of his own clashing light
Through the thousand variations of one song
All day to my mother’s prone music,
The invalid’s warbler’s note,
While I crept close to the wall
Sock-footed, to hear the sounds alter,
Her tongue like a mockingbird’s break
Through stratum after stratum of a tone
Proclaiming what choices there are
For the last dancers of their kind,
For ill women and for all slaves
Of death, and children enchanted at walls
With a brass-beating glow underfoot,
Not dancing but nearly risen
Through barnlike, theatrelike houses
On the wings of the buck and wing.

James Dickey, “Buckdancer’s Choice” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press,

Source: James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

A variation of the tune by the great Taj Mahal
Emmylou and Bill Monroe buck dancing to Scotland
 The Meaning of Buck Dance sponsored by The Kennedy Center
Directed by D.C. choreographer Emily Oleson, this work features Urban Artistry with Good Foot Dance Company and Baakari Wilder. The piece investigates the origins behind the term “buck dance,” which in tap dance history is used to describe an early American percussive dance style. Drawing on a short video of buck dance taken by Thomas Edison in 1894, the dancers use the technique of freestyling to compare different dance styles in conversation. Part of Local Dance Commissioning Project.
And this is how cataloging and listing a single book can take up my entire morning.
Off to buy me some cowboy boots with taps.

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Filed under Appalachiana, Poems and Poets, Southern

Klanwatch:Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice by Bill Stanton

Klanwatch Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice

Klanwatch Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice

Cue the music…

Church blew up in Birmingham
Four little black girls killed for no goddamn good reason
All this hate and violence can’t come to no good end
A stain on the good name.
A whole lot of good people dragged through the blood and glass
Blood stains on their good names and all of us take the blame

Patterson Hood “Ronnie and Neil”

Klanwatch : Bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Justice by Bill Stanton

“An insider’s account.. describes how attorney Morris Dees and other Klanwatch workers took on the Klan and brought its members to justice, enduring intimidation, death threats, and other dangers.”

This book isn’t a collectible to most people. I think most people believe we’ve moved past it. (We haven’t; we still have huge active Klan populations – the one in Indiana, for example, boasts subgroups in 20 states and 5 groups in Arkansas boast subgroups in 11 different states). It should be a collectible, and it is to me, just like the DriveBy Truckers’ Southern Rock Opera. I can’t bear to price it to sell.

And before we go to South bashing, let me tell you. When I was in grad school one of my colleagues was from Affluenza’d SoCal. His first job was at Alabama State University, a HBC, in Montgomery. I asked him how he was managing with the racism in Montgomery. He loved his job and had no issues on that front. But he also said, so wisely- California has racism too. It is just less honest. At least in the South it is out on the table. So it is painfully visible, but guess what? When it is obvious there is a problem, you can work to heal it. Here in California, where we are all so liberal and ‘we don’t have those kinds of problems’ (yes, we certainly do, but) we can’t heal.

That said… Alabama and Montgomery bear a heaping share of the pain, harm and guilt of oppressing abusing and dehumanizing generations of Africans brought here by force and their African Americans descendants. Interestingly though, Alabama seems also to have done a better job healing.

I lived, worked, and birthed then raised my little one in the Montgomery Alabama area for 8 years. Segregation is alive and well, let me tell you. I am not saying it isn’t racism, but I know for sure it is definitely economic segregation and definitely it is the man or the system that works so well for whites making sure the poor stay poor and the largest percentage of those who are struggling are African American. At the same time, my dear friend’s darling little daughter is on a cheerleading squad with 7 little African American girls, they are completely flippin’ adorable and love each other like sisters, and race is absolutely a non issue.

Montgomery  is big enough to have a few public goods that are available to all-  a decent library with many branches, an art museum, a beautiful park and community gathering place for big events down by the river, a minor league baseball team and solid churches. It is big enough that it has the problems of a real city- violent crime, poverty, inner city type neighborhoods and schools, and such.

It also has the problems of a small town- cultural isolation, having to drive to see a decent concert, that sort of thing. But it is also small enough that people can grow to know and care about each other personally regardless of skin color. Everyone who is anyone is some sort of activist or professional working for the public good of all in the community, not just one race. The legacy of The Good Work is carried on and some heroes of the civil rights era were still living and working hard during the time I lived there.

I worked passionately for equal education and for the betterment of the teachers, families and students in the public school system, through  my position as a librarian in a public library on the Southern Boulevard, epicenter of so many of those social problems. I had come to see so many inequalities, such as the poor quality of the public schools, mainly used by – Surprise! Little African American children- as Civil Rights issues thanks to the amazing work of the Southern Poverty Law center.

In Montgomery, where White and African American populations are about 45%-55% respectively, most normal people are forced to deal with people of the opposing skin color on a daily basis. Local and state government employees are probably pretty equally from both communities (although we have to be honest- we don’t see too many people of color in positions of higher authority. But they’ll get there).

And in Montgomery, as in much of the South, the requirement to greet and treat each other with respect and acknowledgment of the other as a human being is, at least in public, absolutely IRON CLAD, no ifs ands or buts. Any disrespectful or hurtful actions and language from or among children is knocked right out of them; adults call each other ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ or in practicing Christian circles ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ without the least humour irony or sarcasm.

Some might say that is just life in the South, but I think it is particularly strong in Alabama. It arises from the scars of wounds from two recent epochs in Southern history:  First  there was post civil war  occupation by Northern military forces and the influx of ‘right thinking, liberal’ opportunists, gold-diggin’ ‘carpetbaggers.’  Later and more painful in a brief and hard won peace came the events of the Civil Rights area which horrified normal decent people of both colors.

“Southern Man” and “Alabama” certainly told some truth
But there were a lot of good folks down here and Neil Young wasn’t around

Meanwhile in North Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd came to town
To record with Jimmy Johnson at Muscle Shoals Sound
And they met some real good people, not racist pieces of shit
And they wrote a song about it and that song became a hit…

I believe people are so polite because the spectre of having society torn apart by such ugliness hovers quite near. Alabamans will generally put aside petty differences and put on their kindest manners and work very hard at community building to keep that evil at bay.

One of the crowning jewels in Alabama’s legacy of positive social change is the Southern Poverty Law Center. Klanwatch is one of its programs. I am proud to say I have met SPLC’s founder, Morris Dees, who lives in a cool but quite modest home in Old Cloverdale where we spent so many hours with so many friends. I knew him as the man who broke the Klan. I don’t think many people know what this meant.

In a landmark case, a judge made the hatemongering Klan pay a 7 million dollar settlement to the mother of a young man who had  been viciously murdered by a few Klan members.  For the first time, an entire organization was responsible for making reparations for the crime, even though it was committed by only a few members. To put it mildly, that sure put a kink in their tail and curtailed the criminal behavior of its members considerably.

Some people like to be snide about Morris’ Dees previous incarnation as a direct mail marketer, or about his personal life, or the size of the SPLC Endowment, which dollars, as one clueless (white) guy put it, Dees should stop hoarding and start feeding hungry people, making the world a better place by funding grants or projects to directly help those in need.  That evening Dees answered the heckler kindly. He said, we are always potentially a lawsuit away from being forced to close our doors. We have to provide for its future so we can continue what we do. I wholeheartedly agree.

So… this book is about something Alabama can absolutely be very proud of. The Cradle of the Confederacy is also the Cradle of Civil Rights.(I can’t be the first person to say that, right?)  The awareness that Civil Rights really matter has spread so that American society grows in our awareness that the rights of women, gay or transgendered people, parents, children, people who are vulnerable because they are cut off from or simply do not have supportive families or are  institutionalized- the elderly, orphans and foster children, are in danger all the time. So the pain endured by Alabama’s citizens not been in vain. We cannot bring back those who died at the hands of the Klan, vigilantes or so-called law enforcement, nor end the grief of their loved ones… but we do know that from the seeds of that pain  sprang  healing and stability and willingness to prevent it happening again in much greater proportion.

Darling Alabama, there are many things about you that I do not miss, but I will love you for so many reasons, forever.


Filed under African, American, History, social currents, Southern

I’m back!

A friend recently gave me the Ray Davies tribute album This is Where I Belong. It brought  my adolescent crush on Davies back in an overwhelming rush. In my heartstruck state I have been doing some research and found out just how much growth and innovation the Kinks and Davies personally contributed to early rock and roll.

So naturally this one comes to mind when I sit down at my Wine Country Books desk for the first time in too long. How I’ve missed you, books!  I got me an exercise ball chair… I got me a stack o’ books… In here in the dark I can hear the birds singing sweetly out there. It is an unseasonably beautiful November day here in wine country, perfect for photographs of my lovely books. To work!

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Filed under Music, Rock and Roll

Am I selling or collecting?

Some books which I will not let go, or at least not at a price which would allow them to sell:

My Dad’s Vietnam collection


Southern authors

Beautiful children’s books with African American themes by the likes of Jerry Pinkney or the Dillons

Library and information science books

Books I want to read someday (like I will ever get to them, EVER)

Laura Esquivel’s Law of Love with the accompanying cd of arias

Contemporary fiction, first edition signed, which isn’t worth much right now but ‘might be worth something some day’


Librarians and booksellers must apply a rigorous calculus of keep due to intrinsic worth or ‘might be worth something later’/ reduce price or reposition to sell or check out/ just go ahead and discard / donate. (And of course ocd not only requires me to create that incredibly complex calculus, but to then overturn its results. Every. Time.) Reasons include the scarcity of my most precious resource, time- it is a waste of time to list something that won’t sell, or something I refuse to price to sell- and the need for space so that I can get out there and start purchasing books that will sell.

Then I hold in my hand a book from the estate of The Minister from Denbigh, or Miss Margaret, or a feminist coed of the jazz age, with name and the date in spidery or beautiful cursive of days gone by… 1907? 1924? And I think to myself- without collectors I would not have this treasure in my hand. Personal libraries are almost as revealing as diaries, I think.

So is the book a treasure if it won’t sell? Is the book’s worth solely based on what it will bring when it sells?

It just reinforces a stunning and painful truth. The worth of a book is purely situational, subjective, and arbitrary. Which is fine. I am glad to build my personal collecion. But I am supposed to be a bookseller.

Mama said there’d be days like these. Well, what she said was, there were some books she just didn’t want to let go, and she finally learned that if she thought that way, she would never sell a book. My dad didn’t express the sentiment… he just priced ’em so high they wouldn’t sell. Heh.

Matoaka A Story of the Fight for Americanism by William Grant Burleigh, 1924

Matoaka A Story of the Fight for Americanism by William Grant Burleigh, 1924

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Filed under Antiquarian, Appalachiana, Shop, Southern

Gone Away…

A friend’s loss of her father this morning has me thinking about the distance between loved ones, across the country and across the space between our hearts. That distance is an illusion but the sentiment still touches my heart this foggy chilly morning.

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July 31, 2013 · 5:19 pm

Striving toward such an epitaph

“It is my belief that having reached this concluding chapter, the reader must be aware by now that Tennessee Williams is a man with fewer major faults than many less interesting people.” Gilbert Maxwell, Tennessee Williams and Friends An Informal Biography. 1965, World Publishing Company


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July 29, 2013 · 7:15 pm

Scott Freeman’s Midnight Riders: The story of the Allman Brothers Band

(First Edition, First Printing, Little Brown and Co 1995)

Midnight Riders was a bestseller.  Scott Freeman was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while at the Macon Telegraph and News.  Just looking at the title forced me to crank up some Allman Brothers.

Don’t even try to tell me those first few Hammond B3/acoustic notes don’t make your heart stir in recognition and fellow-feeling. Arrangement, vocals, lyrics…

“tells of the brothers’ difficult childhood: their extraordinary self-education in the world of Southern blues and r&b; their unsuccessful early musical incarnations; and their triumph as they rose to unimaginable wealth and success…” drugs, Dixie Mafia connections, tragedy, loss, and musicians and storytellers at the very top of their craft… what’s not to love?

midnight riders

Get Midnight Riders: The story of the Allman Brothers Band by Scott Freeman at your public library. If not there, buy the first edition, first printing here.  Condition VG+ (book pristine, appears unread, dust jacket shows shelf wear including shine partially rubbed away)

A steal at $30 and shipping is free! Email winecountrybooksnapa at gmail dot com.



July 25, 2013 · 3:10 am