Special/Signature Issues » Fall Arts Preview

Local and Organic

Virginia serves up a batch of fine fall reads and rendezvous.


It's a curious phenomenon how every year, after poring over boundless heaps of fiction all summer, I find myself craving the gritty realism of memoirs, biographies and historical works as soon as the weather cools.

“Nothing Left to Burn” (Algonquin, $23.95), Jay Varner's smart, autobiographical tale of family trials by fire, will be released Sept. 21, with a signing at Fountain Bookstore on Sept. 30. The Charlottesville author's first book uses the concise language of a newspaperman — his former profession — to delve into his fraught relationships with his father and kooky pyromaniac grandfather.

Susan Gregg Gilmore just put out her newest effort, “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove” (Crown, $23), a lovingly constructed coming-of-age-in-the-'50s story, Southern-style. It's chock-full of truthin', decadence and forbidden love — you know how those racially divided and crumbling plantations can get.

The horsey set will relish the September release of “Secretariat's Meadow” (Dementi Milestone, $29.95), Kate Chenery Tweedy's account of the “empire built on broodmares” and the Triple Crown champion. Tweedy will appear at the Virginia Historical Society on Oct. 13. Meanwhile, diehard shoppers shouldn't miss “Finding Thalhimers” (Dementi Milestone, $25) by Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt (Did you know it used to be a one-room dry goods store?). It goes on sale in the display window Oct. 1.

September's calendar is studded with … well, studs! Of the literary world, of course. Los Angeles Times-praised writer Michael Knight presents “The Typist” at Fountain Bookstore (Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m., 1312 E. Cary St.); Virginia Commonwealth University has slated the “Larry Levis: A Celebration” Conference in honor of the prize-winning poet; Pulitzer-winner Phillip Levine and others will pay tribute to Levis and read Sept. 22-24 at various VCU locations; the fabulous children's picture-book author and reading expert Mem Fox will hold two workshops on the power and magic of reading aloud to children (Sept. 29 at the Renaissance Conference Center, 107 W. Broad St.).

October kicks off with a rather steamy bang, as mistress of romance Deanna Raybourn returns with “Dark Road to Darjeeling” (Oct. 2 at Fountain Bookstore); on her kitten heels comes the big James River Writers Eighth Annual Writing Conference featuring New York Times best-selling authors Silas House, Charles J. Shields and Charles Todd (Oct. 7-9 at the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad St.); and finally, adventures in self-publishing abound as writers and artists buy, sell and trade at the Richmond Zine Fest on Oct. 16 at the Gay Community Center of Richmond,1407 Sherwood Ave.

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