The Daily Pulse:

Shopping suggestions, Part 2

Following are a few books of local/historical I should have recommended in my current column. Two I thoughtlessly forgot about. The other I hadn't seen yet.

One I got just as the book-review column was going to the printer is the Friends of the Knox County Public Library's annual "Knoxville Remembered" calendar, illustrated with big black and white photographs, mostly from the first half of the 20th century. It's nearly always pretty interesting, a mixture of the familiar and the forgotten. Though you always wish for a little more caption, it's fun to speculate. Three or four are classic pictures of Market Square or the courthouse that you've likely seen framed in a restaurant or a lobby, but several I've never seen. For August there's a of Mechanicsville kids playing in a fire-hydrant spray, for September a shot of McGhee Tyson Airport in the late '30s, when it looked like a stylish little office building. The most surprising is for October, a 1920 costume party with close to 50 people, mostly adults, dressed as gypsies, witches, clowns, woodland sprites, and an Indian chief. If anybody recognizes an ancestor in that photograph--or any of these photos, like the team pictures of a white baseball team in the '30s or a black basketball team in the '20s, please let me know.  

Anyway, they're 15 bucks, and available at the used-book shop at the main library, and at Union Ave. Books, the History Center's gift shop, and several other places.

Nearly anybody's likely to be briefly hypnotized by those calendars, whether they've lived here 90 days or 90 years. The next couple of recommendations are a little more estoteric.

The daily ran a nice feature about UT Prof. Dan Feller and his team's latest product, The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Vol. IX--a $75 tome all about the year 1831 as seen through the letters of Tennessee's first president. Halfway through his first term in office, when America was still trying to figure out what to make of this character, it was a dramatic and little understood chapter in American history. It's perhaps not for everybody, and they expect to sell only a few hundred copies nationwide. But for the astute or obsessive Jacksonian on your list, it's indispensible. Especially if they have a space on the shelf next to the first eight volumes.

And then there's Cormac McCarthy's House: Reading McCarthy Without Walls, by Peter Josyph. It's one of the most unusual books of the year--one critic called it "aggressively unconventional"--a sort of impressionistic, not to say random, series of reflections on Knoxville' most famous living writer, who turned 80 this year. A New Yorker, Josyph is an intuitive writer, artist, and filmmaker, a very unusual human being, which is probably what drew him to McCarthy. An offbeat collection of essays, images, and dialogues, the book is partly conversation, and because some of it's with Knoxville scholar Wes Morgan--they had long conversations at Pete's Cafe on Union--it may be the handiest source for what's real and what's not in McCarthy's Knoxville novel, Suttree. It also includes an artistic examination of McCarthy's spartan former home in El Paso, where he famously fended off interview requests for years. Fascinated with the man and his house, Josyph painted it repeatedly.


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