Frances Mayes is a genie. Crack open one of her memoirs and, poof, you’re whisked off to another place, no passport or airport security lines required. In her bestselling memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, she thrusts readers into the hillside town of Cortona, Italy, where she restores a wild-rose shrouded villa, drinks grappa under a grape-choked arbor and shoos away scorpions that take residence under her pillow.
In Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, Mayes trains her gimlet eye on her childhood, which was spent, not in the lavender-scented air of Tuscany, but in the sweltering, red-dirt environs of Fitzgerald, Ga. The memoir recalls an era of Elvis, ribbon candy, blood-red lipstick and “co-cola” in green glass bottles. The author was raised by a hot-tempered, gin-swilling father and a fragile mother steeped in Shalimar and good intentions. Mayes describes their marriage as one of “Southern Comfort, recriminations and if onlys.”
The young Mayes often found small-town living to be suffocating. Still she manages to unearth poignancy and beauty in her birthplace. The author writes, “Nothing about the South stirs me as much as the narcotizing fragrance of the land, jasmine, ginger lilies, gardenia, and honeysuckle blending, fetid and sweet. The scent entangles with the euphonious chorus of tree frogs …”
Mayes left the South for California and later Tuscany, but this area of the country has a way of settling into one’s bones. She eventually missed her Southern roots, and in 2007 she bought a second home in North Carolina.
Mayes will visit the Columbia County Library on April 23 at 7 p.m. The event is free.
WORDS, WINE AND POETRY: In April the world pops, not just with pastel flowers, but with poetry. It’s National Poetry month and to celebrate, the Augusta Poetry Group will play host to a reading at the Headquarters Library on Telfair Street, April 30 at 6 p.m. Laurel Blossom, Linda Lee Harper, Ed Wilson and several other notable local poets will share their work. Each poet will also give his or her favorite poem to a person attending. Perhaps one of the poems will be Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay, who writes that April, “comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” That’s the heady idiocy most of us love this time of year.
GOLF NOVEL SET IN AUGUSTA: Can a person write a book column during Masters in The Augusta Chronicle without mentioning golf? Are there azaleas blooming at Amen Corner? Golf must be discussed. Luckily the prolific James Patterson makes it easy.
His latest novel is called Miracle at Augusta, and it traces the travails of Travis McKinley, a middle-aged unknown golfer whose win at PGA Senior Open at Pebble Beach shocks the golfing world. The novel takes place after the win, when Travis is beginning to feel like an imposter and losing faith in his game.
Turns out Patterson loves to play golf. One can’t help but wonder if his latest novel is a wish-fulfillment story. According to a recent YouTube interview, he has a handicap of 11, and he’s scored five holes-in-one. Who knows? Maybe the author will be teeing-off at Augusta National yet.
KARIN GILLESPIE IS A NOVELIST AND PART-TIME INSTRUCTOR AT GRU. E-MAIL HER AT KARIN.GILLESPIE@GMAIL.COM.