“Books & Brews” is a fun new event from the Southern Lit Alliance for 2015
What kind of beer would a reader of Clyde Edgerton prefer? How about a fan of Katori Hall? Roy Blount Jr.? Natasha Trethewey? If you’d like to rub elbows (and bend elbows) with Chattanooga’s literary and libation lovers, drop in for “Books & Brews” on Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 6 p.m. at Heaven & Ale tavern. Oh, and be sure to bring a book you like for someone else to take home. The four luminaries mentioned above all abide in the Fellowship of Southern Writers pantheon; they’d be excellent suggestions for this book exchange.
Books & Brews represents a foray into “ever-evolving and creative events,” says Rhett Reeves, new-minted program director for the Southern Lit Alliance, the people who have brought to Chattanooga, long time passing, the Celebration of Southern Literature. “The Alliance has a wonderful following and support system, and we have consistently sponsored the Celebration every other year, and book clubs every few months. We want to throw in a different line of events that don’t have a set shape or specific audience.”
The rubric “South Bound” is an umbrella covering the new lineup from the Alliance. For this inaugural event, Books & Brews, everyone who likes to read and/or to drink fine brews can bring a book they like and tip a growler or two with new friends who share an interest in literature. Before the evening’s out, you’ll write a note on a 3”x 5” card about your book, leave it as a treat for someone else, and select another tome from the treasure trove.
Reeves’ goal for the Alliance is to embrace a broader audience for literature and readership in the Chattanooga area. “The demographic for the biennial Celebration of Southern Literature is somewhat more mature, people 45 to 60,” says Reeves. “As I was imagining this event, I wrote in the margin of my notes that I wanted to get younger people involved in the Alliance’s mission and program. Many people my age [she’s a 2012 Sewanee graduate] are avid readers—there’s Garden & Gun, Oxford American, all sorts of material and tastes—and we’re hoping to provide a space for people to get together and chat about what they’re reading.”
Of course, Books & Brews is sponsored by the Southern Lit Alliance, and “it’s fun to talk about regional identity in books and magazines, but it doesn’t have to be just about Southern literature,” Reeves adds. “I’m going to bring something by Ron Rash—I just love him. But there may be copies of Gone Girl out there because it’s a crazy popular book. Somebody could bring Twilight and I’d be OK with that. Books & Brews is a litmus test event, kind of a gamble to see what’s going to be on the table.”
And who will attend? Specifically, will guys come to an event with a book-clubbish whiff if it’s not about, say, the Civil War or sports trivia or something nonfictionish?
“That’s where the beer comes in,” says Reeves. “Reaching out to men has a lot to do with space and context, and Heaven & Ale is a super chill bar with great beer.” The tavern has more than two dozen brews on tap at any given time, and the stock is rotated continually. Reeves also brainstormed with two friends, Tim Laramore and Sam Currin, local high school English teachers who lent their masculine perspectives. “Lots of men out there read,” Reeves says, “and there are wonderful writers who appeal to men. On numerous occasions I’ve been at a bar and talked all night about Cormac McCarthy, a mind-blowing writer.”
Among the Alliance’s other diversified offerings, Sam Currin will be leading a discussion of Ron Rash’s gritty novel Serena, a South Bound book club event at Brix Nouveau, also on Cherokee Blvd., at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 17. The actual Celebration of Southern Literature on April 16-19 will include a South Bound soirée at the Bessie Smith Hall, with Chattanooga author Jamie Quatro and Roger Hodge of the Oxford American; a spoken-word performance on Sunday, April 19; and a hands-on workshop on traditional printing at The Open Press facility at Market and 14th streets.
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Books & Brews, 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13, Heaven & Ale, 304 Cherokee Blvd.