Memphis Afternoons, James Conaway
James Conaway, of Napa fame, is a beautiful writer. This self-published book of autobiographical essays transports the reader to the Memphis, TN, of Conaway's childhood and adolescence. A child of the Depression, his parents and grandparents are related lovingly yet unsparingly, revealing the devotion of a son married to the outsider's adult understanding of human nature. As the daughter of a Nashville-raised mother from around this period, I recognized elements of the southern temperament and social standards people held incredibly dear in those days. The country clubs, debutantes, high school fraternities, are all there, as is the excessive drinking, corrupt politics, and obsession with reputation and the "right people." Conaway's descriptions of his days catching fish in the muddy Mississippi and getting in fights with his frat brothers while discovering a love of language and literature that would soon take him away from the city of his birth, are hypnotizing and enthralling. His Memphis is not idealized, nor is it dissected. It is simply what it is.