Monday, April 30, 2012

Dateline: Memphis, Tennessee - Day Two

This morning, Rose and I headed to the Elmwood Cemetery (1852) but were led astray by the map. We were on one side of the wrought iron fence and could see the green and the graves but couldn't find the entrance. Once again, thanks to the cell phone, we were able to call the office and get directions to the main, and only, entrance.

We stopped at the office and boy were we glad we did. We told the woman who greeted us, Jorja, that we were on the Grand Southern Literary Tour and she immediately got it. "You want to see Shelby Foote's grave."

But there was more. She walked over to the bookshelves and pulled down three volumes written by a Memphis author, Dr. Janet Miller: Jungles Preferred (1931), Camel-Bells of Baghdad (1934), and Sammy and Silverband (1931), a book for young people. The books had been donated to the cemetery by Miller's great-grandniece, Mary Ann Traylor.

Then Jorja, who was the part-time historian for the cemetery, introduced us to another Memphis writer, Molly Caldwell Crosby, who wrote The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History (2006) and Asleep, the Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries (2010) about sleeping sickness or encephalitis lethargica.

Two other books that Jorja suggested were The Sultana Tragedy: America's Greatest Maritime Disaster by Jerry O. Potter about the explosion of the wooden steamboat in 1865 that killed 1800 of the 2400 passengers. Most of them were weary Union soldiers on their way home from Confederate prison camps. And, Graveyard Girl by Anna Myers which takes place in Elmwood Cemetery during the yellow fever epidemic.

We did drive to see Shelby Foote's grave which is under an enormous magnolia tree. Later we found (after a couple of U-turns which made Rose very jittery) his home which still stands empty after his death seven years ago.

After our stint at the cemetery, we drove to Burke's Books which is now owned by Cheryl Mesler and her husband Corey. The store opened in 1875 and stayed in the Burke family for three generations. Cheryl and Corey, who had worked at the store and met there, bought Burke's in 2000. It is now in its fourth and they hope final location. The original store was razed in the sixties in the name of Urban Renewal.

It is a great place and Rose and I spent two hours there browsing and talking with Cheryl. Rose bought three gardening books and I found a hardcover copy of The Points of my Compass by E.B. White; Lanterns and Lances by James Thurber; Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg; The American Plague; a light mystery, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, the first in a series by Sofie Kelly in which the mystery solver is a librarian with magical cats; Small Wonder an essay collection by Barbara Kingsolver; and, another book of essays by various authors.

I think that is it. I am thrilled to get the E.B. White. I have a paperback edition and much prefer the hardcover.

A lot went on today on the Literary Tour and Rose and I are so pleased with our successful book finds.

And so to bed.

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