Books on tap: Event to kick off theme for NLCC

Published 12:01 am Sunday, October 1, 2017

Think of the odd, the bizarre and the peculiar — these are the emblems of Southern Gothic Literature, the theme for the 2018 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

The festival will kick off the theme for next year’s conference with Books and Brews, an event featuring live music, readings, book-signings and beers at 4 p.m. on Oct. 13 at the Natchez Brewing Company.

Steve Yates, author and assistant director and marketing director for the University of Mississippi Press, will be reading and signing his book, “The Albino Farm.”

Email newsletter signup

Matthew Guinn, associate professor of creative writing at Belhaven University, will be reading from and signing his books, “The Resurrectionist” and “The Scribe.”

Brett Brinegar, co-chairman of the celebration, said the October event is meant to be a teaser for the upcoming festival in February.

Though Brinegar has been co-chairman for three years, this is the first year she has been able to select a theme. Her inaugural event in 2016 focused on Natchez’s tri-centennial and last year’s theme highlighted Mississippi’s bicentennial.

When she was choosing her theme for this year, Brinegar immediately knew she wanted to focus on the Southern Gothic writing style.

“I love the literature from this genre,” Brinegar said. “One of the reasons we decided to do this is, so people will know what Southern Gothic literature is. People ask me ‘What is that?’”

When thinking of gothic literature, Brinegar said some people imagine the traditional English horror elements — like Frankenstein or Dracula — instead of the Southern iconography.

“That’s not what this is,” she said. “Southern Gothic is the quirky, weird, edgy stuff that makes Southern Literature different.”

There are notable authors of the genre — Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and, of course, Flannery O’Connor — but Brinegar said some people are surprised at what can be considered Southern Gothic.

“Even novels like to ‘Kill a Mockingbird’ — Boo Radley is a Southern Gothic character,” Brinegar said. “He’s weird, he’s different, but he’s actually a nice guy. That’s what Southern Gothic literature is all about.”

Brinegar said many Southern Gothic authors use their characters’ eccentricities to relate to readers.

“It always appeals to some facet of your personality, whether it’s a weakness or strength,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just an element of quirky humor.”

Southern Gothic literature reflects Southern life — a little different, odd even — but interesting underneath the strange façade.

The idea for a fall event at the Natchez Brewing Company arose from a desire to involve more of the community, she said.

“Maybe people who would never come to a book signing will come to the brewery, have a beer, and see what’s going on,” she said. “And it’s a good opportunity to get people involved.”

Gathering partners to help put on the event, Brinegar said, was easy.

“That’s the best part about living in Natchez,” Brinegar said. “Everybody wants to help. Everybody wants to do whatever it takes to make an event happen.”

Turning Pages will provide the books for sale at the event; Shanty Bellum Guest House is donating rooms for the visiting authors and, of course, Natchez Brewing Company will provide the venue and libations at their cash bar.

Lisa Miller, an owner of Natchez Brewing Company, said Brinegar first approached her back in the summer.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Miller said. “We want to have more events at the brewery, and this is a good combination.”

Along with a promotion of the February event, Brinegar said she hoped Books and Brews would renew a community interest in reading.

“You don’t have to be a big reader to be interested in this stuff, but it helps,” she said. “We want to make sure people don’t stop reading, don’t stop wanting to learn.”