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This one's for LS and JA

In that same issue of the Oxford American, one of the other featured artists is Marshall Chapman, a longstanding Nashville singer/songwriter. Her music has never done an enormous amount for me, but... it turns out, when you look at her website, she's written a book.

What becomes more interesting, as you scroll down the website, is exactly who Marshall got to submit blurbs for the back of the book.

Now, if you know anything about the publishing business, you'll know that the majority of blurbs on the back of books come from other writers who already had some relationship, somehow, with the author. Rare are the cases where an established writer gets sent a book by the publisher, reads it, and is so taken with it he allows his name and blurb to be put on the back of the book.

Now, this doesn't mean that if you know or are friends with an author, that author is going to then slap a blurb on your book. Most authors are choosy, and probably won't put their blurb on the back of the book unless they do dig it. That whole credibility thing. Still, it helps to know people.

When my mother wrote her first novel, most of the enthusiastic blurbs came from people she already had some relationship with, whether it was Dominick Dunne, Judith Krantz, or Ted Kennedy. But my favorite blurb on the back of her novel did come from someone she had never met: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote that the novel was "a weird and visceral experience which gave me the creeps, which I liked."

Now check out the blurbs for Marshall Chapman's novel on her site. There's one of my favorite Southern writers, Larry Brown. Humorist Roy Blount, Jr. Emmylou Harris (well, all right). Former U.S. Senator and failed presidential hopeful Bill Bradley (!).

And there's also this blurb:
"Marshall Chapman deserves an honorary doctorate in verve and attitude. Anyone who thinks that this little rock and roller is saying goodbye has another thing coming."
                               -- E. Gordon Gee
                                    Chancellor, Vanderbilt University
Yes, disgraced former Brown University President Gordon Gee weighs in! This might be the weirdest collection of book blurbs of all time!

posted by Anon. 10:28 AM
Oxford Blues

A yearly treat for the music fan might still be on the newsstands, and I bought my copy yesterday at the B&N by the Santa Monica Promenade: the Oxford American's annual Music Issue. The American, "the Southern magazine of good writing," as its billed, the magazine founded by John Grisham and a ton of his money, was saved from the brink last year and relocated from Oxford, Mississippi to Little Rock. Their annual music issue includes, within the cellophane wrap, an annual compilation CD of songs by all the musicians written about it in the issue.

Which isn't just new music, at all. The articles range from being about Willie Nelson to classic scat singer King Pleasure to the Del McCoury Band to contemporary rockers the Gourds and My Morning Jacket. The result is an intriguing, wide-ranging mix CD, which, though at times sounding like one of those Hear Music compilations you can buy at Starbucks, is often as deep as it is wide.

I had to buy it, because it featured the Del McCoury Band covering one of my all-time top 10 favorite songs: Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." Very strange to hear a very British folk song transmuted into a southern bluegrass number. But very wonderful, too.

(Actually, weirdly, the Music Issue probably won't be on your newsstands, as the OA has had two issues since then. But worth checking out and trying to track down. Here, at any rate, is the cover of this year's Music Issue.)

Update: You might not be able to find the 2003 Music issue on newsstands. But you will be able to find a playlist -- complete with liner notes -- of the compilation CD here.

posted by Anon. 9:27 AM