The Shelf: Lang Whitaker

Teresa Weaver on Georgia writers
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Lang Whitaker
Lang Whitaker is living every sports fanatic’s dream: He writes about sports as executive editor of Slam, a basketball magazine, and covers the subject in blog posts and features for other magazines. A longtime Atlantan, Whitaker moved in 2000 to New York, where it was still easy to follow the Braves. In the Time of Bobby Cox: The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me (Scribner) is a strangely compelling mash-up of memoir and obsession. In chapters such as “How Chipper Jones Is Like Going to College” and “How Tom Glavine Is Like Going on Safari in Africa,” Whitaker relates the turning points in his life through the prism of his favorite players and the team’s pivotal games from 1990 to 2010. The conceit works surprisingly well. Whitaker tempers the requisite minutiae with insight, wit, and fine lines, as when he describes the great Greg Maddux: “Maddux’s beautiful mind was cloaked in a completely pedestrian build. While much of baseball in the nineties was discovering performance-enhancing drugs and inflating themselves into unrecognizable he-men, Maddux looked as though he was a cubicle worker who’d won a contest and was being allowed to start a Major League Baseball game thanks to promotional support from Dr Pepper.” You don’t have to love baseball to be a fan.
 
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My Life in Clothes by Summer Brenner
(Red Hen Press)
Summer Brenner’s graceful slip of a story collection is more like a novel in delicate pieces, told by a chorus of first-person narrators. Fashion is a unifying tool, whether as an analogy or a lovely detail—a coat of “heavy, coarse Scottish wool, faintly purple like boiled rhubarb” or “a navy nylon shirtwaist with flocked polka-dots, accordion-pleated skirt, and rhinestone barrel-shaped buttons.” Brenner grew up in Atlanta. Even after she relocated to California, the city is still her setting of choice. All twenty-six stories are brilliant in their brevity, yet rich enough to fill out a novel.
The Breath of God by Jeffrey Small
(West Hills Press/Hundreds of Heads Books)
Jeffrey Small, a Harvard/Yale/Oxford-educated speaker on religion and spirituality, makes an impressive literary debut with a thriller that explores where Jesus went between the ages of twelve and twenty-nine. Small begins with a real fragment of history from 1887, when a Russian journalist discovered something in the Himalayas that might have solved the mystery of those lost years. In The Breath of God, an Emory scholar sets out to separate historical fact from religious legend. Small’s themes, such as the common ground of the world’s religions, are timely.
Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress
(Little, Brown and Company)
Former Atlantan Mark Childress writes the funniest outlandish characters in Southern fiction, from the Tupperware-toting murderer Lucille in Crazy in Alabama to Georgia Bottoms, a fine, upstanding church lady in Six Points, Alabama, who sells sex on the side.

Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land by Joseph E. Lowery
(Abingdon Press)
Civil rights veteran Joseph E. Lowery uses his first book—a loose collection of essays, sermons, and eulogies—as a pulpit to talk about the role of religious faith in social justice.

Photograph by Atiba Jefferson

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