Our take on The Tilted World

Tilted World

This is an unauthorized account of the history of Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly in the development of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. And this is also to tell the rest of you why you must go out and buy The Tilted Worldthe novel collaboratively written by Tom and Beth Ann that goes on sale on October 1. First, the review. Then, an explanation – a history, if you will – of why we’re devoting space to The Tilted World on the website of the PWA. Following that, some important dates.

The Tilted World

Tom (SmonkHell at the BreechPoachers, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) and Beth Ann (Great With Child: Letters to a Young MotherTender HooksUnmentionables, and A Different Kind of Hunger) have teamed up for that rarest of artistic collaborations: the successful collaboratively written novel. The Tilted World is the result of that project, seamlessly melding Tom’s travels in the violent and yearning heart of raw characters with Beth Ann’s gift for the lyrical and precise exploration of fierce human experience.

The Tilted World takes place primarily in and around the fictional Mississippi town of Hobnob, at the time of the great flood of 1927. The book traces the path of Dixie Clay into her marriage to moonshiner-extraordinaire Jesse Swan Holliver, an initially passionate relationship that diminished into a hard-fought business proposition after the loss of their only child. Jesse sold the shine, while Dixie distilled the most highly sought-after spirits in the region (the descriptions of Dixie’s craft might make the driest reader thirst for a nip of her goods). At the same time, Tilted World traces another path, that of revenue agent Ingersoll, dispatched with his partner Ham to the area of Hobnob, first to investigate the disappearance of two other revenue agents and then to investigate rumors of a plan to blow the levee to take pressure off downriver New Orleans. When Ingersoll comes across a crying infant at the bloody scene of a violent armed robbery, his own past as an unwanted orphan drives him to find a welcoming home for the baby, leading him to Dixie’s front porch. From that point (at the business end of Dixie’s rifle), Ingersoll’s and Dixie’s paths are inextricably linked, swirling around each other in tighter and tighter concentrices until they are bound to intersect in a place where the world is upside-down and mostly drowned.

Along the way, Tom and Beth Ann take us through a world where moonshine whiskey flows as fast as the swollen river, where no one can tell the difference between those who’ll do anything to save their town from those who have been corrupted by money and drink to sell the town down the river, a real world with strong women, crooked men, camaraderie, betrayal, and love. The book travels through taverns, general stores, the front lines of the first Great War, explosions, deluges, inundations, orphanages, Chicago blues joints, Alabama backwoods, Mississippi hard-scrabble cropland and backswamp. No line is delivered in tired or expected prose. No words are wasted.

It’s a fast and beautiful ride. Buy it. Read it.

Tom, Beth Ann, and Peauxdunque

Early, before there was a Peauxdunque, I first met Tom at the Words and Music Conference in New Orleans right after his novel Smonk came out. Smonk is a violent carnival of a word-ride (or a word carnival of a violent ride), a mind-blower. But it was a great introduction for me to a writer who grew up and wrote about the places near and around where I grew up, both of us from similar podunks in the central Alabama woods and riverplains.

A couple years later, not long after Peauxdunque was born, Peauxdunque denizen Maurice Carlos Ruffin was a finalist in the short story category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom competition, which Tom was judging. After he picked someone else as the winner and Maurice as the first runner-up, I accosted Tom in the middle of Royal Street late one morning during the Words and Music conference. I’d intended it as a joking, friendly thing, but I’d had a couple bloody maries, and I could tell from the look in Tom’s eyes that my intentions weren’t being served and that it was possible I was a crazy person. When Beth Ann judged the final round of the essay category the next year, where I had a terrible essay as a finalist, I did not repeat the performance when the piece didn’t place. (I also don’t intend to repeat the performance at this year’s conference, where Beth Ann judged the final round of the poetry category and a beautiful poem by Peauxdunquian Cassie Pruyn was chosen second-runner-up and Peauxdunque’s J.Ed. Marston also had a finalist piece.)

A couple years after the incident on Royal Street, as the PWA really started to grow up, P’dunque’s Terri StoorJ.Ed., and I were in Tom’s workshop at the Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers in Petit Jean, Arkansas, where we met soon-to-be members Emily Choate and Susan Bennett Vallee. A couple years after that, TerriJ.Ed.MauriceEmily, and I were in a workshop led by Beth Ann at the Yokshop Conference in Oxford, Mississippi. Seemingly at every step in the development of Peauxdunque, Tom, Beth Ann, or both, were there.

Some important dates

Catch up with Tom and Beth Ann on their book tour this fall:

Tuesday, October 1st
OXFORD, MS
The Powerhouse Community Arts Center
“Tilted and Pickled” Book Release Party
with John Currence
413 S. 14th Street
Oxford, MS
6pm

Wednesday, October 2nd
JACKSON, MS
Lemuria Books
4465 I-55 N
Jackson, MS
5pm

Thursday, October 3rd
GREENWOOD, MS
Turnrow Book Company
304 Howard Street
Greenwood, MS
5:30pm

Friday, October 4th
MEMPHIS, TN
Burke’s Book Store
936 S. Cooper Street
Memphis, TN
5:30pm

Tuesday, October 8th
NEW YORK, NY
The Strand Bookstore
828 Broadway

New York, NY
7pm
*Joint signing with Bill Cheng,
author of SOUTHERN CROSS THE DOG

Wednesday, October 9th
DECATUR, GA
Dekalb County Public Library
Georgia Center for the Book
215 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA
7pm

Thursday, October 10th
RALEIGH, NC
Quail Ridge Books & Music
3522 Wade Avenue
Raleigh, NC
7:30pm

Friday, October 11th – Saturday, October 12th
NASHVILLE, TN
Southern Festival of the Books
Tennessee Humanities Council
301 6th Avenue North
Nashville, TN

Wednesday, October 16th
BIRMINGHAM, AL
Alabama Booksmith
2926 19th Place S
Birmingham, AL
4pm

Thursday, October 17th
LITTLE ROCK, AR
South on Main
(Reading, Performance & Signing)
1304 Main Street
Little Rock, AR
7pm

Friday, October 18th
CLARKSDALE, MS
Seven Chimneys Farm
145 Delta Avenue
Clarksdale, MS
7pm

Saturday, October 19th
GREENVILLE, MS
The Weatherbee House
Signing during the “Hot Tamale Festival”
509 Washington Avenue
Greenville, MS

Tuesday, October 22nd
CHICAGO, IL
The Book Cellar
4736-38 N Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL
7pm

Wednesday, October 23rd
HIGHLAND PARK, IL
Highland Park Public Library
494 Laurel Avenue
Highland Park, IL
7pm

Thursday, October 24th
MILWAUKEE, WI
Boswell Book Company
2559 N Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI
7pm

Wednesday, October 30th
BRUCE, MS
Jesse Yance Memorial Library
314 N. Newburger Avenue
Bruce, MS
12pm

Friday November 1st – Saturday, November 2nd
BATON ROUGE, LA
Louisiana Book Festival
701 N. 4th Street
Baton Rouge, LA

Thursday, November 21st
NEW YORK, NY
The Century Club
7 West 43rd Street
New York, NY
*Concert & Reading*

Friday, November 22nd
MONTGOMERY, AL
Capitol Books & News
1140 E. Fairview Avenue
Montgomery, AL
5pm

Sunday, November 24
MOBILE, AL
Ben May Main Library
Bernheim Hall 701 Government Street
Mobile, AL
2pm

Saturday, November 23rd
GROVE HILL, AL
The Gift Gallery
135 North Jackson Street
Grove Hill, AL
12pm

Tuesday, November 26th
FAIRHOPE, AL
Page & Palette
32 S. Section Street
Fairhope, AL
6pm

Friday, December 6th
NEW ORLEANS, LA
Words & Music Festival
624 Pirate’s Alley
New Orleans, LA

Saturday, December 8th
NEW ORLEANS, LA
Garden District Books
2727 Prytania Street

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