Category: Book talks

Of Madness and Rabbits

Our second online book talk, at 4 p.m. this Sunday, showcases a book with an unusual title: Jesus Goes to Hollywood: A Memoir of Madness.

Please let us explain.

The author, Tom Matte (right) of suburban Atlanta, tells a cautionary tale of what can happen when a normal-seeming life collides with substance abuse and mental illness. Tom was a successful marketing man — that’s his clever Instagram meme with Brer Rabbit at far right. A few years ago, his recreational use of cocaine spun out of control and started rewiring his brain. He grew paranoid, tried to burn down his house, left his wife and two children, and went on a three-continent spending spree that cleaned out their savings and left him penniless and sleeping on the beach near the Santa Monica Pier in California. At one point, he was so crazy he imagined he was Jesus –– hence the title.

Tom ended up serving time in two Georgia jails and then slowly climbed his way back from the abyss. The last section of the book is about his mental healing and his arduous efforts to reconnect with his family. After all he did to them, it wasn’t easy.

Tom’s memoir is horrifying, but it’s also darkly humorous in places. Mixing the two is a technique as old as storytelling. We certainly recognize it here at the Wren’s Nest because the fellow who used to live here, Joel Chandler Harris, mixed them quite often in the Uncle Remus stories. In “The Awful Fate of Mr. Wolf,” to name one example, Brer Rabbit tricks Brer Wolf into being boiled alive, and then calls his friends over for a celebratory feast. The last we see of Brer Wolf is a pelt hanging on the back porch.

We can assure you that no animals were harmed in Tom’s memoir. His mental well-being was another matter.

To attend the book talk, register at Eventbrite and you’ll receive an email with a link to join the meeting on Zoom. It’s free, and books will be available for sale. Hope to see you Sunday.


Our first Zoom book talk

At 4 p.m. this Sunday, May 17, the Wren’s Nest will host its first online book talk. Jonah McDonald, an entertaining Atlanta writer and tour guide, will talk about his new book, Secret Atlanta: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. It contains a short chapter about the Wren’s Nest … which made us curious.

We’re assuming that since our historic house is not truly obscure, we are either wonderful or a little weird. We wouldn’t disagree with either. Jonah focuses on Akbar Imhotep, who has been performing Uncle Remus tales at the Wren’s Nest for 35 years. Good storytellers have a way of finding each other.

That was certainly the case in 1882, when Mark Twain, an admirer of the Uncle Remus stories, invited Joel Chandler Harris to New Orleans to give a book reading at the home of author George Washington Cable. Twain told Harris that he could make more money on the lecture circuit than he could selling books. But when it was time for him to stand up and read, Harris, a lifelong stutterer, couldn’t bring himself to do it. Twain tells the story in his 1883 collection, Life on the Mississippi:

“Mr. Cable and I read from books of ours, to show him what an easy trick it was; but his immortal shyness was proof against even this sagacious strategy; so we had to read about Brer Rabbit ourselves.”

We can assure you that Jonah McDonald has no such apprehensions. Too bad they didn’t have Zoom book talks in 1882. Joel Chandler Harris might not have minded public appearances as much if he had been able to do them sitting in a rocker on his porch peering into a laptop.

To attend the talk: Register at Eventbrite and you’ll receive an email with a link to join the meeting on Zoom. It’s free, and books will be available for sale. Hope to see you Sunday — virtually, that is.



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