Published Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Butts to speak, sign and read from new book

By W. WINSTON SKINNER

winston@newnan.com

Leverett Butts, who grew up in Coweta County, will be coming home Friday to talk about his book, “Emily’s Stitches.”

Butts, assistant professor of English at the Gainesville campus of the University of North Georgia, lives in Temple with his wife and son. “Emily’s Stitches” includes a collection of interrelated short stories that form a novella. There also are several other short stories and poems in the collection.

Butts will be discussing the book and the role Newnan played in the creation of Owen – the town in the novella – at the Newnan Carnegie Library from 2:30-3:30 p.m. Friday.

Butts will be signing copies of the book at Scott’s Bookstore from 3:30-4:30 p.m. There also will be a reading at Espresso Lane starting at 7 p.m. and lasting until around 9.

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REVIEW: 'EMILY'S STITCHES' SHOWS SKILL IN RANGE OF STORIES

I did not like the ending of “Emily’s Stitches,” the main collection of stories in Leverett Butts’ first book.

It took me to a dark place that didn’t feel particularly comfortable. That said, I enjoyed the book immensely. Butts has captured with a particular sharpness many of the aspects of small-town life. The fact that Owen, the Georgia town in the stories, has more than a passing resemblance to Newnan is part of the book’s charm for local readers.

Within the seemingly separate short stories that form the novella there is a recurring theme that things – and people – are not what they seem. Butts is particularly skillful at creating memorable characters. Many of them – old maid Ruby O’Neal, Eddie Haskell-like Gardener Smith, tragic Emily Blanchard and the philosophical but seemingly indolent Skunk Wilson – all have secrets.

The narrator brings together the worlds of a small Southern town – the ever reverberating past and the joyful and sickening realities of a 1980s adolescence. The story has frank but not gratuitous sexual content that is, in fact, central to the unfolding story.

Butts wrote “Emily’s Stitches” several years ago. Other more recent poems and stories are also included in the volume, “Emily’s Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories” (Beholden Books, paper, 187 pages, $16).

I found Butts’ poem “Fit” thought-provoking as it examined experiences – welcome and unwelcome – that take people beyond the present reality.

Another poem, “Hand Me Down Boy,” also spoke to me as both Butts and I are named for our fathers and then for other folks further back in our family trees. In one stanza, he notes he owns hand-me-down belongings from several people “but not my name.”

Spiritual and even mythological elements are well used in Butts’ work. His poem “Sermon” is sure to become a favorite of any public school teacher who has read the Beatitudes.

Butts, who now lives in Temple, is a Coweta-grown writer with great promise. I hope “Emily’s Stitches” is just the first of many books to come.

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