Puget Sound English Department

July 7, 2009

Writers From Memphis

bealeThe influence of Memphis on American popular music is almost incalcuable, of course, given the blues-tradition associated with Beale Street [pictured] in particular, as well as the impact of Stax Records on soul music and rock & roll, not to mention the Sun Records’ recordings of blues and rock-a-billy artists, including Jackie Brentson, Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and so on.  (Both Stax and Sun Records have been turned into museums.) But the literary heritage of Memphis is considerable, too.  Faulkner’s fiction alludes to the city, as does James Baldwin’s. Writers born in and/or affiliated with Memphis include Shelby Foote (historian), Peter Taylor (fiction writer, author of A Summons to Memphis), Arthur Flowers, James Conaway, and John Grisham, who lives in Mississippi but has used Memphis as a setting for some of his popular thrillers.  Memphis also hosts an annual Black Writers and Film-Makers conference (in April). And Puget Sound’s own Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Associate Professor of English and author of the forthcoming novel, Wench (HaperCollins), hails from Memphis as well.  A couple of Puget Sound graduates, including Eric D. Williams, who covers the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune, have earned an M.F.A. in writing at the University of Memphis.

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