- Georgia Bottoms: A Novel (2012)
- One Mississippi (2006)
- Gone for Good (1999)
- Crazy in Alabama (1993)
- Tender (1990)
- A World Made of Fire (1984)
- V for Victor (1980)
- What it Means to Miss New Orleans: Three Essays After Katrina (2013)
- Looking for Harper Lee (2013)
- Joshua and Bigtooth (1992)
- Joshua and Big Bad Blue Crabs (1996)
- Henry Bobbity Is Missing and It’s All Billy Bobbity’s Fault (1996)
By Danielle Moore (SHS)
Mark Childress’s life began in the town of Monroeville, Alabama, in 1957 where he was born to Roy and Mary Helen Childress. During his childhood, Mark and his family moved to a variety of states. Eventually, they returned to the South where he completed high school in Clinton, Mississippi. In 1974 and 1975, Childress attended Louisiana State University; but he transferred, and in 1978, he graduated from the University of Alabama. After graduation, Childress began his career as a journalist. First, he secured a job as a reporter for the Birmingham News. Next, Southern Living magazine made Childress Features Editor.
Eventually, he decided to focus all of his time on being a writer. As a result, Mark Childress has written four fiction novels including: A World Made of Fire (1988), V for Victor (1988) , Tender (1990) , and Crazy in Alabama (1993) . Most of Childress’s novels are set in twentieth century Southern society. Mark Childress has a unique style of portraying Southern people and their culture for which he has been presented many honors and awards. Tender was selected one of the Ten Best Novels of 1990 and was a national bestseller. Crazy in Alabama has been published in eight different languages. It too was bestseller and named one of the Ten Best of 1993. Mark Childress has also received a Distinguished Alumni Award and the Thomas Wolfe Award from the University of Alabama. In 1994, he won the Alabama Library Association Award for Writer of the Year.
In addition to his adult novels ,Childress has written three children’s books. In 1992, Joshua and Bigtooth was published. Joshua and the Big Bad Blue Crabs and Henry Bobbity Is Missing and Its All Billy Bobbity’s Fault ! were both published in 1996. Recently, Childress’s fifth novel Gone for Good was published. He also adapted his novel Crazy in Alabama into a screenplay for the Columbia Pictures production of Crazy in Alabama, which was an official selection of the Venice and San Sebastian film festivals, and was featured on opening night of the 1999 New Orleans Film Festival. His articles and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Times Literary Supplement, Southern Living, and the Birmingham News, among other publications. He has lived in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, but Childress now lives in New York City, where he is writing the screenplay First Brother for Columbia Pictures, and working on his sixth novel, One Mississippi. (See update below) .
- Thomas Wolfe Award from the University of Alabama in 1994
- University of Alabama’s Distinguished Alumni Award
- Alabama Library Association’s Writer of the Year for 1994
In 2006 Mark Childress published One Mississippi and in 2008 Georgia Bottoms. He is currently living in Key West, Florida.
A Review of Tender
By Danielle Moore (SHS)
As I began to read Tender by Mark Childress, I was transported back to 1935 to the Mississippi town of Tupelo. Tender traces the life of a poor Southern boy named Leroy Kirby. Leroy is the youngest of identical twins born to Agnes and Ray Kirby. He was born in a small “shotgun” shack just minutes after his brother Jessie, who was stillborn. As a result, Leroy and his mother form a very close relationship. Leroy’s family is very poor. During his teenage years, Leroy dreams of becoming a star. He records his first record in Memphis at Mid-South Recording Studios in 1954. By 1956, he has a recording contract with RCA and has taken the country by storm. The girls swoon over Leroy’s handsome face and swiveling hips; thus, boys get jealous and parents try to get rid of Leroy and rock’ n’ roll. Fame and fortune change Leroy’s life forever.
Leroy Kirby’s life is based on the life and career of Elvis Presley. I am an Elvis fan. I assumed that this novel would be loosely based on Elvis’s life ; however, the novel reads like a biography of Elvis. I have a vast amount of knowledge about Elvis due to the fact that I have read close to twenty books written about his life and career. During the course of reading this novel, I found that many of the events that occurred in Elvis’s life and career also occurred in Leroy’s. Consequently, only names were changed to make the characters seem fictional. For example, Elvis’s parents names, Gladys and Vernon, were changed to Agnes and Ray. Elvis’s best friend in high school, Red West, was changed to Bubba Hayes. Sam Phillips, The name of the owner of Memphis Recording Studio, Sam Phillips, was changed to Dan Tobias. In fact, the only characters whose names were not changed were Jessie and Minnie Mae (Dodger), Elvis’s paternal grandparents. The author simply changed their last names from Presley to Kirby. Therefore, I do not agree with Bill Goldstein, a critic, who said “Childress’s goal was not to tell the life story of Presley in fiction.” Childress’s goal might not have been to tell the life story of Elvis through his fictional character Leroy Kirby, but that is exactly what his novel Tenderachieves. For example, Leroy appears on the Ed Sullivan Show three times as did Elvis. Due to his hip shaking, Elvis was shown “from the waist up only” during his third appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Consequently, Leroy was also shown on Sullivan’s show “from the waist up only.” At the end, Leroy’s mother died while he was in the army, and Elvis’s mother died while he was in the army. These are just a few examples of the many similarities between Elvis and Leroy.
In addition, there were several other reasons why I did not like Tender. First, some things were exaggerated. It is true that the story was supposed to be fictional, but some of the things that took place seemed unnecessary. For instance, Leroy talks to a voice in a mirror. Also, several days after Agnes has given birth to Leroy and Jessie, his stillborn brother, she asks Ray (her husband) to get Jessie out of his casket. Agnes holds the dead, cold baby in her arms, and she refuses to believe that he is dead. She says, “No, he’s not [dead]. He was just cold.” Agnes, baby Jessie, Leroy, and Ray snuggle together in the bed even though Jessie slumbered only in his death. Agnes refused to let go of the deceased baby. Childress wrote, “He [Ray] eased down to the bed. It was only for one night.”
Furthermore, there were also some unnecessary sexual scenes in the novel. There was a whole page in which Childress describes Leroy masturbating. This could have been left completely out of the novel because it was not needed for the advancement of the plot nor did it give insight into the character of Leroy. In the beginning of the novel, Childress also unnecessarily describes what Leroy sees when he sees his dad naked. Next, there was a scene in which Leroy has his first sexual encounter, and it is very explicit. These are just a few examples of the sexual scenes which appear throughout the novel.
I did not enjoy the book as a whole. The beginning was slow. When Leroy became famous, the story seemed to take off. However, it did end too soon because it did not cover a good portion of Leroy’s career (which was certain to follow and to end in exactly the same way that Elvis’s did). Maybe my opinion is altered somewhat because I know quite a lot about Elvis; however, Childress did “borrow” most of his ideas from Elvis’s life. In my opinion, Tender lacks imagination. Therefore, I would not recommend this book. In fact, I wanted to put it down more than I wanted to pick it up.
- Homepage of Mark Childress gives a biography, adult and children’s books by Childress and links to related sites, also gives his email address.
- Mostly Fiction recommends two of Childress’s novels.
- Bustersoft lists info about author Mark Childress, born in Monroeville, Alabama.
- Lisa M recommends Mark Childress as a great writer. She says he takes you in Crazy in Alabama into the mind of the young P-Joe, a witness to his aunt’s wrongdoing. He also allows you the privilege of listening in on the rants and raves of P-Joe’s crazy aunt, who has a special talent for narrowly escaping danger – and the law – while continuing an ongoing dialogue with her dead husband’s head.
- Biography of Mark Childress.
- Mark Childress on Facebook
- Mark Childress’ Twitter account
- Short Biography with description of novels
- Review of One Mississippi in the New York Times (2006)
- American Masters on PBS – Harper Lee: Hey, Boo. Outtakes: Mark Childress
- Trosky, Susan, ed. “Mark Childress.” vol. 134. Contemporary Authors. Detroit: Gale, Inc. 1992. 111- 12.