Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Books

Review: South's past unearthed in Matthew Guinn's 'The Resurrectionist'

The bones of the South's racial past can resurface at any moment, reopening wounds and tormenting souls. This, literally, is the plot of Matthew Guinn's fine gothic novel The Resurrectionist.

One fall day at the South Carolina Medical College, a construction crew unearths dozens of remains in the cellar of one of the school buildings: bodies of slaves stolen in the Civil War era so that white medical students could study anatomy.

Fearful of the damage this discovery could do to the college's reputation, the dean assigns Jacob Thacker to rebury the bodies. The discovery of these bodies will ruin Jacob's week, thrust him into a racial power play and nearly decompose his soul.

Guinn tells a parallel story about the school's first nine years. That tale begins in 1857, when the college nearly closes on its first day after students discover that they will dissect goats instead of human cadavers. Several students demand their tuition back.

But the school's anatomist, Frederick Augustus Johnston, has a solution. He persuades the college to buy a slave to dig up bodies from a local black cemetery. "People have sentiments about these matters," Johnston says, "but if they never know the grave is empty, they are just as well off. And the school is a great deal better off." Be warned: Corpses abound, and as the narrative hurtles forward, the scenes become more ghastly.

The slave hired to do the grave-robbing is named Nemo. Kidnapped from Africa as a young boy, he is an expert with knives and has taught himself to read. Body-snatching brings him wealth, by a slave's standard. He dresses beautifully and peacocks about town. But it comes at a price: a deep moral quagmire. "In Africa he could have expected an instant death for desecrating a grave and disturbing the spirits," Guinn writes, "and after that death, an eternity of torment from the ancestors and their demons." But as a slave, Nemo has no options.

Years later, while rummaging through the college's archives, Jacob stumbles upon a reference to Nemo and reconstructs his role at the school. "He left a mess behind him," Jacob says to Mary, his black maid. "I got stuck cleaning it up."

"Well. Ain't that a switch," she replies. "White man cleaning up after a black man."

How Jacob handles this crisis will either help lay the slaves to rest with dignity or allow the South's horrid past to fester.

Comments
What to watch this week: New season of ‘The Librarians,’ Gwen Stefani’s Christmas special

What to watch this week: New season of ‘The Librarians,’ Gwen Stefani’s Christmas special

MondaySEASON FINALE: The Gifted, 9 p.m., Fox: The team at Mutant HQ is divided on what to do next after Jace is forced to hand over something valuable to Dr. Campbell.Disney's Fairytale Weddings: Holiday Magic, 8 p.m., Freeform: A behind-the-scenes l...
Published: 12/11/17
This week’s pop culture winners and losers: Tonya Harding edition

This week’s pop culture winners and losers: Tonya Harding edition

WINNERS: Tonya Harding The once disgraced Olympic figure skater is no longer on thin ice in the pop culture world. Harding joined Margot Robbie, who is playing her in the upcoming film I, Tonya, on the red carpet this week. While Harding pleaded g...
Published: 12/08/17

Book events: Victorian Christmas Event, Cheryl Hollon launch party

Book TalkCheryl Hollon (Etched in Tears) will appear at a launch party for the new book in her Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery series at 2 p.m. Dec. 10 at Books at Park Place, 10468 Roosevelt Blvd. N, St. Petersburg.William Valentine (Cuban Charade) will s...
Published: 12/07/17
Mahaffey Theater cancels Garrison Keillor performance after sexual misconduct allegations

Mahaffey Theater cancels Garrison Keillor performance after sexual misconduct allegations

The Mahaffey Theater has canceled an upcoming performance by Garrison Keillor in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against the former host of A Prairie Home Companion.Keillor was to perform in St. Petersburg on Feb. 5, but the show's promo...
Published: 12/06/17
Review: History’s ‘Knightfall’ will please fans of epic history, popular culture

Review: History’s ‘Knightfall’ will please fans of epic history, popular culture

Sometimes a Templar Knight dies in your field and you have to return his master sword to the temple in Paris, because God's kingdom depends on it.All that happens to Parsifal (Bobby Shofield) in the first episode of History's new period drama Knightf...
Published: 12/06/17
For gift books this holiday season, think classic

For gift books this holiday season, think classic

The gift book is a holiday tradition, but what’s significant enough to merit a space on your recipient’s coffee table? Classics. Look for a book that captures people, places or things we see as enduring, indispensable, iconic: unforgettable photograp...
Published: 12/06/17
36 period dramas you can stream right now on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu

36 period dramas you can stream right now on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu

If you've loved period dramas for any length of time, you probably feel like you've seen them all. Not that there's a shortage of shows dramatizing any and everything from the 1600s to the '60s. But sometimes you've seen all Masterpiece and BBC curr...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
What pop culture from 2017 made you most hopeful for 2018 and beyond?

What pop culture from 2017 made you most hopeful for 2018 and beyond?

Can we all just agree that 2017 has been a toilet fire of epic proportions?Seriously, between all the strife and discord and tragedy and loss, it feels like 2017 was engineered in a lab to feel like a kick in the shins from the moment you woke up in ...
Published: 12/05/17
5 holiday treats to try at Busch Gardens Christmas Town

5 holiday treats to try at Busch Gardens Christmas Town

The Tampa theme park boasts the title of roller coaster king in Florida, but it can also say it has one of the prettiest displays of Christmas lights in Tampa Bay.Busch Gardens runs its annual Christmas Town festivities select nights through Dec. 31,...
Published: 12/05/17
With Trump slashing national monuments, here are three books to read

With Trump slashing national monuments, here are three books to read

With President Donald Trump’s decision to slash the acreage of two national monuments in the news, here are three classic books about our system of national parks, monuments and other protected lands.Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (Harp...
Published: 12/05/17