Novelist John Wray has decided to get back to his roots by traveling down the Mississippi River on a raft he built out of parts he got from a Home Depot to promote his new book, Canaan's Tongue. The novel is the author's second published work of fiction; his first, 2001's The Right Hand of Sleep, was a New York Times "Notable Book" and Los Angeles Times' "Best Book of the Year." Wray's new novel, set on the eve of the Civil War, recounts the strange deaths of the few hold-out members of a slave-trading gang as they wait for the return of their leader, Thaddeus Morrell. The character is based on the real-life killer John Murel, who made a living by reselling slaves after he helped them escape from their original owners. "Canaan's Tongue," supposedly spoken in Heaven, comes to represent the language of the elite gang members and, more generally, the language of any elected official that serves to manipulate the belief systems of others to gain power, which most readers have probably experienced. Publisher's Weekly praised Wray's depiction of "the dark side of American history," as the publication put it, as well as a narrative that "does justice to some incredibly rich and challenging material, forging a style that is as loose and wild as its subjects." Wray will make a stop in New Orleans during his rafting adventure and, according to an interview with The Borzoi Reader, is creatively looking forward to "hush puppies, blackened catfish, gumbo and beignets!"
5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 6
Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St., The Rink, 895-2266