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An Evening with Barbara Woodall at Splendor Mountain at Splendor Mountain

January 27, 2015 from 6pm to 8pm
Barbara Taylor Woodall was born and raised in Rabun County Georgia. This county touches both North Carolina and South Carolina, so you can already guess it was a special place to grow a child. Barbara wrote about her life as a child and the wonderful people God joined her to as she grew and learned. It's Not My Mountain Anymore tells some of these stories. Barbara will share from her book and from her life, June 6, 2015 at Splendor Mountain.See More
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Avery Ray McKinney Jr. updated their profile
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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David Joy Presents His Debut Novel at City Lights Bookstore

March 6, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Webster author, David Joy will present his new novel on Friday, March 6th at 6:30 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore.  Where All Light Tends to Go, a staff pick of both Chris and Eon, is set in Jackson County and tells the story of Jacob McNeely, a young man who is in a fight against his fate. “Expertly balancing beauty and brutality, David has written a novel that stays with the reader long after the final page has been read.  Where All Light Tends to Go, though very much an Appalachian tale, is…See More
Thursday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 21
Caralyn Davis posted a blog post

Color Blind, My First Eco-Fiction, Published & Waiting to Be Read

My short story "Color Blind" is now up at Eclectica Magazine. It's got animal extinctions, Sekhmet, Santa Claus, golden Panamanian frogs, real science, fake science, and lots of cats -- in a very economical, easy-reading 1,700 words.See More
Jan 15
Sarah Harden posted an event

Rose Senehi, Speaker for CMLC's January Speaker Series at Henderson County Main Branch Library in the Kaplan Auditorium.

January 14, 2015 from 6pm to 7:30pm
Join Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) Wednesday, January 14th for a presentation from Rose Senehi, esteemed Chimney Rock author of novels Dancing on Rocks, Render Unto the Valley, and many more. She will read passages from her books while elaborating on her local inspirations. At the end of her readings, Senehi will conduct a Q&A session and book signing.Many of Senehi’s novels have woven together several of CMLC’s regional land conservation accomplishments. In the Shadows of…See More
Jan 12
Rodney Page commented on Rob Neufeld's group Promoting Writers
"Happy to join the group...Relatively new to North Carolina. Have published a thriller, Powers Not Delegated, and my second book, The Xerces Factor launches in April 2015. see more at my website: www.rodneypagebooks.com"
Jan 12
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Jan 12
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Jan 10
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 10
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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Gregg Jones updated their profile
Jan 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

1962, Tunnel Road--an era remembered

We remember Tunnel Road and 1960by Rob Neufeld             The “Buck Burger”—“made with two pure beef patties,” tomato, lettuce, cheese, and a dill chip, “served with Buck’s own special dressing on a toasted bun.”             That was something that you could get at Buck’s Drive-In on Tunnel Road, from 1946 to 1972, when…See More
Jan 2
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Dec 27, 2014
Dave Turner shared their blog post on Facebook
Dec 26, 2014

Egan’s Goon Squad mirrors a cracked world

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Let’s look at Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad.”

            It’s an example of the best modern writing.

            And by modern, I mean cracked.

            And by cracked, I mean singing with despair, humor, and empathy; shape-shifting into a Scheherazade of distractions.

            The book came out in paperback this year, and it is the subject of Book Discussion X at Accent on Books, Jan. 10.

 

Laughing all the way to the brink

 

            The side-shows in Egan’s tale are connected, and add up to a spiral of perspectives on social decline, ennobled by assertions of spirit.

            First, there’s Sasha, a 30-something woman who needs to steal things to feel good.  Then, in Chapter 2, there’s Bennie Salazar, her boss, a big record producer, who bemoans the synthesizing and digitization of music—an “aesthetic holocaust.” He’d been there at the rise of punk rock.  And now…

            Bennie puts flakes of actual gold into his coffee because he has heard that it increases one’s sex drive.  But we leave him in this state to travel back to his punk rock years in Chapter 3, narrated by Rhea, a song-writer for Bennie’s band.

            Rhea likes Bennie, who loves Alice, who loves Scotty, who feels safe with Jocelyn, who’s hooked on Lou, an older guy who’d picked her up hitchhiking.

            At a party at Alice’s house (she’s rich, not true punk), Rhea and Jocelyn follow Alice up to her bedroom to check out her retired private school uniforms.  Rhea sees that “her bed is under a mountain of stuffed animals, which all turn out to be frogs: bright green, light green, Day-Glo green…Her bedside lamp is shaped like a frog, plus her pillow.”

            Alice pulls her box of uniforms from her closet.  Rhea and Jocelyn promise not to laugh at her.  “Ask me if I care,” Alice goes.

            Lou enters the group’s life—he’s a record producer, and becomes Bennie’s mentor.  He also takes advantage of Jocelyn and introduces cocaine.  Very creepy—and yet he has a human side. 

He cares about his children—as the next chapter will show.  And when, at the band’s gathering in his luxury apartment, Rhea goes out on the balcony, he follows like an uncle, not a predator.

            “I’ll never get old,” he says in response to Rhea’s reality check about age differences.

            “You’re already old,” she tells him.

            He calls her scary, and says he likes it.  She says it’s her profusion of freckles that makes her so.  He tells her to stay as she is.  “The freckles are the best part,” he reassures her.  Some guy is going to go ape for them and “kiss them one by one.”

            People’s lives are careening everywhere.  As the book goes on, the careening intensifies, but so does the pathos and hilarity.

            “Time’s a goon,” a has-been rocker says in a later chapter.

 

Why read this book

 

            First, the storytelling is brilliant.  It’s almost as if, as faith and tradition wither away in society, virtuosity flourishes—like a dying tree producing a bumper crop.

            One chapter is told by Scotty, the band’s genuinely angry person, years after his performance years, his delusional personality amped up high.  He says things like, “There’s a fine line between thinking about somebody and thinking about not thinking about somebody.”

            Another chapter involves a black-listed movie starlet and a genocidal foreign dictator.

            Yet another is told by a 12-year-old doing a Power Point presentation about her family.  Perhaps the most heartbreaking one—although you might vote on this—is told in the second person (“You gave up the one chance God threw your way”); and switches to first person in the last dissolving sentence.

            Post-modernism—a fractured, fun-house mirror of cultural references —is very rarely so good.  Kevin Brockmeier achieved the highest level, also, with his novel, “The Illumination.”

            The main reasons Egan excels are: 1) characters dream, bleed, stumble, laugh, and let us love them; and 2) her theme is fearless.

 

No faith, new faith

 

            If we, as humans, are losing faith, except for our faith that we’re headed toward disaster; and if we see optimism as fairy tales, with what are we left?

            It is the job of literature to answer this question.

            What we get in our fiction is much that’s rich with anti-heroes—such as John in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” and Yossarian in Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” and even The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.”

            Jules Jones, a character in “Goon Squad,” whose chapter is a loopy, footnoted piece of journalism about his failed interview with a 19-year-old sex goddess, expresses his anguish about the post-9/11 world when he visits his younger sister in her plush home.

            “Buildings are missing.  You get strip-searched every time you go to someone’s office.  Everybody sounds stoned, because they’re e-mailing people the whole time they’re talking to you…And now my rock-and-roll sister and her husband are hanging around with Republicans.”

            Are there moral heroes who are activists?  Yes there are some—simplistic with guns and fists; and subtle with self-doubts and diplomacy.  But, we also need our Jennifer Egans and Mark Twains—authors who put their characters under a microscope and reveal them to be squirming.

            The religion of this world view is lovable absurdity.  Egan’s squirming is so beautiful, she ultimately morphs her novel into a chapter set in the year 2021, with deliciously painful parody.

 

THE BOOK

A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf hardcover, 2010; Anchor trade paper, 2011, 352 pages, $14.95)

 

DISCUSSION

Book Discussion X meets to discuss “a Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan at Accent on Books, Accent on Books, 854 Merrimon Ave., 7 p.m., Thurs., Jan,. 10.   Call 252-6255.

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