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Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at The MACA building

October 11, 2014 from 9:30am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) booth at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 11. Julia will sign her books from 9:30-1 p.m. The MACA booth is located outside the MACA building at 50 South Main Street, Marion.See More
Wednesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading series at West End Bakery

September 13, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Join us at West End Bakery for our 1st FREE Fall reading of 2014. This will be a marvelous family-friendly evening of prose, poetry, and storytelling featuring your favorite local Asheville writers. The lineup includes:  Tom Chalmers  Caleb Beissert  Beth Keefauver  Kim Winter…See More
Sep 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Wounded hearts, changed minds in 18th century Beaufortby Rob Neufeldpublished in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sept. 14, 2014             As a symbol of hope—or hopelessness—or accommodation (it depends on the story line), there’s nothing like the intelligent woman marooned on a patriarchal, slave-owning Southern…See More
Sep 12
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 11
Sharyn McCrumb updated their profile
Sep 10
Sharyn McCrumb posted an event
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Sharyn McCrumb's Novel "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" at Belk Library, Appalachian State University, Boone NC

October 6, 2014 from 6pm to 8pm
 Scripture cake, book signings, and the real Nora Bonesteel herself. On Oct. 6, ASU in Boone is hosting the book launch for "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" (Abingdon, Oct., 2014) with a program of storytelling, featuring author Sharyn McCrumb and storyteller Charlotte Ross, the inspiration for the character of Nora.See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 9
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

What will make you go to a history museum?

What attracts you to history museums?I've posted three history exhibits that are currently up in the area--one on the hillbilly stereotype; one of photographs of child labor; and one on African-American education in the area (see news)--and it made me wonder:What would make you go see an exhibit in a history museum?This information would be of GREAT HELP to curators.Here…See More
Sep 9
Spellbound posted an event
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Weekly Story Time at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

September 13, 2014 from 11am to 11:30am
Free weekly story time for ages 3 to 7 (or thereabouts) every Saturday morning 11-11:30amSee More
Sep 6
Spellbound updated their profile
Sep 6
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 2
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 2
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 31
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Jenny Bennett Returns with a New Novel at City Lights Bookstore

September 5, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Sylva author, Jenny Bennett, returns to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, September 5th at 6:30 p.m. with her second book, The Twelve Streams of LeConte. The main character of the book lives in Sylva and there are scenes set in downtown, the library and even City Lights Bookstore. Anne Woodrow is on honeymoon in Scotland when fate gives her a slap in the face: right then and there, her new husband falls in love with another woman. Injured and grieving, she returns home alone and conceives of a…See More
Aug 27
Renea Winchester posted an event
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Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches at Available at all bookstores

September 1, 2014 all day
Mercer University is pleased to announce the release of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, by North Carolina's own Renea Winchester. This is the second in the Farmer Billy series and Winchester's third book. See More
Aug 26
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Kids Love For Animals

Kids Love For Animals ( Poem )Children’s favorite shows are of animals I have hours in a playlist that are laughable Like a camera pecking rooster and fun monkeysTo a mom and a baby miniature donkeysVideos of wild turkeys and charming geese Ducks in water and chicks learning to speak Dazzling ostrich and many free birdsSome you would not want to move towardsA large unique animal is the alligator The total opposite of the caterpillar Camels and alpacas are tall and exquisiteBut they spit at you…See More
Aug 26

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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