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Ali Mangkang posted events
Wednesday
Gary Carden commented on Gary Carden's event Gary Neil Carden
"The time of the March 6 performance is 7:30 p.m."
Wednesday
Gary Carden posted an event

Gary Neil Carden at A-B Tech

March 6, 2015 at 7pm to March 7, 2015 at 2pm
WNC Historical Association will sponsor a concert (staged) reading of Gary Carden's play, "The Raindrop Waltz" in the Ferguson Auditorium on March 6th at 7:00 and March 7th at 2:00pm. The playwright will attend the performances and will enter into a dialogue with the audience about the autobiographical content of the play. A-B Tech is on 340 Victoria Road in Asheville.See More
Tuesday
Spellbound posted events
Feb 20
Jerald Pope posted an event

Reading cancelled tonight at Black Mountain

February 19, 2015 from 6pm to 7pm
The reading on Thursday, Feb 19 of David Madden's new book at the Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled. See More
Feb 19
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Feb 10
Jerald Pope posted an event

Madden Reads from Latest Collection of Short Stories at Monte Vista Hotel

February 19, 2015 from 6pm to 7pm
The Black Mountain Authors Guild will present local author David Madden reading from his collection of short stories, The Last Bizarre Tale­, Thursday, February 19, 6pm, at the Monte Vista Hotel. With titles like “Who Killed Harpo Marx?” and “James Agee Never Lived in This House,” Maddens stories range wide over time, geography, and the human soul. In “The Last Bizarre Tale,” for example, a young man witnesses strange behavior involving a corpse that has hung on a hook in a funeral home garage…See More
Feb 9
Michael Hopping updated their profile
Feb 9
Jane Blue posted an event

Earth Week Celebration in Andrews NC at Andrews NC, various location throughout the town

April 22, 2015 to April 26, 2015
A special celebration honoring the local and regional talents of Andrews NC and Cherokee County, featuring author readings and book signings by Gary Carden, Wayne Caldwell, Anna Berenyi and hopefully more authors of Appalachia. Drummings, Native American crafts, Nature walks, Backyard remedies, Native Bees, Animals of the Forest, Country and Blue Grass Music and so much more.See More
Feb 4
Ali Mangkang updated their profile
Jan 28
Ali Mangkang posted an event

Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award at Asheville Renaissance Hotel

February 7, 2015 from 5pm to 7pm
Honoring Author Robert Morgan for his selected work"The Road From Gap Creek". The presentation of the award includes a reading followed by a reception.For more informationSee More
Jan 28
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Jan 27
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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
Jan 27
Avery Ray McKinney Jr. updated their profile
Jan 23
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
Jan 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 21

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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