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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.

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Susan True replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone
"Soulfully beautiful."
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Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene’s Twilight Zone See whole poem, "The Main Show," and index of scenes.  (Spotlight opens on the lobby of the theater.  Characters who remain in the lobby enter the theater, which remains dark.  Joan the nurse tells the tour guide to also go in, and the narrator hangs back awhile.) Joan: Go ahead in. I’ll stay with my patient.Anyway, this is a family…See More
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Julia Nunnally Duncan at Little Switzerland Books and Beans

August 30, 2019 from 3pm to 6pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author at Little Switzerland Books and Beans on Friday, August 30, from 3-5. A book signing will follow. Julia will read from her latest books A Neighborhood Changes, A Part of Me, and A Place That Was Home.See More
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Guide to Antebellum Flat Rock

"The introduction of my new publication, Guide to Antebellum Flat Rock will be launched on Sept 14 2019 at 1:30 PM at the Henderson County Court House 500 Main Street. A talk and a brief slide show follows with refreshments afterward. …"
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Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

June 15, 2019 from 3pm to 4pm
Can women rescue the planet from ecological disaster?Nancy Werking Poling will launch her new novel, WHILE EARTH STILL SPEAKS, set in WNC. She'll tell the stories behind the story: How did Mary (more crone than virgin) get into the narrative? And Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth?See More
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Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8

Immerse yourselves in WNC’s best literature, 2013

by Rob Neufeld

See also national lists of best books of the year

 

            The focus for this season’s pick-fest is on books by Western North Carolina authors who have struck out, this year, in new directions and harnessed powerful urges. 

            If you love books, you come to love authors, and follow them as if they are personal projects.

            So, to begin:

 

  • Guests on Earth by Lee Smith (Algonquin Books hardcover, 345 pages, $25.95)

 

            All the promotion about this novel is how Smith, a much-loved and acclaimed author, has fictionalized Zelda Fitzgerald at Highland Hospital in Asheville.  But the core of the novel is much larger, and more personal.  Her son, Josh, had suffered with a schizophrenic disorder, resided at times at Highland Hospital, and died at age 33 of an enlarged heart.  “Guests on Earth” pours Smith’s love into each maladapted character.

 

  • Flora by Gail Godwin (Bloomsbury hardcover, 288 pages, $26)

 

            Every one of Godwin’s novels is a new experiment, though her seductively mindful writing style ties them all together.  With “Flora,” she narrows her scene of action to an old house atop a hill in fictionalized Asheville, with characters quarantined during a 1945 polio scare.  The themes reach down to house hauntings and out to Oak Ridge and the bomb, but the main theme harbors inside the young heroine’s heart as the transformation of her haughty personality comes with a shattering event.  I have a working relationship with Godwin, but don’t take just my word for it; all four major pre-publication review journals gave this novel a starred review.

 

  • A Short Time to Stay Here by Terry Roberts (Ingalls Publishing Co. trade paper, 271 pages, $17.95)

 

            You had read it in this column a year ago: Roberts’ novel about a recovering drinker who manages the Mountain Park Hotel in Hot Springs during the internment of German WWI prisoners is a multi-layered marvel.   It was his debut book.  A half-year later, it won the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction; and a few months later, the N.C, Literary and Historical Association’s award for fiction.

 

  • Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason (Gallery Books hardcover; and trade paper, 313 pages, $16)

 

  • The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani (Riverhead Books hardcover, 396 pages, $27.95)

 

            Speaking of debuts, these two are particularly notable, aside from the fact that the first author is an Asheville resident; and the second sets her novel in Blowing Rock. 

            Mason’s meditativeness and irony raises the murder mystery to a noir nightmare rather than a game of shocks.  The hero, Jason Getty, worries that a body he’d buried in his backyard will be detected (he’d killed a man in self-defense); and then landscapers summon him to check out two different bodies they’d unearthed in his yard.  Mason’s empathy with the human condition frees her to deliver such lines as: “Jason’s voice box felt folded into an origami swan and it couldn’t be trusted to deliver more than a papery quack.”

            “The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls” is a book for adults about 15-year-old girls, who are plenty complex.  The heroine’s sexuality and maturity-limiting family past lead to secrets, stumbles, moments of glory, and hard-to-decipher alliances at a horse-riding school.

 

  • What I came to Tell You by Tommy Hays (Egmont hardcover, 304 pages, $13.43)

 

            Here’s another novel with young adult characters that adults will savor.  In this case, what’s called “adult material” (sex and vulgarity) is excluded, and the cover art is juvenile, but don’t let that fool you.  Asheville resident and Great Smokies Writing Program director Hays provides a loving parental view of family troubles that invests the novel with felt weight.

 

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins hardcover; Harper Perennial trade paper, 448 pages)

            Kingsolver is another author who’s always taking risks, revealing matters of social conscience within plots that she makes character-driven.  And “Flight Behavior” is a great example, as our introduction to the heroine, Dellarobia Turnbow, makes us think she’s ditzy, until we see her claim herself within her husband’s family and within a world of science and wonder that expands our awareness of ecological issues.  Bulletin to fiction purists: politics and opinions are parts of real people’s lives.

 

  • Nothing Gold Can Stay: Stories by Ron Rash (HarperCollins: Ecco hardcover, 247 pages, $24.99)

 

            This is a no-brainer pick.  Whenever you see the words “Ron Rash” and “short story” together, treasure it as you would a Sappho poem or a Mozart quartet.

 

  • Season of Terror: The Espinosa’s in Central Colorado, March-October 1863 by Charles F. Price (University Press of Colorado hardcover, 351 pages, $34.95)

 

            Price, the Burnsville novelist with Clay County roots, turns to non-fiction to thoroughly explore serial murders that took place out west a century-and-a-half ago.  It is not the usual history book or serial murder account; it is an attempt to understand how bad things happen through character insight and detective work.

  • London Bridge in Plague and Fire by David Madden (U. of Tenn. Press hardcover, 358 pages, 29.95)

            The new novel by veteran, prolific writer, Madden, now of Black Mountain, is daring--recreating the society of medieval London, which he puts forward as being more amoral than we can imagine. 

  • Descent: Poems by Kathryn Stripling Byer (LSU Press trade paper, 65 pages)

           

            Byer's volume combines her rich, cadenced sound; family and personal experience; and demanding conscience, which, in this collection, probes racism in her Southern heritage.

 

  • The Half-Life of Home by Dale Neal (Casperian Books trade paper, 237 pages, $12.50)

           

            Asheville author Neal’s second novel should be read as enthusiastically as Wiley Cash’s celebrated novel, “A Land More Kind than Home.”  Swirling beneath his story about the loss of a Watauga County family farm are presentiments of various kinds of loss and movement toward survival.

 

  • Permanent Camp: Poems, Narratives and Renderings from the Great Smokies by George Ellison with artwork by Elizabeth Ellison (History Press trade paper, 160 pages, $21.99)  

 

            The wonderful surprise here: Ellison, the noted nature and history writer, is a great poet.

 

  • Flight of the Mind: A Painter’s Journey through Paralysis by Marcus C. Thomas, narrative by Leslee N. Johnson (Lydia Inglett Publishing large format hardcover, 212 pages, photo quality paper, including 118-page gallery, $95)

 

            This retrospective of the paintings of Marcus C. Thomas, a Weaverville painter who learned to create artworks with a mouth-held brush after a skiing accident had paralyzed him below the shoulders, is a joy on two levels: not just the arresting images, but also the story of spirit that shimmers in them, as well as in the narrative.

 

  • Lonely in the Heart of the World by Mindi Meltz (Logosophia trade paper, 825 pages, $239)

 

            I’m sorry, Mindi—I’ve been meaning to read and review this for a few months—but couldn’t fit the 800-plus pages into my schedule. 

            I am a big fan of Meltz’s first novel, “Beauty,” an unusually successful rendering of an animal-way-of-mind.  Her second novel follows a woman on an initiatory quest for life’s mysteries.

            Readers, please log in your own reviews on “The Read on WNC.”

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