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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25.

East Asheville history and sites

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Feb 27.

The German experience settling WNC 1 Reply

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Lyndsay Eli with GUNSLINGER GIRL (YA Novel) at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

January 20, 2018 from 6pm to 7pm
Are you a fan of The Hunger Games?  Then picture what Katniss would be like - with a gun.  That's just a taste of the "new" West action Lyndsay Eli brings to Spellbound Children's Bookshop with Gunslinger Girl.  She shares her debut novel on Saturday, January 20, at 6 p.m. The US has been fractured by a Second Civil War. Serendipity 'Pity' Jones finds a home of sorts in the corrupt, lawless city of Cessation (think Las Vegas on steroids).  Her shooting skills make her a star of the Theater…See More
Monday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Cherokee and WNC music and dance events

Two Big Cultural Events in December in Hendersonville & Ashevillefrom press releaseThe Center for Cultural Preservation, WNC’s cultural history and documentary film center, presents, Cherokee Music and Dance on Thursday, December 7, 7 p.m., Blue Ridge Community College’s Thomas Auditorium.  Tickets are $5. The screening of A Great American Tapestry will be held on December 2, 2 p.m., at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Reuter Center, UNC Asheville.  Tickets for that event are…See More
Nov 15
Spellbound posted events
Nov 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Battery Park Hill through the ages

Battery Park through the Years by Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTIONS: 1) Present-day view of Battery Park Apartments from…See More
Nov 6
Mark de Castrique posted a blog post
Oct 13
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Oct 8
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at MACA Authors' Booth

October 14, 2017 from 9:30am to 1:30pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be signing her new books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 14, from 9:30-1:30. She will be located at the MACA Authors' booth on Main Street.See More
Oct 7
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Sample 8 Great Smokies Writers at Malaprop’s, Oct. 15

Writers in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP)read atMalaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Sun.,Oct. 15 Elizabeth Lutyens, editor of the GSWP’s Great Smokies Review, leads the Prose Master Class and will host the reading. ·        Ellen Carr, who works in the financial industry, will read excerpts from her novel of uneasy relationships, Unmanned. ·        Sarah Carter, an artist and photographer who will publish an excerpt of her novel, Jolene, Joe-Pye,…See More
Oct 6
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

The Douglas Ellington effect: An Appreciationby Rob NeufeldIMAGE: Douglas Ellington’s original drawing for a City Hall-County Courthouse Art Deco complex.            “Dear Douglas,” Kenneth Ellington wrote his brother, the 38-year old Pittsburgh architect, on May 6, 1925, “I know things are…See More
Oct 6
Mark de Castrique posted a blog post

How To Kill Your Reader

Danger is a crucial element in a mystery novel. A killer is on the loose and no one is safe. But sometimes the killer can be the writer, and the victim, the reader.I'm talking about when the author turns into a preacher and the story becomes a sermon. Now I am not against using a mystery novel for social commentary. Writing doesn't happen in a moral vacuum, and, after all, isn't a mystery a morality play? As fellow North Carolina author Margaret Maron said there is no topic that can't be dealt…See More
Oct 5
Mark de Castrique posted a video

Hidden Scars - A Sam Blackman Mystery

Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson investigate a 70-year-old death that unleashes a killer.
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a discussion

Black Mountain College as Backdrop for Mystery

My new book, HIDDEN SCARS, is released Oct 3rd.  D.G. Martin notes the star of the story is Black Mountain College.  http://chapelboro.com/town-square/columns/one-on-one/one-one-lost-college-still-shinesSee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Upcoming book--Sacred Sites for Secular Times

Sacred Sites for Secular Times: 50 Commemorative Experiences in Western North Carolina by Rob Neufeld              Among the many sites dedicated to history, there are some—both overbooked and overlooked—that provide full and moving experiences.  They involve a physical component, connecting to landscape; an imaginative one, entering other times and minds; and an interactive one, maintaining relevance.             The entries in this book help create full experiences through descriptive…See More
Sep 25
Susan Weinberg posted events
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Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22

Charles Baxter publishes Gryphon: New and Selected Stories

Shows of the imagination:

Charles Baxter, writer/teacher at Warren Wilson College, publishes his “best-of”

 (See interview)

 

 

by Rob Neufeld  

 

          Charles Baxter, one of the master writers who teaches within Warren Wilson College’s MFA Writing Program, furthers his reputation with “Gryphon: New and Selected Stories.”  The new book brings his short story collection total to five, matching the number of novels he’s published.

            The title story, “Gryphon,” is a Roald Dahl kind of shout-out that says: even though it’s sometimes dangerous, it’s great to let the imagination roam.  The same philosophy applies to fabulous beasts and daring concepts.

            “Miss Ferenczi!” calls out a fourth grader in the “Gryphon” story.  “John said that six times eleven is sixty-eight and you said he was right!”      

            “In higher mathematics,” Ferenczi, a substitute teacher, responds, “six times eleven can be considered to be sixty-eight.”

            “Think of six times eleven equals sixty-eight as a substitute fact,” she advises.  “When your teacher, Mr. Hibler returns, six times eleven will be sixty-six again…And it will be that way for the rest of your lives in Five Oaks.”

 

On beyond Five Oaks

 

            Conformist Midwestern suburbs are one of the familiar types of environment in Baxter’s collection.  There are also the northern woods, big cities, and universities.  In the story, “Harmony of the World,” Baxter imagines a small Ohio town in which the narrator’s family members were solid, mediocre, and cheerful.  People played the piano, “but not too well, since excellent playing would have been faintly antisocial.”

            Yet, a local genius—the narrator, Peter Jenkins—had emerged from this burg, having been applauded and revered by his fellows.  As it turns out, Peter has a tragic flaw—a lack of craziness, which dooms him to a fate of undistinguished limbo.  As described by Dante, Baxter notes, this state consists of a lot of sighing.

            Baxter’s literary, musical, art, and pop culture references create a stream of cultural commentary throughout his fiction.  Even when the references are what pop culture would call high culture, they are illustrated so well, they come off as great stories.  “Harmony of the World” presents the story of Paul Hindemith, the music-of-the-spheres composer whose reputation declined after his death; and the lyrics of “Nine Epitaphs” by Theodore Chanler.

            I want to go hear “Nine Epitaphs” now.

            In “The Winner,” the final story in “Gryphon,” Baxter turns his myth-making lens on a Gatsby-type setting.  Feature writer Jerry Krumholtz is on his way to interview reclusive billionaire James Mallard for the magazine, “Success.” 

            Lost in northern Minnesota, Krumholtz gets directions from a gas station attendant, whose landmarks are Señor Big Cheese and On Spec! Glasses.  When Krumholtz finally arrives at the Mallard castle, he experiences a fairy tale, with the Olympian owner claiming many women, walking around naked at times, and demonstrating how to butcher a deer.

            Angered by rich people’s monopoly on happiness, Krumholtz spins a ghastly (fictional) tale about his own misfortunes.  He gets the Mallards to cry and their home-schooled children to be struck dumb with shock.

 

Masterful techniques

 

            Baxter knows how to do ghastly.  His relationship with the being that some of his characters call God involves developing a response to the accidents of life.  Baxter welcomes such visitations, questions their meanings, and wraps them in stage clothes.

A mysterious allegorical stalker in the story, “Ghosts,” actually goes by the name of Augenblick—German for “blink of an eye.”  Baxter likes to play—sometimes too capriciously, as in “Ghosts” and “Westland.” 

Most of the time, Baxter’s pilgrim’s journeys and tragi-comic tales plumb the depths of psychology and faith.  Poe and Kafka get a modern realist’s brush.

“Surprised by Joy” contains Thurberesque humor—a husband coming home to his wife who has suddenly taken to standing on her head with her legs crossed.   But, as it turns out, both partners are suffering a horrendous haunting.  Their daughter, who died at age three in a freak accident, comes to both of them in dreams, showing signs of growing up and saying that her new world is okay but she misses her parents.

There is a fierceness in Baxter’s realistic scenes of calamity that weds feeling with technique.  But do not dismiss the value of great technique, something that Baxter got to hone as a teacher in Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers.

The program involves January and July residencies, characterized by team-taught workshops and combined with independent study.  Baxter has taught, written, and read at many of the residencies since 1985. 

One year, he related in an interview with the Citizen-Times, he lectured on “Unheard Melodies”—“the ways that people don’t listen.”   He suggested to students that “one way to make dialogue come alive is to make the characters not listen to each other.”

            Baxter exemplifies how entertainment and enlightenment come together in good fiction.  Yes, we can be both fun-loving and deep.

            That is why, at the beginning of his book’s first story, “The Would-be Father,” Baxter puts an odd vision in front of his hero, a man who has suddenly become the guardian of his niece.   The face of the man’s elderly neighbor, Mrs. Schultz, appears in his kitchen window.  She’d like a drink of water.  The daft crone becomes a Zen-like guide through his misadventures.

            Then there’s the fun of naming someone Augenblick.   “I’ve been reading the letters of Eudora Welty,” Baxter related in response to the matter of name-making.  “In one of her stories, someone is named Dill Pickle.”

           

BOOK REVIEWED

Gryphon: New and Selected Stories by Charles Baxter (Pantheon hardcover, Jan. 11, 2011, 408 pages, $27.95)

 

LEARN MORE

Read interview (soon to be posted)

 

ATTEND THE PROGRAMS

The Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers presents daily readings and lectures by students and instructors, Jan. 3 – 12.  Check the schedule.

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