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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Feb 7
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Feb 6
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Jan 31
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
Jan 17
Susan True updated their profile
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
Jan 9
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 9
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Jan 8
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1

David Madden's new novel, London Bridge in Plague and Fire

Knoxville literary magician pens his “Moby Dick”

by Rob Neufeld

See review.

 

            Novelist David Madden grew up in a two-room shack in Knoxville and—after years soaking in the magic of that town; serving in the army; and studying at the University of Tennessee, San Francisco State, and Yale—has become one of the most accomplished literary writers in America. 

            For 25 years, he was Writer-in Residence at Louisiana State University; and for three years after that, the director of the creative writing program there.

            He now lives in Black Mountain with his wife Robbie, near their son’s family.  His tenth novel (and 39th book), “London Bridge in Plague and Fire,” has just been published, to great early acclaim.

            Madden launches his book locally at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 7 p.m., Nov. 10.  He speaks at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Nov. 12.

            Madden’s writing career is marked by a distinctive devotion to the powers of dramatic and compassionate imagination.  Each of his novels is different from the others, taking the form of its material.  The following interview expands on that appreciation.  A review of the novel appears in this column next week.  Also visit www.davidmadden.net to see future author events.

 

Q:  How was “London Bridge in Plague and Fire” born?

 

A:  When I was 16, I saw Henry V with Laurence Olivier.  The opening credits show ancient London Bridge, with all the houses and shops on it.  About 50 years ago, I saw the movie again, and I was intrigued.  I made a note, “ancient London Bridge would be a great setting for a musical.” …One day, I just decided to do it.  Every night, just before leaving my study to go to bed, I devoted 10 to 20 minutes to listening to voices from the bridge, speaking about the bridge in very bizarre terms.  

 

Q:  What did that produce?

 

A:  I ended up with 200 pages of unusable surrealistic feelings, thoughts, and voices derived from reading a single book—the best book, “Old London Bridge” by Gordon Home…I went to London and found that nobody that I talked to, including members of Parliament, knew who Peter de Colechurch, the architect of the bridge, was…When he built his bridge (completed in 1205), it was the first stone bridge in Europe since the Romans went back to Italy.  The number of shops and houses made it unique...My inspiration was this feeling: what a marvelous, small community, and all those lives and merchants, and people working in shops that were at the most 12 feet wide, and houses at the most six stories high, but incredibly narrow, with views to the east and west.

 

Q:  In addition to the architect’s voice, there’s also the poet, Daryl Braintree.

 

A: I created his voice and found that it was unclear when he was speaking in the narrative, and when I was speaking.  So, I let it stand as ambiguous since I think the two of us merged in the various drafts…There are, by the way, ten huge drafts…I built the bridge with Peter de Colechurch in one version, and I called that, “London Bridge Rising.”  Then there was “London Bridge Falling,” about plague and fire.  Then, what I’ve done is collapse the two into the published novel, which is “London Bridge in Plague and Fire.”  A fourth one was going to be a book of the poems only.  They were called “London Bridge Nocturnes.”

 

Q:  You’re like Herman Melville.

 

A:  Yeah, it’s my “Moby Dick.”  I have combined the essential elements of all the versions into one novel.

 

Q:  There are lurid plots in your novel, based on history—such as the sacrifice of 13-year-old virgins to protect the bridge.  How do you turn sensationalist material into Southern Gothic in literary ways?

 

A:  I would say the influence on me is “Absalom, Absalom.”  It’s interesting you should say Southern Gothic because it could be that only a Southerner could have written this seemingly un-Southern story.  I’m a Southern writer who keeps writing outside the South.  

 

Q:  Your upcoming trip to Knoxville makes me think of how you mythologize your hometown in such books as your novel, “Bijou.”  What is so rich about the place?

 

A:  The look of Knoxville—its seven hills, like Rome—during the Civil War, there were batteries on all those hills.  The bridges.  By the way, about the origin of “London Bridge”—it was Gay Street Bridge in Knoxville.  I used to go down there in a trembling sense of excitement (as a youth), and walk across it, skipping over the broken parts, which is right there in “London Bridge in Plague and Fire.”  I could see the river below, where the pavement had been punched through, and look down on the life below, which was ancient Knoxville slums, and houseboats.  Anything—cemeteries, old houses, Knoxville High School—I was the last graduating class—my own home, which was a shack.  I was born in a two-room shack…I wrote a few passages of “London Bridge” on two or three visits to Gay Street Bridge when I couldn’t do it at home…(Then there’s) the geography (of Knoxville)—the mountains in the distance—that’s why I love Black Mountain and the Asheville area— because it’s like Knoxville.  I’d be in Knoxville if it weren’t for my son being here.

LEARN MORE

David Madden launches his novel, “London Bridge in Plague and Fire,”

at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville.  Call 254-6734.

See more of the interview on “The Read on WNC” at TheReadonWNC.ning.com.

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