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susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
10 hours ago
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
10 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 3 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
11 hours ago
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie 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
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Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Monday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 23
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest Apr 22-23

The 8th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest brings authors to Flat Rock There are a few oases where writers congregate to share wares and wisdom, and Apr. 22-23, the place is Blue Ridge Community College, featuring 19 readings and workshops, and many more opportunities for conversations with authors at exhibition tables.  See full schedule at…See More
Apr 20
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Asheville- The Way I Remember It- Hester

I have posted a new blog about a man I knew growing up in Asheville. It is entitled " Hester." Anna says guys will like it better than women. It's pretty long, but enjoy it.HESTERGrowing up in Asheville in N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “ My dad was…See More
Apr 19
Frank Thompson posted an event
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Frank Thompson at Yancey History Association

April 19, 2016 at 6pm to April 19, 2017 at 7pm
There is a permanent exhibit at the Yancy History Association in Burnsville devoted to the film "Then I'll Come Back to You" (1916) which was produced in nearby Pensacola. It's a small exhibit but well curated and filled with great photographs and other memorabilia of this century-old film.See More
Apr 19
Sharon Freeman Pace replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Jerry Steinberg--Asheville history, contrarian views, new book
"In the 60's, early 70's, one of my uncles on my mothers side worked as a groundskeeper for Mr. Sternberg. I remember our driving up to the "castle" and my sister asking my aunt where the moat was.I also remember touching the…"
Apr 19
nancy dillingham replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems
"A wonderful discussion on craft, Rob!"
Apr 17
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Apr 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Ron Rash on occasion of 2016 Selected & New Poems

Something unseen stirs the words in Ron Rash poemsby Rob Neufeld             Ron Rash, award-winning novelist and short story writer, is also an acclaimed and accomplished poet.  His new book, “Poems: New and Selected” (HarperCollins) draws from six volumes and adds eight new poems.  He comes to Malaprop’s…See More
Apr 15
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Fred Chappell to Present His New Fantasy Novel at City Lights Bookstore

May 13, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Poet and novelist, Fred Chappell will return to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 13th at 6:30 p.m. to read from and sign his new fantasy novel. In A Shadow All of Light, a young man sets off on a journey to become the apprentice of a master shadow thief. His mysterious master challenges him with difficult mental and physical tests, setting in motion adventures with con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates.Fred Chappell is a former professor of English at the University of…See More
Apr 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell

Literary master evokes classic fantasy taleby Rob Neufeld             Let’s say you’re going to a book fair, and a guy with a long grey beard and glittering eye stops you at the entrance.  He points to worn and rebound books he’s laid out on a table: Gulliver’s Travels; The Story of Sir Launcelot; The Three…See More
Apr 10
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Courtney Lix Presents Her History of Women in the Smokies at City Lights Bookstore

May 6, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Courtney Lix will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, May 6th at 6:30 p.m. She will present her book Women of the Smokies which chronicles the women who contributed to making the Smokies what we know today. She will share some of the stories of these women and sign books. To reserve copies please call City Lights Bookstore at 828-586-9499.See More
Apr 9

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver changes climate with new novel

Author comes to Asheville Nov. 28

by Rob Neufeld

 

            “Where is she taking us?” you wonder as Dellarobia Turnbow, the heroine of Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, “Flight Behavior,” heads up a mountain, in obvious marriage distress, for a tryst with a dreamy power line worker.

            “Innocence was no part of this,” Kingsolver writes in the opening passage.  “She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace.”

            Tickets have just gone on sale for Kingsolver’s appearance in UNCA’s Lipinsky Auditorium,. Nov. 28.

 

Flight or fight

 

            The answer to Dellarobia’s dilemma unfolds throughout the book like a metamorphosis.  The first reveal is comically pathetic.

            Hobbling in overlarge, fashionable boots—bought used—and stopping for breath because she’s a smoker, she looks at something scaly hanging from a tree, and wonders if it’s a hornet’s nest, giant pine cone, or armadillo. 

            “For the second time” on her hike, “she wished for the glasses she’d left behind.” 

            Later on, she sees something that looks like a burning bush.  It could be a sign, like the one Moses had witnessed.  Or it could be something as deflating as the church marquee message her friend, Dovey, later texts her: “Moses was a basket case.”

            Dellarobia is a basket case.  She’d married a sheep farmer’s sheepish son at an early age because of an accidental pregnancy; and stayed married to him after a miscarriage because she had no family support and no other options.  The two children she and her husband, nicknamed “Cub” (his father is “Bear”), later conceived tie her to a scraping-by existence on Cub’s tyrannical parents’ east Tennessee farm.

            She wants out because she desperately needs out.  Little does she know, and little does the reader know, that she is about to encounter something as expansive as the title of Chapter 9, “Global Ecosystem.”

 

Climate change

 

            As Dellarobia’s life transforms, so do the worlds of her fractious family and conservative community, for they become embroiled in a miracle that hinges upon the reality of climate change.

            “I write about big things and serious things,” Kingsolver said in an interview with the Citizen-Times. “ I write about the real world and some of the things that are most difficult to think about.  I ask my readers for some courage, to look at things that are not necessarily comfortable.  So, what am I going to give in return?  A great plot, and at least a few belly laughs, hopefully more than a few, and a narrative that will give you a reason to turn every page.”

            “Flight Behavior” engages and plays with the reader from Chapter 1—in which the key revelation is delayed—to chapters in which expectations about “good” and “bad” characters are upended; the poor mountain South is given its due; and scientists are challenged to talk like people, even if the message is unacceptable.

            Kingsolver is not only a master story-teller, but also a master popularizer.  Through dozens of characters and encounters, she gets to play this role in various voices.

            “If you woke up one morning,” a scientist asks Dellarobia when she tries to minimize the local evidence about climate change, “and one of your eyes had moved to the side of your head, how would you feel about that?”

            Kingsolver is not saying, “Wake up!”  She’s saying, “Look at all these people who are being challenged to wake up.”

 

Following is an interview with Barbara Kingsolver about her new novel.

 

Q:  How did you choose this 5’0”, red-headed, dead-ended, East Tennessee country person as your vehicle?

 

A:  She had a lot to learn.  And I wanted to write about the culture war (that exists in rural Southern Appalachia).  Dellarobia tries to get across to this slightly obtuse scientist how hard it is for people to change what they believe.  She says, “Look, we’re born onto our teams.”  She describes them as Team Camo and Team Latte.  You’re born into your team, and then you absorb the facts that reinforce what you believe…In order to cultivate an outsider’s sympathy for her position, I needed to create someone who was likable, but also really vulnerable, whose trapped dead-end life would strike any reader as frustrating and intrinsically sympathetic.  You want her to go somewhere.  You want her to take off somehow or other. 

 

Q:  She has an eye for the sexy guy.

 

A:  Her human narrative is that she’s been running away from her marriage pretty much since her wedding day in one way or another, and ultimately—well, I won’t tell you ultimately.  Sooner or later, she is going to have to figure out a different flight plan….I hate spoilers.

 

Q:  Did you write the flyleaf copy?

 

A:  I did.

 

Q:  I had that hunch because there was mastery in saying things without revealing things.

 

A:  Thank you.

 

Q:  It doesn’t even reveal the ending of the first chapter!

 

A:  Exactly.  I myself (in talking about the book) have never revealed what the miracle is.  I made a strong case with my publisher not to put (a certain visual clue) on the jacket.  I’ve tried hard not to reveal that because as a writer you work so hard to measure and deliver the story at a certain pace.  This book is, among other things, about how we understand or don’t understand what we’re seeing—for example, climate change.  I think Dellarobia at one point says, “We can only see what we already know.”  So, I very carefully constructed that opening scene so that you the reader would share Dellarobia’s experience of looking at this amazing thing and not understanding what it is….Of course, the minute the first reviewer gives it all away, that experience is lost.  I hope that there’s more to the book than that, but you can see that I myself would prefer the reader to go into this knowing as little as possible. 

 

Q:  It looks as if you have identified some hopeful places where understanding can happen, and one is Pastor Bobby’s church.  Is it happening in the churches?  How fanciful a creation is he?

 

A:  Bobby is absolutely realistic.  I did a lot of research.  I visited a lot of megachurches.  They’re non-denominational and they’re filling a certain void in rural places…I made up the Café in Christ and the country music room where people are allowed to smoke—but those kinds of arrangement do exist.  I visited places like that, where you could buy your coffee and muffin and watch the pastor on closed circuit.  I also watched a lot of sermons on my computer.  A lot of these ministers are serving roles as counselors more than (adopting) the scolding moral tone of yesteryear…(They’re) leading people into positions of more faith in themselves…And the no-hell Baptists are real.  Ralph Stanley was one.  There is also a green church movement in this region.  All of Bobby’s parts are authentic.  I just put him together into a particular package, and then gave him a past.

 

Q:  I was impressed by how much Dellarobia speaks up for poor people.

 

A:  That’s something I really wanted to write about, environmentalism and class.  I wanted to turn some clichés on their heads.  This is a book about climate change, but the recyclers are not necessarily the heroes of this story. 

 

Q:  There’s that scene with Leighton Akins, the guy with the pamphlets.

 

A:  Yes, he’s trying to get her to sign a pledge for a greener life, and she’s going down the listing.  “But I don’t eat at restaurants.  I wish I could.  I wish I had red meat in my children’s life.”  And “Fly less”?  Right!”  That pledge that he reads to her is not fanciful.  I got that straight off the internet…I don’t think there’s any entirely safe territory in this novel.  Everybody has to bear some scrutiny.

 

Q:  Are you going to read that Akins episode to the Asheville audience?

 

A:  I don’t think so.  (laughs)  Here’s the thing.  You can’t go into it cold.  It took me 300 pages to get you there.  You need to be really well acquainted with Dellarobia before you can understand how ripped off she feels…It takes some grounding to understand that perspective, that we are not all coming to the table with the same full belly.  That’s the main reason I chose Dellarobia as the protagonist of this story, because I wanted to get you inside her life and see what poverty is like.  It’s not a bad joke.  It’s not the stereotype.  None of the easy labels fit Dellarobia’s life. 

More of interview to be added soon.

 

THE BOOK

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins hardcover, Nov. 6, 2012, 448 pages, $28.99)

 

LEARN MORE

Visit the author’s website at www.kingsolver.com.

 

EVENT

Barbara Kingsolver discusses and reads from her new novel, “Flight Behavior,” 7 p.m., Nov. 28, Lipinsky Auditorium, UNC-Asheville.  For tickets call Malaprop's Bookstore/Café at 254-6734 or visit www.malaprops.com..  A copy of “Flight Behavior” is included in the price.

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