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Love and Mercy Booksigning

Gaston County Library, Main BranchGastonia, NCDec. 12. 20153:30 - 5:30 pm
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Spooks Branch, a human history story

Spooks Branch was a singular place in settlers’ loreby Rob NeufeldImportant editorial note:This is a significant historical story that is also, in parts, personal and controversial.  It is about a few families who settled a particular cove and played out their heroic and complex legacies in ways that interacted with place and time.  You don't read this kind of story much because people don't like to expose themselves or stir up trouble, even a little.  This caution makes history classes boring…See More
Nov 25
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 21
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The Rise of Asheville by Marilyn Ball

History of the "Asheville 1000" and the 1970s renaissance                       Let’s not miss the history of Asheville’s renaissance, Marilyn Ball’s new book, “The Rise of Asheville,” advocates.            She’d come here in 1977, making her one of the advance guard of “artists, entrepreneurs, and off-the-grid…See More
Nov 20
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Century-ago woman's apple cake recipe

Mmm, them apples in Beaverdam coveIn 1972, Helen Nelon wrote about the traditions of old-time Spooks Branch, off Beaverdam Road.  Here's what she said about her use of apples in a cake.(The full story of Spooks Branch will appear soon.)There were apples for delicious cider cooled in the spring "dreem" (drain), apples for frying for cold winter days, and for special days there were dried apple sauce fruit cakes.These cakes were made of very thin, sweet dough with dried apple sauce spread between…See More
Nov 18
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Nov 16
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Dignity is the key to Richard Russo's inspiration

So funny, and yet so exposing--Richard Russo's geniusSnakes on the lane            In Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, the protagonist, Miles recalls the time his father, driving, had accelerated into a box on a highway.  “What if that box had been full of rocks?” Miles asks.  Unfazed, Max quizzes his son about what he would do about the box.  Max says he'd stop and look in it,  “What if it was full of rattlesnakes? “ his father asks.            The verbal match…See More
Nov 14
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Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Humanize the history--especially with Civil War--writes acclaimed author

Writer illuminates tangled web of Civil Warby Rob Neufeld             David Madden has written a book, “The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” that deserves special attention.            First, there’s Madden’s background.  In 1992, he founded the U.S. Civil War Center in New…See More
Nov 12
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 10
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Coming attraction--Singleton at Malaprop's & City Lights for Calloustown

George Singleton's latest collection of stories, Calloustown...features the folk who try to survive in a place that has little to offer besides a Finger Museum and a taxidermy petting zoo,It's funny, but also tragic and angry.  The review, "Love-hate humor cries in Calloustown," appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, 11/15/2015.  Singleton's at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 18; and at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.Here's an excerpt from the…See More
Nov 10
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Juniper Bends Quarterly Reading at DownTown Books & News

November 13, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Our very special Autumnal edition starts at 7PM and is sure to be a lively and vibrant set, with featured writers Randi Janelle, Tina FireWolf, Logan Parker, and Annabelle Crowe. Two of our readers have new books out, and as always there is wine flowing by donation. Hosts Lockie Hunter and Caroline Wilson look forward to seeing you there----remember, your wellbeing depends upon it.See More
Nov 9
Martha Arrowood Pelc posted a photo

Love and Mercy ~ Up On Roan Mountain

My family lived and loved up on Roan Mountain and in the surrounding mountain areas, and this is their story. It's woven into a tapestry that weaves down through the years, before the days of the Civil War and up to present day. They were…
Nov 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.



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



Visit the author’s website at



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  A copy of “Flight Behavior” is included in the price.

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