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Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smokies literature unfolds in guideby Rob Neufeld             Immersing yourself in the deep recesses of our region’s literature has just become easier.            The University of Tennessee Press has engaged experts to scour archives for publications about the Great Smoky Mountains, 1544 to 1934; and they’ve…See More
13 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
13 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Bobby Norfolk starts storytelling, June 28

Bobby Norfolk Throws First Pitch for Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversityat Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch 2014from press release June 28 eventBobby Norfolk, three-time Emmy Award-winner is the lead storyteller for the fifth season of Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch--Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversity, June 28 in the Rhino Courtyard of Pack Place.  The stories begin at 10:30 a.m., rain or shine, and are free to the public.  Entrances to the Rhino Courtyard are from Biltmore Avenue under…See More
14 hours ago
Evelyn Asher posted photos
19 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Inez and Annie Daugherty and African American history

The Daughertys of Black Mountain spanned racial historyby Rob Neufeld             “The children in Cragmont (an African American neighborhood in Black Mountain) and High Top Colony, where my family lived, walked to school in groups,” Daugherty recalled about her 1920s childhood in a talk she had with me in 2005.            “White children rode the bus,” she revealed.  “They sometimes threw things at us and called us ugly names, but my mother told me, ‘You know who you are.  Those names do not…See More
Tuesday
Sue Diehl posted an event

MONTREAT COLLEGE FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY LUNCHEON at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall, Montreat, NC

June 21, 2014 from 12pm to 2:30pm
Pamela Duncan, author of Moon Women, Plant Life, and The Big Beautiful, will be the speaker at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on Saturday, June 21, 2014, in the Gaither Fellowship Hall.See More
Monday
Rose Senehi posted events
Apr 11
Jerald Pope posted an event

It ain’t for wimps: readings on aging at Monte Vista Hotel

April 17, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
Increased life expectancy brings with it increased opportunities, problems, and responsibilities. Both the aged and the pre-aged will find much to ponder at the Black Mountain Authors Guild’s reading at the Monte Vista this Thursday at 6 pm. Four local writers will share their thinking on the subject: Danielle Laverty will read her essay on aging that won the Black Mt. Public Library contest, Nancy Werking Poling will read from her current and published fiction, and James and Cannan Hyde will…See More
Apr 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Asheville Wordfest May 2-4, 2014

Asheville Wordfest 2014(Photo top right, Laurey Masterton from Asheville Chamber of Commerce; 2nd photo, Laura Hope-Gill from www.thehealingseed.com) A webpage in progress!Asheville Wordfest, an annual…See More
Apr 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Fiddler of the Mountains by Eva Nell Mull Wike

Fiddler and His FamilyFiddler of the Mountains: Attuned to the Life and Times of Johnny Mull by Eva Nell Mull Wike (Donning Company hardcover, Nov. 2013, 96 pages, $25)See other new WNC books Wike, author of the…See More
Apr 7
William Roy Pipes posted a blog post

Four Novels Are Now Available

I now have four Novels in print. A fifth Novel, True Love, is finished, but to date not yet published. The four available on-line are: Darby, my bestselling Appalachian novel; Hanging Dog, An Appalachian Community, is a sequel to Darby, Doodlebug, Doodlebug, Your House is on Fire, an Appalachian novel beginning in 1940; and a novelette, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, a murder mystery full of intrigue, danger, and espionage. All four novels are available on Amazon.com and wherever books are…See More
Apr 7
Bill Ramsey posted a blog post

Brain Injury Recovery

Brain injury recovery is difficult and anything but certain. When I met Angela Leigh Tucker in late 2008, she was only four months into her battle. A sudden truck-on-car crash had killed her young husband and left her hanging on to life by a thread.For the next three years I researched the topic of traumatic brain injury or TBI. Angela and I travelled together to meeting of brain injury survivors and conferences on the subject. I interviewed countless doctors, therapists, co-workers, family…See More
Apr 7
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Asheville Wordfest May 2, 3, 4: Fiction, Poetry, Storytelling, more! at Asheville Lenoir-Rhyne University

May 2, 2014 at 5pm to May 4, 2014 at 5pm
Asheville Wordfest reaches its seventh year (lucky lucky!) with an expansion to include fiction, poetry, storytelling, songwriting, community conversation, poetry animation, and creative nonfiction. Coming of age with the help of North Carolina Arts Council, Katuah Market, Fine Arts Theater, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe, and more than thirty writers, poets, musicians, and songwriters, Wordfest continues its commitment the Asheville and WNC communities, representing as many of our communities as the…See More
Apr 3

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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