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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

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
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
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
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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
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Railroad history in Western North Carolina: a close-up and bottom-line look

Railroads in WNC: the perils, the people, and the profitby Rob NeufeldWritten in conjunction with exhibit, "How The West Was Won," in Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill University PHOTO CAPTION: The entrance to the railroad show at the Rural Heritage Museum is commanded by a mock-up of Climax engine…See More
Dec 24, 2015

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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