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Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 19
Ann Miller Woodford replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains
"That East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends comment, especially bothered me, but it clarifies the view some folks from outside the region have about us even to this day.   … average intelligence...below that of colored…"
Sep 8
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Sep 8
Carol Anders posted an event

FREUD'S LAST SESSION by Mark St. Germain at All Souls Cathedral Parrish Hall / Biltmore Village

October 4, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
It is a "sharp, lively discourse, and audience members searching for engaging debate will be pleased, St. Germain's script is astute, and the humor is plentiful."-NY Times. Sigmund Freud invites C. S. Lewis to his home in London  ...they clash about sex, love, the existence of God and the meaning of life - just weeks before Freud took his own life. This play reveals the minds, hearts and souls of two brilliant men.  Afterwards a time to "talk back" with The Very Rev. Todd Donatelli and Dr. Mary…See More
Sep 8

Stories and insights teem in Morgan’s new history

by Rob Neufeld


            Robert Morgan’s new book, “Lions of the West” is a compelling and insightful history that reads like the talk of a learned companion. 

It’s not the intimacy of his novels nor the music of his poetry—Henderson County farm products—that you get, but rather an assortment of styles to keep you going.

            In telling about the “heroes and villains of the westward expansion,” as his subtitle announces, Morgan roams far.   He follows ten westward men and details the key tensions and intentions in their lives.


Very different idealists


            In his chapter about John Chapman—aka “Johnny Appleseed”—Morgan first muses, “Wherever cultivated people went they took their orchards with them.”

            After conveying a little storehouse of knowledge about apple culture, Morgan then presents his protagonist, a kind of saint who can’t help but inspire poetic thinking.

            “He respected all livings things,” Morgan writes, “including mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, conversed with animals large and small, as well as with angels, created orchards for those who would follow him…”

            There is no such lyricism in the Thomas Jefferson passage in which Morgan outlines Jefferson’s frontier-winning business plan.  But then, after a few pages in the middle of that chapter, the narrative dives down to hold up Jefferson’s June 20, 1803 letter to Meriwether Lewis—a masterpiece.  Morgan adopts a different tone.

            “It has been said that the most important secret of good writing is rewriting,” he offers as he reveals that the Lewis letter had been at least the fifth draft of a vision Jefferson had articulated on other occasions. 

            “Another secret of good writing,” Morgan adds, “is the selection of the right subject.”  He’s referring to Jefferson’s lifelong passion for exploration and settlement, but he might also be talking about his own interest in Jefferson.

            I like it that Morgan identifies with his subjects, as I like Morgan’s interaction with school curricula—Put the Jefferson-Lewis letter in your textbook! 


Mind of a farmer


            In his chapter on Andrew Jackson, Morgan makes another personal identification.

            “It is probably impossible for us in the twenty-first century,” he begins, “to understand what land meant to poor white people in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.”

            For instance, to a released indentured servant, the west meant salvation, Morgan explains.  Then, he shifts into such a person’s mind.

            “There seemed to be no end to the wild lands—if only Indians could be cleared away—and no limits to hope,” Morgan imagines his character thinking.  “All you needed were an ax, a rifle, and a wife, and maybe a horse or ox.”

            We are reminded of Morgan’s fictional character, Tom Powell, a land-obsessed, poor farmer in “The Truest Pleasure.”

            Morgan’s non-fiction reflection continues along another enlightening path.

            “But even if you had no wife,” he continues, “one could be found among the Indians.  In fact, for settling down at the edge of the wilderness, an Indian wife might be the best of all.”  She would be a good worker; plus, “married to an Indian woman, you were halfway a member of the nation yourself.”

            From the mind of the homesteader, Morgan moves to a survey of Creek society and then to the drumbeats of war, as the Upper Creeks enlist in Tecumseh’s apocalyptic campaign against whites.  On Aug. 30, 1813, an Upper Creek force brutally massacred about 500 settlers, soldiers, and slaves at Fort Mims, north of Mobile.

            The ensuing Creek War was the moment of destiny for Andrew Jackson, commander of the Tennessee militia.  Thus, after 11 fascinating pages, Morgan backs up to March 13, 1767, the date of Jackson’s birth, and fills you in on his character.


Morgan’s American contribution


            Every one of Morgan’s profiles—Jefferson, Jackson, Chapman, David Crockett, Sam Houston, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Kit Carson. Nicholas Trist, and John Quincy Adams—share the distinction of emblematic Americans.

            A part of Morgan’s art in presenting these figures is creating human portraits within the pages that couch their historic actions.

            For James K. Polk, 11th president, Morgan juxtaposes a few sources to create a complex take.  Polk, a Scots-Irishman whose parents had followed the path of many Scots-Irish families in this region, but had stopped in the Charlotte area, apparently lacked a sense of humor. 

            Gideon Welles, a fellow politician, said that Polk “possessed a trait of sly cunning which he thought shrewdness, but which was really disingenuousness and duplicity.”

            Morgan notes that Polk had gone into his presidency with the promise that he’d serve just four years and accomplish four major things, all of which he did.  Acquiring California was one of them.

            Kit Carson was a scrawny kid in a large family that followed Daniel Boone on his traces.  As a child in Missouri, Carson got to know Fox and Sac Indians as individuals.  He had a thirst for languages as well as travel.

            His fierceness was legendary.

            “In the summer of 1835,” Morgan narrates, “when he was twenty-five years old, Carson attended the annual meeting of trappers and traders on the Green River in southwestern Wyoming.”  It was called The Rendezvous.

            One of the French Canadians in attendance hated that the belle of the Rendezvous, an Arapaho girl named Singing Grass, had chosen Carson over him, and sought Carson out.  Carson forced a duel on mounted horse with guns, survived a head graze, and shot off his opponent’s thumb.  He married the girl.

            In “Lions of the West,” Morgan entertains with adventures and details, both high-minded and handy.   His largest achievement is something of special note here. 

            In his fiction, poetry, and history, Morgan represents a Scots-Irish/British tradition, and fuses, for all of America, romantic and pragmatic traditions. 



Robert Morgan presents his new book of history, “Lions of the West,” and his new book of poems, “Terroire,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29 (call 254-6734); and at Fountainhead Bookstore, 408 North Main St., Hendersonville, 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29 (the event is ticketed; call 697-1870).

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