Seven books of note come out in WNC
by Rob Neufeld
It is time again to marvel at the output of good books and the accessibility of their authors in Western North Carolina.
Ann B. Ross presents her twelfth Miss Julia novel, “Miss Julia to the Rescue,” at Fountainhead Bookstore in Hendersonville, Tuesday. The popular series uses a wonderful formula to conjure up stories about a modern version of a 1950s Southern town.
At first, Ross shifts the sand under Miss Julia’s feet.
Sam, Julia’s late-life love and second husband, has scheduled a trip to the Holy Land. Julia, choosing to stay home, plans a design overhaul of their house. Hazel Marie, a new wife and mother, wants Lloyd, her son by a long-ago affair with Julia’s first husband, to rejoin her. Lloyd has grown up in Julia’s house.
With these early signs of disruption established, Ross introduces suspense. Hazel Marie’s husband, Detective J.D. Pickens has gone missing. An errant rich girl returns to town with her spiritual following.
The gossip machine turns on, featuring Julia’s friends, and Julia, whose tragic flaw is misguided do-gooder-ness.
How much comedy will Ross insert? Dependably, Miss Julia becomes for a while a flappable Lucille Ball.
Live from 1910s New York
His 2010 book, “Sunny Land: Pictures from Paradise” (Safe Harbor), drew from his experience as a photojournalist in South Florida, documenting the impressive world tourists didn’t see. It is a supreme example of artfulness combined with journalism for maximum impact.
Calebach’s new book, “Bain’s New York, 1900-1925,” collects and chronicles photographs by anonymous stringers for George Bain, creator of the first news photo service.
We get several glimpses of a historically noteworthy place—New York City in the era of Teddy Roosevelt progressives. “Bain’s New York” celebrates struggling masses yearning to be free. The subject goes along with Bain’s role in journalism, introducing photos to newspapers to popularize them.
The photo on the cover, “Fresh Air Outing,” shows “destitute mothers and their children,” Carlebach notes in a 300-word essay, heading out on a sponsored vacation to the Sea Breeze Fresh Air Home at Coney Island.
The era is infamously captured in the story of the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire, which Cynthia Drew, a local author, explores in her new novel, “City of Slaughter.” Drew teaches at the Reuter Center at UNCA.
In part, poet Catherine Carter, also a professor at Western Carolina University, is writing an alternate Bible. The lead-off poem in her new book, “The Swamp Monster at Home,” is a creation story, with amoeba at twilight “circling the pole like a bear’s hip.”
The second poem in the book, “The Book of Steve,” her most famous, imagines an Eden in which Adam before Eve meets his human predecessor, Steve, a pantheist, for whom sex with Adam is natural.
After Adam’s rejection of Steve, and Adam-and-Eve’s ejection from Eden, “in some stories it is said” that Steve continues to live in another “quadrant” of Eden, with “the roc preening its iridescent plumes,/ the unicorn lipping apples, the manticore having a dustbath.”
The TV remote in Steve’s hand in his passage with Adam, is a clue that Carter’s universe is rooted in myth, crosses time zones, and touches down upon a wide range of subjects.
The poem, “Hydro Plant Accommodates Rafting Industry,” describes a drive along a Nantahala Forest river with Emily Dickinson-like conversational crystallinity. “The Hole” relates an encounter with an inadvertently mystical subway-rider, who has a hole-in-his-heart through which things he loves disappears. “Haggadah” imagines the first-person thanksgiving of a freed slave woman.
Michael McFee, Asheville-born creative writing teacher at UNC Chapel Hill gives incidental subjects meditative spins in his new book, “That was Oasis.” “Bunk” explores the local origin of a word that the poet had once applied to his sister’s tales about boating on Beaver Lake. The final poem, “McCormick Field,” spreads out in 27 sections over 17 pages to recall youthful attendance at Tourist baseball games.
Square of land
David Haskell, a biologist at the University of the South, comes to Malaprop’s Bookstore, Friday, with news of his magnifying glass.
Haskell’s new book, “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature,” applies his familiarity with the Buddhist mandala to “a one-square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest.”
Haskell is an observer of such things as moss, moths, and patterns of nature; and an elegant teller of science.
“At the mandala I find a starburst of flowers, a hundred blossoms shining out at the world,” he writes on March 25 in a chapter titled, “Spring Ephemerals.” The rue anemones “emerge from the mandala’s edge,” along with toothworts.
“All the flowers in the mandala,” Haskell observes, “except for the toothwort, produce cup-shaped flowers that are available to any insect” in the micro-season before trees grab the light.
Haskell’s science-poetry is spectacular, but I prefer a different approach to nature—one that takes on the soul of nature, primarily sensitive to landscape and orientation; following the five senses; needs and threats, and boundaries drawn by plant and animal communities, not by geometry, no matter how mystical.
Tipper Pressley, “on a mission to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of her beloved Appalachian Mountains,” alights like a bee on flowers on 25 varied subjects in her photo and facing-page-caption book, “Appalachia through My Eyes.”
Her nostalgia is a living one for she perpetuates life-ways with her family—her husband, “The Deer Hunter,” her daughters, “Chatter and Chitter,” and elders in a Brasstown cove. She is a member of “The Read on WNC” social network and website; and the author of the heritage website, “Blind Pig & the Acorn.”
Miss Julia to the Rescue by Ann B. Ross (Viking hardcover, Apr. 3, 2012, 311 pages, $25.95).
Bain’s New York: The City in News Pictures, 1900-1925 by Michael Carlebach (Dover hardcover, Mar. 14, 2012, 221 pages, many large b&w photos, $29.95).
City of Slaughter by Cynthia Drew (Daniel & Daniel trade paper, Mar. 10, 2012, 312 pages, $15.95).
The Swamp Monster at Home by Catherine Carter (LSU Press trade paper, Feb. 2012, 78 pages, $18.95).
That Was Oasis by Michael McFee (Carnegie Mellon U. Pr. trade paper, Jan. 2012, 88 pages, $15.95).
The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature” by David George Haskell (Viking hardcover, Mar. 19, 2012, 284 pages, $25.95; also available as an e-book).
Appalachia through My Eyes: A Series of Photos from My Life in the Mountains of Southern Appalachia by Tipper Pressley (Blind Pig & the Acorn, 2011 trade paper, 29 pages).