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Sally Johnson posted an event

Book Launch: John E. Batchelor to Sign and Celebrate Newest Cookbook CHEFS OF THE COAST at Scuppernong Books

June 2, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
Help John F. Blair, Publisher, and food critic/restaurant reviewer John E. Batchelor celebrate the launch of his newest book, CHEFS OF THE COAST. There will be light refreshments and an opportunity to have your book signed by the author. The event, which starts at 7:00 PM, will be at Scuppernong Books.  For more information about CHEFS OF THE COAST please visit…See More
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eston e. roberts posted a blog post

Metamorphosos: A Proposed Path to Independent Living

Eston Roberts announces publication of Metamorphosos: A Proposed Path to Independent Living--a re-definition and application of metaphor.See More
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Steve Inskeep on Andrew Jackson and Cherokees--May 31 and June 1, 2015

Steve Inskeep, NPR Journalist, To Talk about Jacksonland at Cherokee Museumfrom press releaseSteve Inskeep will be speaking at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian about his new book, JACKSONLAND: President Andrew Jackson, Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab.  The event begins at 2 pm Sunday May 31 at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian at 589 Tsali Boulevard in Cherokee, North Carolina. The event is open to the public free of charge.   The author will talk, discuss, and sign books,…See More
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Contemplative Photography Companion for the Journey Home at City Lights Bookstore

June 6, 2015 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Asheville author Tina FireWolf will visit City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, June 6th at 3 p.m. to present her book, Beneath the Chatter.  Tina FireWolf will ignite your fire! Join her to hear how a 3 ft. tall corn plant was the sign to go on an adventure to write her book! She will share her personal story and tales from her book that illuminate  life lessons and help ignite us into Everyday Enlightenment. You will leave with a light heart and wider eyes to the world around you. Beneath the…See More
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Jenny Bowen replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Battle of Asheville, Apr. 6, 1865
"The 4-5 prisoners taken at the tanyard were colored union soldiers under Gen. Davis Tillson.  They were drum-court-martialed for assaulting an old man and woman and raping a young white woman who was the niece of the couple down near Flat…"
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 13, 2015 from 12pm to 2pm
"When Real People Become Real Characters" presented by Novelist Mark de Castrique at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on June 13, 2015.Book signing follows the presentation.  Public is invited.  Reservations are required.See More
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2015 Author Luncheon at Mars Hill University

May 28, 2015 from 11am to 2pm
Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times best-selling author, will be the keynote speaker at the Friends of Madison County Library’s 10th Annual Author Luncheon where she will share her newest release, The Summer’s End. The luncheon will be held at Pittman Dining Hall on the campus of Mars Hill University on Thursday, May 28 beginning at 11 am. Tickets are $35 each, and proceeds will benefit programs and services for both children and adults at Madison County Public libraries. The cost of a ticket…See More
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Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at The Orchard at Altapass

May 23, 2015 from 12pm to 3pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at The Orchard at Altapass Bookstore on Saturday, May 23 from noon until 3 p.m.See More
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College Gaither Fellowship hall

June 20, 2015 from 12pm to 2pm
"When Real People Become Real Characters" presented by Novelist Mark de Castrique at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on June 13, 2015.Book signing follows the presentation.  Public is invited.  Reservations are required.See More
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The world of Ron Rash reveals new pieces

by Rob Neufeld 

            “I like to think that all that I’ve written forms a kind of quilt about the Appalachian mountains,” Ron Rash says in the wake of publishing his most recent book, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” a collection of 14 stories.

            “Each novel, each story, each poem is a piece of that quilt.  My hope is to describe that place and the people in it as well as I can—not only in the present, but through time.”

            In 2010, Rash won the Frank O’Connor International Story Award, considered the most prestigious for that literary form.  His latest volume embraces hard luck characters and uses narrative surprises and open endings to create feelings of empathy.

 

Conned or the conner

            The book’s first story, “The Trusty,” does a masterful job of playing with the reader’s empathy. 

            “They had been moving up the road a week without seeing another farmhouse,” it begins, connecting us to a man named Sinkler, a conman convicted of embezzlement.   It’s Sinkler’s job to haul water for road crew prisoners, who, unlike Sinkler, have to wear leg irons.

            “How come you not to have chains on you?” a young housewife asks him when he approaches to request use of her well.

            “I’m a trusty,” he says.  “A prisoner, but one that can be trusted.” 

            So begins a dead serious series of conversations, laced with flirtations, demands, and gambits, that would suit the hero and heroine in a James Cain novel.  (Picture John Garfield.)

            In a recent interview, Rash revealed how his fertile imagination works.

            “The Trusty” started with an image, he said.  “A friend of mine mentioned that when she’d been a child, a trusty had come to her house one time for water.  Essentially, I imagined him on a dirt road with a bucket in his hand.  I knew, for him to be a trusty, it would have to be in the past.

            “Okay,” Rash continued, “I have him walk up this road, and what’s he going to find?  He found,” he says, laughing, “this very attractive young woman.

            “I knew that he was wanting to escape; or he would want to be with this woman. I also knew that he would have a good number of assumptions about her, including her intelligence.”

            Outsiders’ assumptions about Appalachian people are part of the quilt. 

Veering and sinking

            As in much of Rash’s fiction, there’s the sense that the mountain region is both a haven and a trap.

            In the title story, two 23-year-old opiate addicts on their way to a heist reflect on when they used to go night fishing after a day’s work on a highway crew. 

            Mission accomplished—sadly with callousness—the boys cross the river and the narrator sees that “a small light glows on the far bank, a lantern or a campfire.  Out beyond it, fish move in a current, alive in that other world.”

            In “Three A.M. and the Stars Were Out,” Rash takes a poem of the same name from his 2011 book, “Waking,” enlarges the characters’ lives, and, as in the poem, turns to the night sky for solace.

            “It’s nice to look up and see something that never changes,” Darnell, a farmer, tells Carson, a retired veterinarian.  “When I was in Korea, I’d find the Big Dipper and the Huntress and the Archer…same as if I were in North Carolina.”

            The mountains are a trap in Rash’s fiction for a few reasons: remoteness, economic hard times, a sense of fatalism, and the ways in which the region has been exploited.

            In the story, “Cherokee,” a young couple tries to climb out of their down-sucking poverty by taking their meager savings to the casino.  They’d overspent to buy a dream truck (used), and needed to make payments.

            Rash plays with the reader to the very end, making you wonder if the heroes are going to take what they’ve gotten or push their luck. 

A threatened people

            Drowning imagery recurs in Rash’s work as an expression of the love, pathos, and regret he feels for his people.

            How can we forget the drowning at the beginning of his novel, “Saints at the River”?  A new version of that episode appears in “Nothing Gold” as the story, “Something Rich and Strange.”

            And how can we erase from our memories the dam-project-flooded community in “Not Waving but Drowning,” published in “Chemistry and Other Stories”?

            The new volume adds to the pull of that consciousness.

            “Water has its own archaeology,” the story, “The Woman at the Pond,” begins—“not a layering but a leveling, and thus is truer to our sense of the past, because what is memory but near and far events spread and smoothed beneath the present’s surface.”

            In the story, “A Sort of Miracle,” Denton, an accountant, falls into a freezing creek.  Rash is at his grim and comic best. 

            Denton is afflicted by two good-for-nothing brothers-in-law, but is no paragon himself, since he’s given to foolish desperation when he begins to have problems in the sack.

            He thinks about the way the boys’ eye color changes when they watch TV, and then about a 12th grade biology experiment that had altered his life with random bad luck.

            “Everybody else’s fruit flies had changed eye color except Denton’s,” Rash relates about Denton’s classroom failure.  “His just crawled around on the glass for an hour and then died.  He got a D- on a major nine-week project,” and he hadn’t even picked which flies he’d gotten.  He received no college scholarship offers.  “The damn fruit flies had made sure of that.”

            Bad luck is the name people give to the probability of injury in a merciless environment.

            The comic story comes in Part II of a three-part grouping.

            “What I was hoping to do,” Rash says about the structure, “is bring the reader into that world”— another kind of askew "world made straight."

            “In Part I, you start in the past and end in the past,” he explained.  “The second part—it’s like a musical score.  Two of the stories (in that section) are humorous.  It gives the reader a break from the dark intensity.  In the third section, I hope the reader senses a kind of lightening up, a more hopeful sense.”

            In the world of Rash’s fiction, there are tragic figures, willful outsiders, Faulknerian endurers, screw-ups, loners, and heroes capable of sacrifice.

 

THE BOOK

Nothing Gold Can Stay: Stories by Ron Rash (HarperCollins: Ecco hardcover, 247 pages, $24.99) 

AUTHOR EVENTS

  • 5 p.m., Sun., Feb. 24, ticketed event at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St. Asheville, 254-6734.
  • 6: 30 p.m., Mon., Feb. 25, at Blue Ridge Books, 152 S. Main St., Waynesville (456-6000).

 

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