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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
8 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
8 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
9 hours ago
Evelyn Asher posted photos
14 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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Apr 5
Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe posted events
Apr 4
Laura Hope-Gill updated their profile
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Laura Hope-Gill posted an event
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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

Ron Rash’s novel, “The Cove” goes to a dark place

by Rob Neufeld

See also critique of NY Times and Washington Post reviews

 

            On page 4 of Ron Rash’s new novel, “The Cove,” one already has to worry about spoiler alerts.

            Rash has never stinted on opening scenes.  His 2004 novel, “Saints at the River,” starts with a drowning girl’s stream-of-consciousness.  “Serena,” his 2008 novel, soon a movie, begins with a knife fight.  “The Cove” also grabs fast.

            A TVA agent, checking out land for a reservoir, enters “the cove” of the title—a dark, accursed place in fictionalized Madison County—and makes a shocking and mysterious discovery. 

The novel then tells the pre-story, which takes place in 1918 and involves the internment of German prisoners at Hot Springs.  Not until the last pages is the opening mystery resolved.

 

People will talk

 

            People will talk—not just the characters in the book, who spread fear about the heroine and Germans, but also readers, who’ll imagine alternate endings to Rash’s tale of hate and love.

            In “The Cove,” Rash masterfully poises suspense elements; and gives full reign to other strengths: language; awe; symbolism; cast of characters; and mountain knowledge.

Laurel Shelton, the young woman who lives with her brother on their late parents’ farm, walks through the woods and glimpses Carolina Parakeets, the flocking beauties shot to extinction by farmers.

            Walking to the cornfield, she feels the cliff looming above her.  “There wasn’t a gloamier place in the whole Blue Ridge,” her mother had said.  The cove was “a cursed place…where ghosts and fetches wandered.”

            Shadow-land is a distinctive feature of this region’s literature.  In “Christy,” Catherine Marshall’s 1967 novel, bright-spirited Fairlight Spencer feels oppressed by the darkness of the mountains that enclose her cove in east Tennessee.

            “Christy, holp me,” she cries, as the sun vanishes behind the mountains just as typhoid snuffs her light.  “The shadder’s after me.”

 

Fairyland

 

            Laurel follows the parakeets to the discovery of a ragged young flautist camping out on her mountain.  His playing is otherworldly; he’s a mute.  Laurel doesn’t yet know that he has escaped from the prison camp.

            Dreamily, she goes back to the only sunny spot in the cove—a ledge—to retrieve her brother Hank’s shirt, drying on the rock. 

Then, “a purple butterfly lit on the stream edge to sip water.  A pretty hue, most anyone would say…Just not pretty on white skin,” Laurel reflects, thinking about her birthmark, which she had once tried to efface.

            Regarding accursedness, cursors pointed at Laurel in a few ways: her residence in the bad place; a history of calamities happening around her; her birthmark, which made it easy for people to shun her; and, ultimately, exceptional loneliness.

            “Laurel felt she herself might be a ghost.  Did a ghost even know it was a ghost?”

            You would classify Rash’s writing as “realism”—real people, hard times, clearly rendered details—but you could not dismiss the feeling of fairyland.

            Characters pass through the cove and see signs: fallen chestnut trees, blighted like much else; a bottle tree with charms; gravestones; pools.

            The book’s water imagery alone, tugging at many places, indicates how “The Cove” works strongly on two levels.  It fulfills Rash’s interest in sustaining, in a novel, the revelation and sound of his poetry.

 

World War I

 

            Hank’s shirt is cut off at one arm to fit his amputation, suffered at war.  Walter’s muteness is another kind of wartime loss.  Other characters, walking the streets of Mars Hill and participating in the drama in the cove, show scars.

            Tilman Estep, a cynical veteran, had lost one eye overseas.  Old Slidell Hampton, the Sheltons’ neighbor and friend, is haunted by a Civil War memory that stands out as a stunning one-page story within the novel.  Sgt. Chauncey Feith, the gung-ho home front recruiter, is branded by his fear of being deemed a coward.

            During a trip to Asheville, Chauncey stops in on the stone cutter, W.O. Wolfe, Thomas’ father, and imagines the unveiling of his own monument.

            At the ceremony, Chauncey would call his future wife to his side, and she “would turn to the crowd and talk about how Senator Chauncey Feith had dedicated his life to serving his country.” 

            Chauncey’s fantasy puts him in a different class from Serena.  The protagonist of “Serena” is a mythological fulfillment of world domination.  Chauncey’s demon is more modest—vanity and meanness disguised as patriotism.

 

Undercurrents

 

            Laurel’s fantasy life is as pure a romance as you can find.  And she’s smart in many ways—as a student, woodswoman, detective, and strategist.  But her mountain isolation makes her a spirit of nature, and a votary to beauty.

            After taking Walter to her and Hank’s home to heal him from a fever, she returns to the outcrop to get Walter’s haversack, and reconnects with her refuge.

            “Up here,” Rash writes, “the wide shelf of granite gathered the sun’s light and held it, swaddled Laurel in its brightness…Dewdrops on a spider’s web held whole rainbows inside them and a fence lizard’s tail shone blue as indigo glass.”

Laurel’s love scenes are tender and believable.  “The Cove” is Rash’s sexiest book.

            Walter’s feelings and history come out in the novel, but not his fantasies as much as they might if the novel had had space to explore them.  We hear his music, but not his musician’s mind.

            At 255 pages, “The Cove” is a crafted gem.  It’s a book you could read again to savor the writing.  Rash has found a subject that compellingly represents his vision—beauty shadowed by foreboding; and he’s made it symphonic.

 

BOOK REVIEWED

The Cove by Ron Rash (HarperCollins: Ecco hardcover, Apr. 2012, 255 pages, $26.99).

 

SEE THE AUTHOR

Ron Rash’s 29-stop book tour for his new novel, “The Cove,” includes these local stops:

 

Fri., 7 p.m.
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St. Asheville (254-6734).

 

Sat., 2 p.m.

Blue Ridge Books, 152 S. Main St., Waynesville (456-6000).

 

Sun., April 15, 2 p.m.
Jackson County Library Community Room, Sylva (586-9499).

 

Thurs., May 24, 7 p.m.
Hub City Bookshop, Spartanburg County Public Library, 151 N. Church St., Spartanburg.

 

Thurs. May 24, 12 noon

The Lazy Goat, Greenville, for “Book Your Lunch,” $55 ticket (864-675-0540).

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