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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
Oct 1
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
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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

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.”




            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.




            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.



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



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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