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Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.

East Asheville history and sites

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Feb 27, 2017.

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Ellington in Asheville--a survey

The Douglas Ellington effect: An Appreciationby Rob NeufeldIMAGE: Douglas Ellington’s original drawing for a City Hall-County Courthouse Art Deco complex.            “Dear Douglas,” Kenneth Ellington wrote his brother, the 38-year old Pittsburgh architect, on May 6, 1925, “I know things are…See More
Wednesday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Dom Flemons legendary musician at BRCC Jan 25

Dom Flemons, Grammy Award Winning Banjo Player, Jan. 25Dom Flemons, legendary banjo player and co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops performs 7 p.m., January 25th, at Blue Ridge Community College’s Thomas Auditorium.The show is the latest “Keeping the Fires Burning” series, produced by The Center for Cultural Preservation to celebrates the heroes of Southern Appalachian culture.Dom awakened Americans to the rich African-American roots tradition that informed old-time and bluegrass…See More
Wednesday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

African-American music in Asheville

Asheville's African-American music meccaby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: The Outcasts, the state’s Battle of the Bands winner in 1979, included: (kneeling l to r) Edward Stout, saxophonist; Darriel Jones, drummer; (seated) Patricia McAfee, vocalist; (standing l to r) Marvin Seabrooks, trombonist; Mike Steele, saxophonist;…See More
Jan 15
Frank Thompson posted events
Jan 15
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Explore the Landscapes of Story & Telling in 6 Weekly Sessions at Lenoir Rhyne University Center for Graduate Studies Asheville

January 24, 2018 at 10am to February 28, 2018 at 12pm
Explore the Landscapes of Story & Telling in 6 SessionsIt’s winter and Connie Regan-Blake is excited to offer a new learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville at Lenoir-Rhyne University (36 Montford Ave) on Wednesday mornings 10:00 am – 12:00pm for six story-work sessions.  This weekly format allows for your…See More
Jan 8
Susan Weinberg posted an event

Reading by Poet Anne Waldman at Table Rock Room 201B, Plemmons Student Union, AppState

March 22, 2018 from 7:30pm to 8:45pm
The Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series presents a reading by Poet ANNE WALDMAN. The author will also present a craft talk from 3:30-4:45 in the same location. Admission is free, and book sales and signing will follow each event. Parking is free on campus after 5 pm, with the parking deck at College & Howard streets recommended. For further details, check www.visitingwriters.appstate.edu.    Anne Waldman is a poet, performer,…See More
Jan 4
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Dec 15, 2017
Spellbound posted an event
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Lyndsay Eli with GUNSLINGER GIRL (YA Novel) at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

January 20, 2018 from 6pm to 7pm
Are you a fan of The Hunger Games?  Then picture what Katniss would be like - with a gun.  That's just a taste of the "new" West action Lyndsay Eli brings to Spellbound Children's Bookshop with Gunslinger Girl.  She shares her debut novel on Saturday, January 20, at 6 p.m. The US has been fractured by a Second Civil War. Serendipity 'Pity' Jones finds a home of sorts in the corrupt, lawless city of Cessation (think Las Vegas on steroids).  Her shooting skills make her a star of the Theater…See More
Nov 20, 2017
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Cherokee and WNC music and dance events

Two Big Cultural Events in December in Hendersonville & Ashevillefrom press releaseThe Center for Cultural Preservation, WNC’s cultural history and documentary film center, presents, Cherokee Music and Dance on Thursday, December 7, 7 p.m., Blue Ridge Community College’s Thomas Auditorium.  Tickets are $5. The screening of A Great American Tapestry will be held on December 2, 2 p.m., at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Reuter Center, UNC Asheville.  Tickets for that event are…See More
Nov 15, 2017
Spellbound posted events
Nov 9, 2017
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Battery Park Hill through the ages

Battery Park through the Years by Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTIONS: 1) Present-day view of Battery Park Apartments from…See More
Nov 6, 2017
Mark de Castrique posted a blog post
Oct 13, 2017
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Oct 8, 2017
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at MACA Authors' Booth

October 14, 2017 from 9:30am to 1:30pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be signing her new books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 14, from 9:30-1:30. She will be located at the MACA Authors' booth on Main Street.See More
Oct 7, 2017
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Sample 8 Great Smokies Writers at Malaprop’s, Oct. 15

Writers in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP)read atMalaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Sun.,Oct. 15 Elizabeth Lutyens, editor of the GSWP’s Great Smokies Review, leads the Prose Master Class and will host the reading. ·        Ellen Carr, who works in the financial industry, will read excerpts from her novel of uneasy relationships, Unmanned. ·        Sarah Carter, an artist and photographer who will publish an excerpt of her novel, Jolene, Joe-Pye,…See More
Oct 6, 2017
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

The Douglas Ellington effect: An Appreciationby Rob NeufeldIMAGE: Douglas Ellington’s original drawing for a City Hall-County Courthouse Art Deco complex.            “Dear Douglas,” Kenneth Ellington wrote his brother, the 38-year old Pittsburgh architect, on May 6, 1925, “I know things are…See More
Oct 6, 2017

Fave writer dishes tastiest gumbo in new tales

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Tim Gautreaux’s stories are brilliantly inventive and as dank as gumbo served on a houseboat on a bayou.

            Folks know him from his folk-realist novels—“Next Step in the Dance,” which stars a mechanic; “The Clearing,” with its alligator-and-sawmill take on the thriller; and “The Missing,” which follows the track of an abducted girl.

             Now, we have his fourth story collection, “Signals” (Knopf), and it demonstrates how far an author can go in creating archetypes.

 

Father Grotesque

 

            “Attitude Adjustment,” first published in the December 2015 issue of “The Atlantic,” features a one-of-a-kind hero.

            Father Jim, a hulking Catholic priest, suffers burn scars, a blind eye, and memory lapses after a train had crashed into his car.  Misadventures stem from his stints as a substitute priest.  Delivering homilies and hearing confessions, he is as bizarre as Chauncey in “Being There.”

            A man comes to Jim and confesses that he visits porn sites.  “You mean,” Father Jim replies, “you visited…the studios where they film the stuff?”

            No, the man says; he just turns on the computer.  Father Jim, undeterred, recommends that the man actually visit the filming sites and see how creepy they are; how vulnerable the girls are.   “They could be,” Jim suggests, “your teenage niece.”

            The man’s niece would never do that, he says; she works at Burger King to make money for college.

            “For your penance,” Father Jim concludes, “I want you to go watch your niece…Watch the dignity of her work.”

            “Aw, can’t you just give me a rosary to say or like ten Hail Marys?” the man responds.

            In Gautreaux’s collection, the wise fool archetype pops up alongside sly foxes and swamp-stomping maidens in tall tale toppers that are superior to folk legends in that the details are so gritty. 

            Father Jim’s next episode gets hairier; and he ends up in jail.  This is hilarious.  It’s almost as if you took an Andy Griffith script and let Danny Elfman write the score.

            The question that you, as a reader, ask is “Where is Gautreaux taking us in the end?”

            In “Attitude Adjustment,” I was looking for either a realistic ending or an outrageous, laugh-in-your-face cartoon one.  Instead, we get Father Jim telling a tale to a little kids’ Bible class, coming up with morals, and then having snack time.  The story got safe all of a sudden.

 

Sentimental heart

 

            In “The Furnace Man’s Lament,” the hero is, of course, a furnace man; and the story is not so safe. 

            It’s a lament—namely, a lament for a missed opportunity at human connection.  This is a major theme for Gautreaux.

            In “Deputy Sid’s Gift,” a cop makes a man feel bad for his hard line against an alcoholic, homeless thief.  Sid demonstrates what human caring is like.  

            In “Sorry Blood,” a man with dementia gets abducted in a Walmart parking lot by a ne’er-do-well who calls him dad, brings him home, and makes him dig a drainage ditch.   

            The addled man eventually reconnects with repressed memories (his wife had died) and muses, “The only thing worse than reliving nightmares…was enduring a life full of strangers.” 

            In “Signals,” a reclusive Latvian-American teacher loses his only solace, the stereo receiver he’d brought from Latvia.  The woman who fixes it calls him out on his wretched lack of interest in life.

            “The Furnace Man’s Lament” begins with the most direct appeal to human connection.

            Mel Todd, the title character, gets a phone call about a life-and-death heater problem in the midst of a Minnesota blizzard.  His wife, Linda, who describes his heart as “starched and ironed,” asks “Who is it?”

            A stranger, Mel answers.  Linda jabs him the ribs, and says, “It’s going to be below zero tonight…You go fix it, Mel.”

            Mel discovers a 16-year-old boy living alone with his bedridden grandpa.  The boy, Jack, watches Mel closely as Mel explains mechanics. 

            The story stands out because it progresses to an ambiguous ending.  Mel ends up helping Jack—in a generous way—but not as much as his sense of rightness had instructed him; and he ultimately loses his connection with Jack.

            Gautreaux serves up this tale of conscience with plenty of suspense, including Mel’s icy slide into a highway ditch and his prospect of freezing. 

            “Are you alone,” a policeman asks, returning Mel’s cell phone call.  Mel doesn’t answer, reflecting, “I couldn’t bring myself to say that word.”

 

What fun

 

            I have been a fan of Gautreaux’s mechanics-smart heroes and heroines ever since “Last Step in the Dance,” in which Paul Thibordeaux faces death inside the antiquated boiler of a waste-processing plant.

            Paul is one those Gautreaux characters who, despite coming from a grim Flannery O’Connor version of Mike Fink’s legendary world, is truly decent.  Some of these characters are large and in-charge wives and working women.

            In “Died and Gone to Vegas,” Raynelle Bullfinch, a cook on a steam dredge, leads a game of bourré, a Louisiana spades variant.

She tells a newcomer, Nick, a young oiler, “that the only sense of mystery in her life was provided by a deck of cards.”  The players then tell big lies as Raynelle wins the big pots.  She wants to go to Vegas with her winnings.

Gambling emerges as a theme, as also in “Something for Nothing,” in which Roy Bradruff loses everything on a casino boat.  Wayne, a new casino employee, tells him that getting the big payoff is a seven-million-to-one shot; and Roy responds, “Better than no shot.”

Gautreaux delights in prose that sometimes approaches sprung poetry, such as when he describes Wayne’s experience as a lifeguard, breaking up fights between boys “driven crazy by budding subdivision girls burnished beautiful by sunshine and pool chemicals.”

            Most wonderful is Gautreaux’s mythologizing. 

            When Wayne first learns that his swimming skills are needed to respond to big losers who fear going home, he looks at the aluminum motorboat his supervisor, Mr. Joey, shows him and exclaims, “My God, we’re the suicide skiff.” 

            Mr. Joey, “running his thumb down the music of his comb,” says, “No, we’re lifeguards.”  Raymond Chandler couldn’t have cast it better.          

            Gautreaux takes this 20-page story all the way to the last paragraph before giving in to the moral of the story, voiced by the gambler’s son.  It has to do with people not being hard on themselves and everyone taking responsibility for their own lives.

            In sum, Gautreaux’s sentimentality is impressively outweighed by his choice of characters and tale-telling mastery.

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly book feature for the Sunday Citizen-Times.  He is the author and editor of six books, and the publisher of the website, “The Read on WNC.”   He can be reached at RNeufeld@charter.net and 505-1973.  Follow him @WNC_chronicler.


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