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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

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.

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Guide to Antebellum Flat Rock

"The introduction of my new publication, Guide to Antebellum Flat Rock will be launched on Sept 14 2019 at 1:30 PM at the Henderson County Court House 500 Main Street. A talk and a brief slide show follows with refreshments afterward. …"
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Nancy Werking Poling posted an event

Nancy Werking Poling at Black Mountain Library

June 15, 2019 from 3pm to 4pm
Can women rescue the planet from ecological disaster?Nancy Werking Poling will launch her new novel, WHILE EARTH STILL SPEAKS, set in WNC. She'll tell the stories behind the story: How did Mary (more crone than virgin) get into the narrative? And Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth?See More
Jun 10
Caroline McIntyre posted events
Apr 29
Rob Neufeld updated their profile
Apr 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8
George Ellison left a comment for Renea Winchester
"luv ya Renea ... Kephart bio finally done after 40 years ... free at last ... free at last... great god almighty ... free a last!"
Apr 5
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event
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Connie Regan-Blake Storytelling at Hendersonville Public Library at Henderson County Public Library - Main Branch

June 13, 2019 from 6pm to 7pm
Join Connie Regan-Blake for a family oriented evening of stories at the Hendersonville Library.See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Please join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” Here are the tellers for our April 6th “Slice of Life” performance.  Christine Phillips Westfeldt, Kyra Freeman, Steve Tate, Alberta Hipps and more! The event is hosted by the …See More
Apr 1
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Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive,…See More
Apr 1
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Stealth Hazy - 'Gun Clap'

Stealth Hazy - Gun ClapI got 80 rounds with a beam on it riding dirty I'm smoking chronic top off hear that system pound 808 thats subsonicI double down quadruple upstraight droppin with no cutwilt chamberlain on the reboundand you a fan just starstruckI…See More
Mar 26
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Mar 2
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Celebrate National Library Week at Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College, Montreat, NC

April 9, 2019 from 3pm to 5pm
Patti Callahan, author of the recent novel Becoming Mrs. Lewis, and Don W. King author of Out of My Bone: the Letters of Joy Davidman, A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis, and Yet One More Spring: a Critical Study of Joy Davidman, will co-present on their works about Joy and her husband C.S. Lewis.  The event is free and open to the public on April 9, 2019 in Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College.Reception and Book signing to followSee More
Feb 8
William Roy Pipes posted a discussion

TWO NEW APPALACHIAN NOVELS

I have, just released two Appalachian Novels.OUT OF THE SHADOWS, begins deep in the Appalachian Mountains of in WNC. It is partly a true story about a young man who ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He meets another runaway, and they fall in love.A journey where he faced adversaries, but also success as he walked, hitchhiked, and made his way across the country.GONE LIKE A CANDLE IN THE WIND, is a story of three young people growing up in a farming community in the Appalachian…See More
Jan 28

What’s all the buzz about Ferrante?

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Sometimes, a literary phenomenon comes upon the scene, and you just have to lay things down and see what’s up.  For instance, there’s the “Neapolitan Quartet” by Elena Ferrante (a pen name; the author’s true name remains a secret.)

            The final book in this series—“The Story of the Lost Child”—is getting on many best-of-2015 lists, and Ferrante’s being hailed as “one of the great novelists of our time,” as well as the most important Italian writer of her generation.

           Belatedly, I go to the first volume, “My Brilliant Friend,” to report what makes her work stand out.

 

The prologue  

 

           In the prologue, a man named Rino calls his mother’s old friend, Elena Greco, the narrator, to report that his mom, Lila, has been missing without a trace for two weeks.

           “What a good son,” the narrator reflects bitterly, “a large man, forty years old, who hadn’t worked in his life, just a small-time crook and spendthrift.  I could imagine how carefully he had done his searching.  Not at all.  He had no brain, and in his heart he had only himself.”

            This is wonderful, I think.  We’re going to be led through the story by a narrator with an attitude, and we’ll want to learn how that developed.  When the story finishes its 10 years of life from a half a century ago, we’ll come back to the prologue to read more into it.

            Elena tells Rino he should search his mom’s house to confirm that Lila has indeed left not a single scrap of her possessions behind.  Then, Elena vows to herself, “We’ll see who wins this time,” and begins to write, she tells us, “our story, everything that still remained in my memory.”

            Part 1, titled “Childhood,” leads off: “My friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille’s apartment.”

 

Twinned in two ways

 

            “My Brilliant Friend” is on the one hand, a story about a twinned relationship between a brilliant bad girl (Lila) and a very smart good girl (Elena), though the takes on the meanings of brilliant, bad, and good keep shifting,

            “You’re my brilliant friend,” Lila tells Elena toward the end of the book, when Elena seems to be playing, for the moment, handmaiden to Lila’s upwardly mobile existence.

            On the other hand, the novel is a portrait of a poor, rough, close-knit Naples neighborhood in the 1950s, just as prosperity was beginning to affect a few of the families.

            “I feel no nostalgia for our childhood,” Elena admits, “it was full of violence...To cause pain was a disease.  As a child I imagined tiny, almost invisible animals that arrived in the neighborhood at night.”  They came from ponds, abandoned train cars, “from the stinking grasses called ‘fetienti’...making our mothers, our grandmothers as angry as starving dogs.”

            The men were less affected, Elena says, because they had rage as an outlet, but the women, “who appeared to be silent, acquiescent, when they were angry flew into a rage that had no end.”

 

Through children’s eyes

 

            The “Childhood” part of the novel, which takes Elena and Lila from first grade through fifth, is subtitled, “The Story of Don Achille.”

            It covers about one-fourth of the book, the rest comprising the second part, “Adolescence.”

            Don Achille, toward whose upper level apartment Lila and Elena fearfully climb at the start of Part One, is, apparently, a money-lender and local boss about whom the children have compounded a supernatural mythology.

            When Elena and Lila, as girls, play with their dolls by the apartment basement window, they imagine that Don Achille dwells down there as well as up high, “a spider among spiders, a rat among rats, a shape that assumed all shapes,” carrying a black bag into which “he put material both living and dead.”

            This is better than the juvenile fantasy novels that paste slithering evil into manufactured suspense.

 

Narrative mastery

 

             Ferrante accomplishes a lot of things with her apartment episode.

            Climbing the stairs, Lila leads the way, grabbing Elena’s hand in a first-ever explicit bond.  Elena will live her life wondering to what extent she is following and emulating Lila, and to what extent taking leadership.

            Ferrante demonstrates a deft storytelling technique. 

            The stair climbing occurs on page 27.  The story then backs up to the time Lila pushed Elena’s doll through the window grate into the basement.  Thoughts about Lila’s “badness” take the recollection back further to school and neighborhood events before returning to the doll incident on page 55 and finally catching up with the opening action on page 65, when the girls go to demand the return of their dolls (Elena had pushed Lila’s down, too) from the ogre.

The natural, digressive, illustrative narration works very well.

            A third feature of this episode is the set-up.  “My Brilliant Friend” is full of mini-stories.

            Lila rings Don Achille’s doorbell, and the door opens to a mundane family scene.  “The dolls,” Lila tells Don Achille when he comes forward, “You took them, we saw you.”

            “‘You’ me?” he responds.

            “Yes, and you put them in your black bag.”

            Don Achille is pained, and bewildered, and then does something both surprising and totally in character.

 

Raised expectations

 

            In “Adolescence,” we see both girls go through puberty and contend with what it means to be a woman in their society; and we also see three dozen other characters, for whom Ferrante provides a helpful index at the beginning of the book.

            Though the memorable episodes and the cast of characters abound in a thrilling way, there are passages in which too much is happening, introduced by lines such as, “Many unforeseen things struck us, one after the other.”

            This kind of pace is one of the things that many people love about Ferrante’s writing.  It’s fecund.

            As I look forward to the succeeding novels, I hope that the secondary characters get more space to unspool their mysteries.  At the same time, I am very interested in the Lila-Elena dynamic, as one is interested in other writer-phenom relationships, such as in “My Antonia,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “Sophie’s Choice.”

            “My Brilliant Friend” reveals insights into the culture of a specific human habitat; as well as into the larger historical context, in which post-war fascists, Communists, and Catholics vie for influence.  I want more of that.

            I know I can count on Ferrante for resonant drama.  To wit, “My Brilliant Friend” gives us a perfect ending.

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