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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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"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 posted an event

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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Great novel plays with a man’s conscience and memory

by Rob  Neufeld

 

            The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is a different kind of mystery—not the whodunit variety, which has no real sense of closure, except in a legal sense; or in the relief of having a threat extinguished.

            The mystery in this novel has to do with a caring, self-centered person’s need to resolve, forty years after the fact, his part in a relationship with a puzzling girlfriend and a friend’s suicide.

            “You just don’t get it, do you?” Veronica, the girlfriend, tells the narrator, Tony Webster, on several occasions.

            The Sense of the Ending, is the subject of Book Discussion X at Accent on Books, 7 p.m., Thurs., Mar. 14.

 

Great storytelling

 

            Barnes’ novel has comedy, great dialogue, plot surprises, and anecdotes—but, right from the start, it’s Tony’s philosophical seriousness that does the main carrying job.

            The first paragraph is in some ways not typical of the book.  “I remember in no particular order,” the narrator prefaces, launching into a list of six seemingly unrelated images, including one graphic one.

            He then talks about the way time has nothing to with a clock, and he eases into his school days at an English private school.  Tony and his sardonic pals were fake smart, and wanted to lead lives like the ones in great literature.  Enter, Adrian, un-flippant and brilliant, and a magnet of interest like Sophie to Stingo in William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice.

            When Old Joe Hunt, history teacher, asks his class, “What is history?”, Adrian responds, it is “the certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.” 

            “Would you care to give an example?” the teacher says.

            “Robson’s suicide, sir.” The school had just received news about a student whom the boys barely knew, and Adrian wanted to show that even events not obscured by centuries were beyond mysterious.  

 

Memories float up

 

            On page 31, one of the random impressions noted in the novel’s first paragraph—“steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it”—comes to the surface and fleshes out.

            Tony has graduated from secondary school and found his first serious girlfriend, Veronica.  Veronica is enigmatic, manipulative, or troubled—it’s hard to tell.  Tony visits her family for the first time, and finds them snobbishly mocking, except for Veronica’s mother, Mrs. Ford.

            One morning, after Veronica, her father, and her brother take off on an outing, letting Tony sleep in, he is treated to breakfast by Mrs. Ford, whom the brother refers to as “the mother.”  Tony notices a couple of seemingly insignificant gestures—including her tossing of the frying pan.  Mrs. Ford says—memorably, as it turns out—“Don’t let Veronica get away with too much.” 

            As a reader, I get great pleasure from the surfacing of previously unexplained references.  We know more will follow.  And it has so much to do with the big story.  Isn’t it odd, we think, how a tiny moment in our past can attain much bigger dramatic status than big events?

            Tony and Veronica break up, and she, he learns in a letter, hooks up with Adrian.  He writes Adrian a letter, advising him “to be prudent, because in my opinion Veronica has suffered damage a long way back.”

            Later on in the novel, he—and we—get another account of that warning letter, and it is a shock.  Memory is selective, it seems. For  the moment, Tony goes into a meditation about the damage that “we all suffer.”

            He’s groping. 

            One more revelation.  It’s something of a spoiler, but the book’s flyleaf also gives it away.  Adrian commits suicide, and Tony inherits from Mrs. Ford 500 pounds and Adrian’s diary.  This is a mystery that must be explained.

            We’re on page 69, and at the beginning of part two of the novel.

 

Obsession

 

            The second, and larger, part of The Sense of an Ending, involves Tony as a 60-year-old.  The poor guy is obsessed with his past.

            He consults his ex-wife, Margaret.  (He had married and divorced a woman who is Veronica’s opposite—she has a low opinion of mysteriousness.)

            Margaret suggests he take the money from Mrs. Ford and take Margaret on a holiday. 

            “If she’d wanted me to spend the money on a holiday for two,” Tony muses about his straightforward ex, “she’d have said so.  Yes, I realize that’s exactly what she did say, but…”

            The painfulness of Tony’s predicament—his struggle and dimly dawning awareness of his lack of a great life (like John Marcher in Henry James’ story, “The Beast in the Jungle”)—contains a lot of humor, and Barnes is a virtuoso in mining that for pace and poignancy.

            At one point, Veronica takes him on a wild drive to give him a clue about what’s what, and Tony, thinking he has the sane person’s upper hand, irritates her with a barrage of banalities.

            “This is a very interesting part of town,” he says.

            “There are a lot of fat people around nowadays,” he says.

            Let me tell you about the novel’s ending.   This is not in the least a give-away because Barnes leaves you with Tony saying he’s finally figured things out, but he doesn’t reveal what.  Barnes tells you what memories Tony is targeting, but not their explanations.

            Isn’t that the mark of a great book?  You want to keep thinking about it after you’ve put it down.

 

THE BOOK

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Knopf, 2011, 169 pages, $23.95; Vintage trade paper, 2012, $14.95).  The novel was short-listed for the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

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