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William Roy Pipes posted a discussion

Mammy, A Term of Endearment

I read Rob Neufield's article Visit OUR PAST in today's Asheville Citizen-Times.It was a super article, but caused me to want to share my novel:  Mammy: A Term of Endearment.Mammy: A Term of Endearment. is now available as an ebook on Kindle, but the publisher, Ecanus Publishing, Great Britain tells me the paperback edition will be out soon (2 to 3 weeks).The novel is fiction but came from my father who was born in 1895. Due to his mother's sickness Grandpa hired her to be a Mammy to my father,…See More
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City Lights Bookstore posted events
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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Jun 24
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jun 9
Shannon Quinn-Tucker posted an event
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Writers on the Rock at Chimney Rock, NC

June 28, 2015 from 1pm to 4pm
The culture and heritage of Appalachia is an experience like no other, and it serves as the perfect backdrop for a variety of storytelling. View the soaring cliffs and stunning valleys of Chimney Rock and the Hickory Nut Gorge as you get to know your favorite author and meet new ones. Join Ann B. Ross, Tommy Hays, Sheri Castle, Evan Williams and more as they share their experiences and autograph copies of their books. A selection of titles by each author will be available for sale. See…See More
Jun 8
Lockie Hunter updated an event
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West End Prose and Poetry reading series: June at West End Bakery

June 13, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
The West End Bakery & Café will host the final event for the 2015 Spring Poetry and Prose Reading Series on Saturday, June 13th at 7:00 pm. The June event will feature an excellent cast of local writers including David Novak, Katherine (Bonnie) Soniat, Luke Hankins and our very own hostess and curator Lockie Hunter.Past readings included a special holiday performance by Allan Wolf as well as local writers such as Susan Reinhardt, Tommy Hays, Tom Chalmers, Matthew Olzmann, Alli Marshall,…See More
Jun 8
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Prose and Poetry reading series: June at West End Bakery

June 13, 2015 from 7pm to 9pm
The West End Bakery & Café will host the final event for the 2015 Spring Poetry and Prose Reading Series on Saturday, June 13th at 7:00 pm. The June event will feature an excellent cast of local writers including David Novak, Katherine (Bonnie) Soniat, Luke Hankins and our very own hostess and curator Lockie Hunter.Past readings included a special holiday performance by Allan Wolf as well as local writers such as Susan Reinhardt, Tommy Hays, Tom Chalmers, Matthew Olzmann, Alli Marshall,…See More
Jun 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri--and book discussions

How Lahiri’s “The Lowland” excites discussionby Rob Neufeld             When an American woman in Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, “The Lowland,” realizes how she has, in her mind, objectified a certain childhood horror, she flashes to her Calcutta grandma, who “used to spend her days overlooking a lowland, a pair of…See More
Jun 2
Spellbound posted events
Jun 2
Tina Barr posted a blog post

Sharing Information

Iris Press just released a new book of my poems, Kaleidoscope!  These are poems written over the last 10 years, set in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina---!See More
Jun 2
Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Hiking the Landscape of JHATOR

I just posted a new blog entry describing the real places frequented by my characters--human and animal--in my novel. Most of the action in JHATOR takes place in these beautiful natural spaces that are protected throughout southeastern Massachusetts. Whether you have read my book or not, I hope you will visit them if you are traveling through the area.You can read "Hiking the Landscape of JHATOR" as well as excerpts from my novel, at Christine-lajewski.squarespace.comSee More
Jun 1
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Kathryn Byer & Richard Krawiec Joint Poetry Reading at City Lights Bookstore

June 14, 2015 from 1pm to 2:30pm
Former North Carolina Poet Laureate Kathryn Byer and Richard Krawiec will be reading from their new collections of poetry on Sunday, June 14th at 1 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Kathryn’s new chapbook from Jacar Press, The Vishnu Bird, is both a memorial and memoir in lyric poetry. This clean-spoken, deeply-felt chapbook remembers the poet’s dear friend by tracing his vocation of anthropology, and honoring his spiritual depth through vignettes from the speaker’s own past. Richard Krawiec will…See More
May 30
Glenda Council Beall posted an event
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Steven Harvey at Writers Circle at Writers Circlle around the Table

June 27, 2015 from 10am to 1pm
Writing workshop with Steve Harvey, retired professor at YHC and on faculty for Ashland University MFA.See More
May 30
Ron Cooper replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Something Rich and Strange by Ron Rash
"Terrific review and interview, Rob. Glad to see that Ron had full control over this collection. All of his work deserves to be read and re-read."
May 28
Kathryn Stripling Byer updated their profile
May 28
Lawrence Thackston posted a blog post

The Devil Returns!

Very excited to announce to my friends here at The Read on WNC that my publisher, Holladay House Publishing, will be re-releasing The Devil's Courthouse this summer. We are having a release celebration at Bearmeat's Indian Den in Cherokee, NC on Saturday, June 6, from 11 to 4. If you are in the area, please come out and help us celebrate! And we will be visiting bookstores across the WNC throughout the coming months!See More
May 28

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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