Affiliated Networks


Badge

Loading…

Latest Activity

Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
Sunday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Saturday
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Jan 31
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
Jan 17
Susan True updated their profile
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
Jan 9
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Jan 9
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
Jan 8
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Railroad history in Western North Carolina: a close-up and bottom-line look

Railroads in WNC: the perils, the people, and the profitby Rob NeufeldWritten in conjunction with exhibit, "How The West Was Won," in Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill University PHOTO CAPTION: The entrance to the railroad show at the Rural Heritage Museum is commanded by a mock-up of Climax engine…See More
Dec 24, 2015

New collection by Nobel Prize favorite generates talk

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Shortly before Chinese dissident novelist Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize for literature on Oct. 11, bookies had been laying odds on other front-runners.

            Ladbrokes, a world leader in online betting, had had Mo Yan at 8:1 on Oct. 4.  Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, a perennial favorite, had been a 3:1 pick.  And Irish writer William Trevor, widely recognized as the greatest living short story writer, had posted a phenomenal rise from 100:1 to 8:1 odds, based on a rush of bets.

            Trevor is the author of 18 novels and 19 volumes of short stories, many of which have been winners of or finalists in the running for Great Britain’s two top awards, the Man Booker Prize and the Whitbread (now called the Costa) Book Award.

            His latest volume, “Selected Stories,” just out in paperback, brings together stories from his last four collections.  It is the subject of a Book Discussion X discussion, Nov. 15 at Accent on Books.

 

A pro con

 

            Betting—in a manner of speaking—is the subject of Trevor’s story, “Against the Odds”—about a confidence woman, going by the name of Mabel Kincaid, who ducks into a town south of Belfast and hooks a widowed turkey farmer.

            When the farmer, named Blakely, shows up for their having-given-things-time appointment two months after he’s written her a check in trust, he waits an hour, “believing that against the odds there might somehow be an explanation.”

            That sad event occurs two paragraphs from the end of Trevor’s O. Henry-type story, which differs from the old master’s tales in that it applies shadowy transitions rather than bold highlights.

            In the next paragraph, we learn that Blakely still harbors a spark of optimism about his belle, and it is not unlike the optimism that the Irish hold onto in the wake of the short-lived cease-fire with which the story had started.

            The last paragraph features another twist—not a dropped shoe, but something hanging in the air.

            All this talk about the ending leaves out the pleasure of the previous 15 pages: the very believable progress of the courtship/con; the roots of Mrs. Kincaid’s compulsive behavior; and dour Blakely’s transformation.

            To read a Trevor story is to identify with people in whom wavering morality, experience of hurt, and flickering grace mix. 

            As a man whose youth had been shaped by his father’s frequent change of hometown, Trevor has observed many types.  Like O. Henry, his notables are the non-notable.

 

Enslaved parent

 

            Reading today’s news while reading Trevor’s story, “Gilbert’s Mother” has me thinking about the mother, Rosalie Manion.

            Her story begins, “On November 20th 1989, a Monday, in an area of South London not previously notable for acts of violence, Carol Dickson, a nineteen-year-old shop assistant, was bludgeoned to death between the hours of ten-fifteen and midnight.”

            Though Rosalie had heard her grown, loner son come in from his wanderings earlier than that that night, she worries, as she always worries when a crime is reported, that he might be the culprit.  She knows, more than anyone else, that he’s odd.

            As a child, he’d refused to do school work.  Psychiatric hospitals and social workers had simply noted that he was boring.  “Talks excessively about photocopying,” one reported.

            His father couldn’t and didn’t love him, and Gilbert’s unnerving detachment and intensity of observation caused his parents’ divorce, Rosalie feels.

            In essence, Rosalie is enslaved to her dread and to her need for constant vigilance of Gilbert.  “Her role was only to accept,” the story concludes.  “No one would ever understand the mystery of his existence, or the unshed tears they shared.”

            What brand of story is this?  It’s not a story of a parent who protects a criminal son.  Odds are Gilbert is not a criminal.  It’s not a story about a struggle to understand an illness; or about the grace note of loyalty and love.

            It’s a story about the fixed place that mystery inhabits in our lives.

 

Port in a storm 

           

            Different scenes—from multiple views and characters’ memories—overlap in Trevor’s fiction; and plots shift perversely.  Sometimes the action can be as plain as peeling a potato; and, at other times, as seismic as a treachery; or a vow of love.

            Such is life.  And such is fiction, unless you want to represent it as sitcom shtick or comic book heroism.

            Loyalty is, in fact, the compass point in many of Trevor’s stories, despite the problematic impression “Gilbert’s Mother” leaves; and loyalty often equates to love.

            In “Death of a Professor,” an old professor’s beautiful younger wife hides from him the newspaper obit that a spiteful prankster had written about him.  The professor goes to a party where all of the other professors—a satirized, poisonous bunch—do know, and it’s a blow.

            The old professor’s figuring out of the misdeed—and his adoration of his wife—reminds her how much she loves him for his wisdom, a quality separate from competitive excellence.  “It is the wedding of their differences that protects them, steadfast in the debris of the storm.”

            Yes, society can be quite a hunger game in Trevorland, but his stories often enough shift tone to make you feel as if you’re in different universes.

            Sometimes, they are as hilarious as a Roald Dahl tale; or as tough as a Sean O’Casey play.

            In “The Mourning,” a simple lad wanting a bigger life in London, gets caught up first in the prejudice against low-wage Irishmen, and then in a terrorist plot.  The turning point in his fate as bomb-carrying hero versus hometown clod turns on words he remembers his da saying.

            “A Friendship” begins with ten- and eight-year old brothers pouring concrete into their father’s golf bag.  The father is a tyrant to his wife, whose life is made sweet by her best friend Margy, an instigator.  There’s going to be a clash.

            Loyalty cleaves in both meanings of the word here.  It clings on one hand, and severs on the other.  No wonder forgiveness is such a virtue; everyone’s got blood on their hands, and sometimes they don’t mean to have caused it.

 

THE BOOK

Selected Stories by William Trevor (Penguin trade paper, Sept. 27, 2011, 576 pages, $18)

 

EVENT

Book Discussion X meets to discuss “Selected Stories” by William Trevor at Accent on Books, Accent on Books, 854 Merrimon Ave., 7 p.m., Thurs., Nov. 15.   Call 252-6255.

STORIES TO BE DISCUSSED

Against the Odds

A Bit on the Side

Cheating at Canasta

The Children

Child’s Play

A Day

Death of a Professor

The Dressmaker’s Child

Gilbert’s Mother

The Hill Bachelors

Men of Ireland

The Piano Tuner’s Wife

The Room

Traditions

Widows

A Friendship

The Mourning

Views: 151

Reply to This

© 2016   Created by Rob Neufeld.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service