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The Rise of Asheville by Marilyn Ball

History of the "Asheville 1000" and the 1970s renaissance                       Let’s not miss the history of Asheville’s renaissance, Marilyn Ball’s new book, “The Rise of Asheville,” advocates.            She’d come here in 1977, making her one of the advance guard of “artists, entrepreneurs, and off-the-grid…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Century-ago woman's apple cake recipe

Mmm, them apples in Beaverdam coveIn 1972, Helen Nelon wrote about the traditions of old-time Spooks Branch, off Beaverdam Road.  Here's what she said about her use of apples in a cake.(The full story of Spooks Branch will appear soon.)There were apples for delicious cider cooled in the spring "dreem" (drain), apples for frying for cold winter days, and for special days there were dried apple sauce fruit cakes.These cakes were made of very thin, sweet dough with dried apple sauce spread between…See More
Nov 18
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Nov 16
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Dignity is the key to Richard Russo's inspiration

So funny, and yet so exposing--Richard Russo's geniusSnakes on the lane            In Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, the protagonist, Miles recalls the time his father, driving, had accelerated into a box on a highway.  “What if that box had been full of rocks?” Miles asks.  Unfazed, Max quizzes his son about what he would do about the box.  Max says he'd stop and look in it,  “What if it was full of rattlesnakes? “ his father asks.            The verbal match…See More
Nov 14
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Nov 13
Rob Neufeld commented on Mark de Castrique's video
Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Humanize the history--especially with Civil War--writes acclaimed author

Writer illuminates tangled web of Civil Warby Rob Neufeld             David Madden has written a book, “The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” that deserves special attention.            First, there’s Madden’s background.  In 1992, he founded the U.S. Civil War Center in New…See More
Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Nov 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 10
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Coming attraction--Singleton at Malaprop's & City Lights for Calloustown

George Singleton's latest collection of stories, Calloustown...features the folk who try to survive in a place that has little to offer besides a Finger Museum and a taxidermy petting zoo,It's funny, but also tragic and angry.  The review, "Love-hate humor cries in Calloustown," appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, 11/15/2015.  Singleton's at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 18; and at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.Here's an excerpt from the…See More
Nov 10
Lockie Hunter posted an event

Juniper Bends Quarterly Reading at DownTown Books & News

November 13, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Our very special Autumnal edition starts at 7PM and is sure to be a lively and vibrant set, with featured writers Randi Janelle, Tina FireWolf, Logan Parker, and Annabelle Crowe. Two of our readers have new books out, and as always there is wine flowing by donation. Hosts Lockie Hunter and Caroline Wilson look forward to seeing you there----remember, your wellbeing depends upon it.See More
Nov 9
Martha Arrowood Pelc posted a photo

Love and Mercy ~ Up On Roan Mountain

My family lived and loved up on Roan Mountain and in the surrounding mountain areas, and this is their story. It's woven into a tapestry that weaves down through the years, before the days of the Civil War and up to present day. They were…
Nov 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

It's All Relative--50 WNC women write about family

Family life as perceived by 50 WNC authorsby Rob Neufeld             If you have biases against small press books or anthologies of local writers’ work, I recommend you lay them aside and take a look at “It’s All Relative” (Stone Ivy Press), 52 stories and poems by 50 WNC women authors writing about family.           …See More
Nov 6
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Turkey hunter lore from Jim Cassada

Jim Casada's book on legendary turkey huntersJim Casada, our premiere Great Smoky Mountains outdoorsman/writer (see his newsletter) has written a new book, Remembering the Greats: Profiles of Turkey Hunting's Old Masters.“I knew several great turkey men, and every one of them was passin’ quair," Jim Cassada's grandfather had once told him.Following this aphorism, leading off Chapter 2 of his book, Cassada launches into the story of…See More
Nov 3

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.



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



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.


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



A Friendship

The Mourning

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