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Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Land Still Speaks film and Culture Vulture fest, Oct 30

Culture festival features film about mountain eldertsfrom press releaseThe Center for Cultural Preservation presents a film festival that highlights mountain heritage, Jewish heritage and African-American heritage on October 30th at the Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College.   The festival will feature three films, including the world premiere of a new film, The Land Still Speaks to Us which includes the voices of mountain elders throughout WNC.  There will also be music by local…See More
Mark de Castrique posted an event

Malaprop's Bookstore at Malaprop's

November 9, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Presenting new Sam Blackman mystery A SPECTER OF JUSTICESee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

A Chronology of Asheville and WNC Events in History

                                   IMPORTANT DATES IN ASHEVILLE HISTORY                                                                 by Rob Neufeld 1000: The Cherokee, who’d introduced maize agriculture to the region, began cultivating beans. 1540: Hernando De Soto led troops to East Tennessee through either the Hickory Nut or Swannanoa Gap, finding gold and copper and inspiring a succession of Spanish miners. 1663: Charles II bestows territory between the 31st and 36th parallels in America…See More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Root-diggers of Appalachia

People in the Lost Provinces were herb-gatherersby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Three herbal products offered by S.B. Penick’s, once the world’s largest herb distributor, its largest warehouse located in Asheville.             “Last week, during a research trip to the ‘Lost Provinces,’” Luke Manget said about the landscape…See More
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a video

A Specter of Justice Preview

A Preview of the new Sam Blackman mystery to be released November 3, 2015
Oct 1
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

"Us versus Them" does not help fight against racism; worsens sectionalism

“Us versus them” is not good historyby Rob Neufeld             Writing about history and the complex lives that play out within it does not sell as well as team spirit, especially in this age of clicks and likes.            I recently confronted this truth when I wrote my article last week about the minds of our leaders in 1851. The word “slavery” was added to the headline to alert people to its relevance.  Seeing that term connected people to a cause they felt strongly about, particularly in…See More
Sep 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Player of Games and the Millennial Mind

Player of Games reveals today’s game-changing mentalityby Rob Neufeld             There is something big happening in Millennial Generation literature, and I thought I’d try to get a handle on it.            To give an idea of one aspect of current thinking: I was at a gathering recently, plenty of youngsters, and I…See More
Sep 27
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan Book Signing at MACA Building

October 10, 2015 from 9am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will sign her books at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) Booth at the annual Mountain Glory Festival on Saturday, October 10 from 9-1.See More
Sep 22
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 22
Ann Miller Woodford shared their photo on Facebook
Sep 21
Ann Miller Woodford posted a photo

Deacon Chrisenberry -Berry- Howell (1855-1938) on horseback. From the collection of Purel Miller (2)

My maternal great grandfather, Chrisenberry Howell, who was called "Berry" Howell in Swain County. From the Purel Miller collection. Submitted by Ann Miller Woodford
Sep 21
James D. Loy posted a blog post

The skull merchant, the dead ape, and the narcoleptic mortician

Hello "The Read on WNC" readers:     I'm posting this note to announce the publication of vol. 3 in my "Loy's Loonies" series.  This one is called The Mortician's Road Trip and it's a bit more of a mystery than my earlier books. Here's a teaser for the story.     Upstate New Yorker Baz Rathbone makes ends meet by selling human skulls. By contract, he should cremate them, but he doesn’t. His little business comes to the attention of the FBI when a woman spots her late husband’s skull being used…See More
Sep 20
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 19
Ann Miller Woodford replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Terra Incognita: An Annotated Bibliography of the Great Smoky Mountains
"That East Tennessee Christian Association of Friends comment, especially bothered me, but it clarifies the view some folks from outside the region have about us even to this day.   … average intelligence...below that of colored…"
Sep 8
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Sep 8

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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