Affiliated Networks


Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.



Latest Activity

Caroline McIntyre posted events
Apr 29
Rob Neufeld updated their profile
Apr 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Flat Rock history via a road

Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
Apr 8
George Ellison left a comment for Renea Winchester
"luv ya Renea ... Kephart bio finally done after 40 years ... free at last ... free at last... great god almighty ... free a last!"
Apr 5
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake Storytelling at Hendersonville Public Library at Henderson County Public Library - Main Branch

June 13, 2019 from 6pm to 7pm
Join Connie Regan-Blake for a family oriented evening of stories at the Hendersonville Library.See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event

Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Please join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” Here are the tellers for our April 6th “Slice of Life” performance.  Christine Phillips Westfeldt, Kyra Freeman, Steve Tate, Alberta Hipps and more! The event is hosted by the …See More
Apr 1
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event

Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive,…See More
Apr 1
Rap Monster posted a blog post

Stealth Hazy - 'Gun Clap'

Stealth Hazy - Gun ClapI got 80 rounds with a beam on it riding dirty I'm smoking chronic top off hear that system pound 808 thats subsonicI double down quadruple upstraight droppin with no cutwilt chamberlain on the reboundand you a fan just starstruckI…See More
Mar 26
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Connie Regan-Blake’s 14th Annual Summer Storytelling Retreat & Adventure at StoryWindow Productions

July 14, 2019 at 10am to July 20, 2019 at 4pm
Come to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for 7 days of story-listening & story-telling along with coaching, community & supportive exploration. This 14th annual workshop welcomes all levels of expertise, from beginner to experienced teller. Participants discover ways of being in the world that nurture your creative flow while developing skills to: Find, create, learn, and polish storiesEffectively integrate voice with image,…See More
Mar 2
Sue Diehl shared their event on Facebook
Feb 8
Sue Diehl posted an event

Montreat College Friends of the Library Celebrate National Library Week at Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College, Montreat, NC

April 9, 2019 from 3pm to 5pm
Patti Callahan, author of the recent novel Becoming Mrs. Lewis, and Don W. King author of Out of My Bone: the Letters of Joy Davidman, A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C. S. Lewis, and Yet One More Spring: a Critical Study of Joy Davidman, will co-present on their works about Joy and her husband C.S. Lewis.  The event is free and open to the public on April 9, 2019 in Graham Chapel, Gaither Hall, Montreat College.Reception and Book signing to followSee More
Feb 8
William Roy Pipes posted a discussion


I have, just released two Appalachian Novels.OUT OF THE SHADOWS, begins deep in the Appalachian Mountains of in WNC. It is partly a true story about a young man who ran away from home at the age of fifteen. He meets another runaway, and they fall in love.A journey where he faced adversaries, but also success as he walked, hitchhiked, and made his way across the country.GONE LIKE A CANDLE IN THE WIND, is a story of three young people growing up in a farming community in the Appalachian…See More
Jan 28
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Main Show

The Main Show: a story-poem stage presentation(part of  Living Poem)See video of Act 1, Scene 1: The SettingProgram Notes (A program note reader comes out to read from the program notes.) Reader: Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a…See More
Jan 26
Don Talley posted a discussion

Hollywood Pictures Inc in Fairview

In the 1920's it seemed the whole country was caught up in excitement about films and Hollywood.    Asheville and Western North Carolina were well aware of the hoopla of Hollywood.   In fact, Hollywood (or at least filmmaking) was already beginning to come to Western NC.I recently stumble across an article from the Jun 6 1926 issue of The Asheville Citizen Times which mentions that Hollywood Pictures Inc, was planning to film just south of Asheville, near Fairview.  But....was this really…See More
Jan 23
Connie Regan-Blake posted events
Jan 16

Bill Branyon raves about Mike Hopping's new book

Short Story Glory:
A review of Mike Hopping's book of stories, MacTiernan's Bottle

By Bill Branyon

      Should you ever find yourself in Scheherazade’s predicament of having to tell a great tale every night or be killed the next day, don’t despair. Instead grab a copy of Michael Hopping’s new collection of short stories and you’ll be assured at least twelve more days of life. All but one of its stories are enchantingly great, with four wondrous masterpieces scattered throughout.
       The book’s title, MacTiernan’s Bottle, is also the name of the first masterpiece. This story will captivate every WNC artist who’s ever worked odd jobs to support their creativity, or agonized over the heartbreaking question of whether to give up their art, or not. The character Jewett, a frustrated-artist-turned-fresco expert, arrogantly answers that question: “For an artist in thrall to vision, asking `Why Bother?’ is gratuitous self-flagellation.”
       Filled with such biting insights, the story is ostensibly about a rural WNC, resort-renovating crew who stumble upon an immense, portentous fresco hidden behind a wall. They obsess about it at the resorts pub whose denizens are “members of the cohort whose TV dreams of free love were screwed by Ronald Reagan and the threat of HIV. Instead of joining the capitalist horde, they and their friends had boarded counterculture evac helicopters, carrying little else with them into exile but bongs, cynicism and the consolation of classic rock.” The story gallops trough many layers of such high caliber analysis, much of which is about the various barriers an artist has to scale. 

From Guerilla Cooking to Vasectomized Valor

            Part of the genius of Hopping’s book is the astounding range of narrators, plots and settings. After MacTiernan he whisks us to a Chekhovian, Russian winter through the eyes of a young peasant woman being courted and criticized by a legless, aristocratic revolutionary. Then, in Every Curry Tells a Story, we enjoy the finer points of make-do cooking as a vehicle for exploring a young girl’s love-hate relationship with her Dad. Her anger arises from his commutes between her mother in their Charlottesville, Virginia home, and his business — and wife — in Belgium.     
            Back in the WNC mountains, Grass is a ten-pager stuffed to overflowing with poignant insights about a strained, but happy-enough marriage made palatable by hilarious encounters with a cantankerous lawnmower. Narrator Ray lessens many Mom’s qualms about their children’s Internet addiction when he notes that his son’s online cruising “may be safer than the `34 Terralane hotrod I bought after I got out [of the Navy]. He’s less likely to sober up and find himself married.” Ray’s wife Althea also narrates and she cuts through the mower humor with painful gems like: “I’ve been bargaining down ever since [Ray’s affair]. At some point, everyday life takes on a hospice atmosphere.”
            The second masterpiece is entitled “Sphinx.” It spins a heart-healing cocoon out of a child’s brutal parents, a pair of sphinx moth caterpillars, and the world of freedom beyond good and evil. The resilient young narrator redeems the horror with spunky resistance to diabolical punishments that are usually violent, but also include ordeals such as having to copy the book of Genesis long hand. When the ninth chapter included Noah celebrating “the end of the flood by getting drunk and naked in his tent…. Dad couldn’t explain it and commuted my sentence.”  But then comes the devastating realization : “The longer I thought about it the more frightened I became of the people who called themselves my parents….  [They were]ready as any English warden to strike me from the rolls…. Strange to say, the flash of understanding brought with it a sense of calm.”
            A disclaimer: I too am a fiction writer, and at this point in Hopping’s book I was fighting jealousy over how great a story-teller he is. I’ve vaguely known Hopping over the years as an affable, ex-psychiatrist turned struggling writer and hyper-activist. I also had tried to read his first novel, Meet Me In Paradise, but was either tired of religious farces at the time, not intrigued, or feeling competitive. So I was not predisposed to appreciate. But now I had to admit that Hopping’s command of engaging, highly-original plot, and convincing, sparkling dialogue, was magnificent. And he could flow from abstract stream-of-consciousness to 3-D high-tension drama with a dexterity I may never attain. But at the same time I was itching to start writing a story myself, inspired by the obvious joy with which Hopping presents the many faces of the human condition.    
            The third masterpiece, Complications, is comic genius about struggling couple running the Ritz K-9 Spa whose wife has contracted — instead of Sartre’s God longings — a “baby-shaped hole” in her soul. Her poor husband is absolutely opposed to having kids, but he tries to save the marriage by getting a vasectomy on the sly. My stifling laughter erupted into raging laughter when he decides a veterinarian would be the cheapest choice for the operation. Yet Hopping is still able to get political zingers such as: “Overpopulation isn’t confined to dogs and cats. Excess people wind up in cages too. We just don’t euthanize them.”                                                            
Art? Or Secretions of Scar Tissue

       The one story that wouldn’t have saved Scheherazade’s life from King Shahryar’s deadly criticism is the Steinbeckian Thirty-Eighth Parallel. It’s a severe downer about a drunken Korean War veteran already drowned by military morality, now freezing to death in the decadent U.S., all while enduring horrifying hallucinations. It does relentlessly remind us that war is not hazy, honorable heck but pure, brutal hell.
       I’d also not tell Shahryar the ending to I’ll run you to the sea, she said. It turns an otherwise ecstatic, erotic mountain hike into “gratuitous, self-flagellation.” And though Relic of War is mainly Hopping showing off by proving he can entertain you while stuck in a wet, cold dark cave, it would still buy you another day of life.
      In addition to the short stories, Hopping peeks from behind the vast variety of masks to reveal his intensely erudite intellect in an afterward essay: Literature as Magic Theatre. From Luther to Buber, Nietzsche to Sontag, he thrillingly traces humanity’s spiritual journey from “pantheism to pan-atheism.”  This journey has involved the “revenge of the intellect on art,” and our drive to “distrust mysteries and reward solutions … with the visceral jolts of satisfaction we call epiphanies.” However never fear, Hopping catapults to the defense of spiritual mystery and numinous meaning by claiming we “are the absolute monarchs of our [personal] subjective universe,” as well as the democratic dictators of the perceptual models necessary for societal transcendence. While brilliant, the essay could have used some of Gertrude Stein’s spartan editing to make this intellectual rose more accessibly fragrant.
      But these criticisms are mere quibbles that could only anger a myopic misanthropist. Hopping gleefully escapes the bloody nihilism of The Thirty-Eighth Parallel into the cyber- and airspace of the next story, Avatar. It’s a hilarious and gorgeous flirtation between an environmentalist who fantasizes summoning “an actual manatee to court” and an ICU nurse whose “customers dined intravenously.” Snakebit is catnip for all those who’ve feared WNC’s timber rattlers, while Music of the Spheres is a dramedy masterpiece. It’s about the “Kop a Platitude” greeting card store whose owners plan to tap the “soon-to-be deceased market.”       
      The story combines quantum physics, the dying of a sexy ex-husband, and nonattached romantic love. Kate, the woman receiving this unconditional love realizes that “yoga, meditation and assorted pagan practices had not prepared her for a lover who proclaimed such equanimity.  It sounded beatific but she suspected it was bullshit.” Whereas beatific Brad makes a convincing case that it’s real claiming: “He realized that the communion he craved with life was already his; only a straightjacket of beliefs kept him from knowing it. The more beliefs he suspended, the richer his experience.” And: “What we are to each other may be the only force strong enough to raise existence above the level of intolerable cruelty.” The story almost has as much depth as the title story…

…but not quite. As McTiernan’s Bottle lazily and electrically proceeds, we crash through yet another of its many layers, discovering that the hidden fresco was painted by a major artist. This leads to the renowned art critic who, before deconstructing Klimt, reminisces about that great Mexican fresco painter: “As an aspiring young artist … I sneaked into the RCA Building to watch Diego Rivera paint Man at the Crossroads. I treasure the fragment I salvaged when Nelson Rockefeller had it destroyed. Rivera had incomparable talent but I came to hate his guts. The unauthorized addition of Lenin’s portrait to the piece was, in fact, the communist slap Rockefeller took it for. An act of irresponsible flamboyance.”
       And though our exploration of the found fresco is scarily breathtaking, the climax of the story comes during a visit to the deep woods and the house of the work crew’s aging hippie electrician, Thang. He has “a high performance mind with a fried guidance system.” His never-completed art project included his whimsical “earthship” home that has been thirty years in the re-making. Says the narrator brutally: “It isn’t chic to interpret his rockpile as a monumental secretion of scar tissue, but I do.”  Launching me into yet another revelry about attending sometimes brilliant, sometimes painfully therapeutic, poetry slams. Then to questioning all my writing efforts as mere acting-out — as endless self-therapy.
      But McTiernan’s therapist creator has definitely completed his own self-analysis. Far from acting out, his short stories are great gifts to American literature by a mature mind and writer. Perhaps it’s time for Asheville’s short story master O’Henry to scoot over and make room for M. Hopping.

Bill Branyon is a freelance historian whose latest book is Liberating Liberals: a synthesis of Nietzsche and Jesus, Vonnegut and Marx (Groucho, not Karl).

© 2019   Created by Rob Neufeld.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service