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Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25.

East Asheville history and sites

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Feb 27.

The German experience settling WNC 1 Reply

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Mark de Castrique posted a blog post
Oct 13
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Oct 8
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at MACA Authors' Booth

October 14, 2017 from 9:30am to 1:30pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be signing her new books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 14, from 9:30-1:30. She will be located at the MACA Authors' booth on Main Street.See More
Oct 7
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Sample 8 Great Smokies Writers at Malaprop’s, Oct. 15

Writers in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP)read atMalaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Sun.,Oct. 15 Elizabeth Lutyens, editor of the GSWP’s Great Smokies Review, leads the Prose Master Class and will host the reading. ·        Ellen Carr, who works in the financial industry, will read excerpts from her novel of uneasy relationships, Unmanned. ·        Sarah Carter, an artist and photographer who will publish an excerpt of her novel, Jolene, Joe-Pye,…See More
Oct 6
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

The Douglas Ellington effect: An Appreciationby Rob NeufeldIMAGE: Douglas Ellington’s original drawing for a City Hall-County Courthouse Art Deco complex.            “Dear Douglas,” Kenneth Ellington wrote his brother, the 38-year old Pittsburgh architect, on May 6, 1925, “I know things are…See More
Oct 6
Mark de Castrique posted a blog post

How To Kill Your Reader

Danger is a crucial element in a mystery novel. A killer is on the loose and no one is safe. But sometimes the killer can be the writer, and the victim, the reader.I'm talking about when the author turns into a preacher and the story becomes a sermon. Now I am not against using a mystery novel for social commentary. Writing doesn't happen in a moral vacuum, and, after all, isn't a mystery a morality play? As fellow North Carolina author Margaret Maron said there is no topic that can't be dealt…See More
Oct 5
Mark de Castrique posted a video

Hidden Scars - A Sam Blackman Mystery

Sam Blackman and Nakayla Robertson investigate a 70-year-old death that unleashes a killer.
Oct 3
Mark de Castrique posted a discussion

Black Mountain College as Backdrop for Mystery

My new book, HIDDEN SCARS, is released Oct 3rd.  D.G. Martin notes the star of the story is Black Mountain College.  http://chapelboro.com/town-square/columns/one-on-one/one-one-lost-college-still-shinesSee More
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Upcoming book--Sacred Sites for Secular Times

Sacred Sites for Secular Times: 50 Commemorative Experiences in Western North Carolina by Rob Neufeld              Among the many sites dedicated to history, there are some—both overbooked and overlooked—that provide full and moving experiences.  They involve a physical component, connecting to landscape; an imaginative one, entering other times and minds; and an interactive one, maintaining relevance.             The entries in this book help create full experiences through descriptive…See More
Sep 25
Susan Weinberg posted events
Sep 22
Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Susan Weinberg shared their event on Facebook
Sep 22
Kathryn Hall posted a blog post

Aim for Beauty

In honor of my blog Plant Whatever Brings You Joy's 10th Blogiversary I've posted a chapter from my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden. This particular chapter was also excerpted in Fairview's GreenPrints magazine, which was greatly appreciated. Read more here: http://plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com/aim-for-beauty/…See More
Sep 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

McCrumb ghost-opened world in The Unquiet Grave

McCrumb sees stories behind haunting ghost by Rob NeufeldPHOTO: Sharyn McCrumb and her dog Arthur, 2017.  Photo by Laura Palmer, courtesy, Sharyn McCrumb In “The Unquiet Grave,” Sharyn McCrumb once again demonstrates her mastery at turning a folktale into something larger, different, and greater.The legend of the…See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Vestus Miller

­HISTORIC PHOTO James Vester Miller James Vester Miller had been a boy when his mother, a Rutherfordton slave, had responded to Emancipation by taking her three children to Asheville and getting a job as a cook in a boardinghouse—some say Julia Wolfe’s boardinghouse, Old Kentucky Home.  Growing up, Miller hung…See More
Aug 26
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Dave Minneman and a sense of justiceby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Dave Minneman doing research at Pack Memorial Library.  Photo by author.            “One of the biggest things I did as a kid, in order to escape my father,” Asheville resident Dave Minneman says of his 1960s and 70s rural Indiana childhood, “was…See More
Aug 25

Summer 2010 Intro to WNC Lit

Getting familiar with this region’s great literature

It's Summer, 2010, one of the good times to plan more reading, and perhaps a time tp appreciate the depth and scope of Western North Carolina's literature. Here is a survey of books by living authors of this region.

Rash, Morgan, Frazier

The big rising star in the region is Ron Rash. In the literary world, rising star is a peculiar term, for Rash has published eleven books of fiction and poetry, all acclaimed; and he rubs elbows with many fellow authors in his circle of achievement.

But the New York Times has caught up with us here in an appreciation of Rash by heralding his latest novel, “Serena”; and the O. Henry award-givers have dubbed a Rash short story one of the best of the year for the second time. Rash is noteworthy for writing about contemporary Appalachia; representing a wide range of characters with dignity; portraying a world full of grim dangers; and enthralling readers with a Beowulf-like poetry—that is, full of the kind of wonders that tellers once name-dropped in mead halls.

Anglo-Saxon prose is even more a feature of the novels of Charles Frazier, another literary best-seller writer, whose game-changer, “Cold Mountain,” has reached its thirteenth anniversary. His second novel, “Thirteen Moons,” is equally good—and presents an authentic narrative of the Cherokee displacement—but it has an anti-heroic ending rather than the Hollywood-ready one of his first novel.

Robert Morgan hit the big time with “Gap Creek,” when Oprah picked it for her book club in 2000. That novel and his previous one, “The Truest Pleasure,” revealed Morgan’s ability to convey the glories and griefs of mountain life through women’s voices. His range of expression through his career goes beyond that, including poetry that is grounded, musical, and mystical; as well as epic historical narrative, beginning with “Boone: A Biography.”

Price, Caldwell, Garren, Hays

Many region-based writers who warrant national audiences do not get the boost of bestsellerdom, though they attract critical acclaim.

In a quartet of novels, from “Hiwassee” to “Where the Water-Dogs Laughed,” Charles Price entered the personalities of dozens of characters over three generations and, through social realism, created what will endure as the saga of Clay County history. Completing that, he moved on to an ambitious personalizing of Revolutionary War combat with the novel, “Nor the Battle to the Strong.”.

One of the emblematic stories in local history—the displacement of pioneers by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park—finally came to life in Wayne Caldwell’s paired novels, “Cataloochee” and “Requiem by Fire.” As in Ron Rash’s fiction, the characters are dignified and idiosyncratic, and events are sometimes Faulknerian gothic.

Terrell Garren, in non-fiction and fiction, including his latest novel, “The Fifth Skull,” addresses general ignorance about the minds and plights of mountain Southerners during the Civil War; and he seeks justice in all corners. Tommy Hays, director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA, carries sensitivity to race relations, felt in his Greenville, South Carolina-based novel, “In the Family Way”; and to Alzheimer’s sufferers in “The Pleasure Was Mine.”

Godwin, Smith, Chappell, Ehle, Earley

Several paragraphs into this survey, and there are still five authors who have made it into the American pantheon of writers to talk about.

Gail Godwin grew up in Asheville, then used a job at Blowing Rock’s Mayview Manor to launch her to Europe and, eventually, to acclaim as a leading voice of the independent, creative woman in the 1970s. Her recently published journals chart this journey. “A Mother and Two Daughters” and “A Southern Family,” her fifth and seventh novels, set in Mountain City (fictionalized Asheville), became best-sellers. Her latest novel, “Unfinished Desires,” based on schooling at St. Genevieve’s in Asheville, epitomizes her powers of empathy.

Lee Smith, who grew up in Appalachian Virginia and now lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, sets much of her fiction in Western North Carolina, making the colloquial mountain voice modern in fertile, community-embracing plots. “Saving Grace” follows the daughter of a snake-handling preacher through Haywood County; and, her most recent novel, “On Agate Hill,” follows a Civil War orphan to a teaching job and marriage in Ashe County.

Canton-born author, Fred Chappell, is the leading synthesizer of the mountain folk telling tradition and classic world literature. His most recent book, “Ancestors and Others,” brings together stories from his career that represent that imaginative brew. Chappell is also recognized as a master poet and devoted and incisive critic.

West Asheville-born John Ehle, along with the late Wilma Dykeman, were the key figures in the emergence of Southern Appalachian literature as a large presence in modern literature. Ehle’s 1964 novel, “The Land Breakers,” a Book-of-the-Month Club featured selection, was the first of seven of his books that dramatized the region’s history from pioneer days through the 1930s. Press 53 in Winston-Salem has reprinted two of them to date.

Tony Earley’s first novel, “Jim the Boy,” remains a huge success, a classic about the transition to modernity in Rutherford County. He continues to create a Willa Cather-like mythology out of his home universe.

Kostova, Addison Allen, Ross, Lane, McCrumb

Elizabeth Kostova and Sarah Addison Allen, both Asheville-raised, are two of the most recent residents of the best-seller list, drawing on subjects other then region. Kostova, in her novels, “The Historian” and “The Swan Thieves,” crosses into the occult realms of Dracula and immortal love with the literary grace of a Henry James novel. Allen takes magical realism into the realm of popular romance with “Garden Spells” and “The Girl Who Chased the Moon.”

Ann B. Ross’s latest novel, “Miss Julia Renews Her Vows,” is the twelfth in her “Miss Julia” series, in which she has also spoken her mind, hit the road, and painted the town. The Hendersonville author sets her fiction in the North Carolina town of Abbotsville. Vicki Lane has won a large following with her local lore mysteries, most recently, “In a Dark Season.” Jan Karon and Joan Medlicott have also reached mass audiences with regionally set village dramas.

Sharyn McCrumb is the fearlessly creative, regionally proud, and irrepressibly funny author of mysteries (she no longer writes them), “ballad novels,” historical fiction, and—most recently—NASCAR-based romps. “Once around the Track” is her latest NASCAR novel; and a new ballad novel, “The Devil amongst the Lawyers,” is coming out this month.

Byer and a florescence of poets

Amid the beer, religious retreats, retirement homes, outdoor sports, and other things for which the Asheville area is a mecca, there’s also poetry. Cullowhee author Kathryn Stripling Byer, having retired from two terms as North Carolina Poet Laureate, is magnetic north. Mountain-bred sensibility, internationally tuned music, and a concern for people and issues that expresses itself as longing distinguish her work in such volumes as “Wildwood Flower,”’ “Black Shawl,” and “Coming to Rest.”

There are other notable stars. Keith Flynn of Madison County brings his rock music, oratorical, and worldly background to commanding performances, a host of books, poetry workshops, and the editing of the widely acclaimed journal, “Asheville Poetry Review.” Thomas Rain Crowe of Tuckaseegee writes about home in a Thoreau-like way, but also embraces influences experienced through travel: the Beat poets out west; Dylan Thomas and the Welsh; Sufis; and, most recently, Europe’s old cities.

Glenis Redmond has navigated a Poetry Slam start into a career as a major lyric poet, much in demand in schools and arenas. Allan Wolf, one of the early leaders of Poetry Alive, based in Asheville, has crafted himself a place among the top practitioners of Shel Silverstein’s kind of verse.

Rick Chess, director of UNCA’s Center for Jewish Studies, writes poems that meditate on the intimate and modern meanings of his tradition. Nancy Dillingham and Julia Nunnally Duncan reflect on personal experience in the mountains and create distinctive and very musical sounds. Laura Hope-Gill, organizer of Wordfest, notably pairs poems with the work of photographers.

Storytellers and others

In an area as world famous for its storytelling as Western North Carolina, it would be an act of narrow-minded blindness to ignore the practitioners of oral literature. Chief among these is Gary Carden, storyteller and playwright, whose works can be obtained on DVD as well as in print.

Sheila Kay Adams, a musician of long lineage in Madison County, has also published a book of short stories and a novel, “My Old True Love.” Barbara Freeman is one of the leaders in regional storytelling, and has produced audio and video recordings. Curtis Blanton and Bill Carver bring the pure product to their tales. Rob Amberg and Tim Barnwell incorporate oral history into their books of documentary photography.

A survey of Western North Carolina literature cannot exclude other greats: Gloria Houston of Spruce Pine, who does for young readers what John Ehle has done for adults; MariJo Moore, a versatile communicator of Cherokee ways, and the honest, self-examining author of “The Diamond Doorknob”; Pamela Duncan, the most noteworthy fictional portrayer of mill life in the region; Maurice Stanley, who turns misunderstood outlaws into psychological realities; and many others.

Other impressive authors to follow!

--by Rob Neufeld, June 2010

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