Monday, September 1, 2014

Quirky writer Tony Earley reading Wednesday at Park Road Books

Tony Earley
Rutherfordton native Tony Earley, whose short story "Charlotte" was accepted over-the-transom
by Harper's magazine while he was still a graduate student at the University of Alabama, will talk about his writing and teaching and read from his new collection of short stories, "Mr. Tall" (Little, Brown, $25) at 7 p.m., Wednesday at Park Road Books.

The new collection has already gotten raves from The Boston Globe, Publishers' Weekly and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"Charlotte" did not flatter us. No, indeed. It fact, it made us look like a homogenized hick town of superficial overreachers. But that's OK. Early, who graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1993 and now holds the Samuel Milton Fleming Chair in English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., has new stories and new characters to engage and entertain us.

His fiction has earned a National Magazine Award and appeared in The New Yorker and Best American Short Stories. Earley was chosen for both The New Yorker's inaugural best "20 Under 40" list of fiction writers and Granta's "20 Best Young American Novelists."

His 1994 collection, "Here We Are in Paradise," was followed in 2000 by his first novel , "Jim the Boy," set in fictional Aliceville, N.C. That book catapulted him to national fame. Scott Turow, writing in the New York Times, called Earley's 2008 sequel, "The Blue Star," was irresistible.

"Jack and the Mad Dog," one of the stories in the new collection and published in the New Yorker, is a brilliant take on depression.

I've interviewed Earley several times over the years, and I always come away struck by the quirky workings of his deeply intelligent and original mind. This time, he told me that he has recurring dreams of two N.C. towns, one between Shelby and Hickory, and the other "out toward Golden Valley," the latter of which "sits on the top a hill with a great view of the mountains," he says. "I always stop in that little town (in the dreams) and look at the mountains."

My longer interview with him will run in the Observer in mid-September. For now, I'll simply say you don't want to miss hearing him read from the memorable "Mr. Tall," his first collection of stories in 20 years. The reading is free and open to the public. Park Road Books is in Park Road Shopping Center, 4139 Park Road, Charlotte.

Earley will also read at 8 p.m. on Sunday at the Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth Street, Durham, N.C., 27705, and at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 10, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Local authors to gather to socialize and network

Writers get lonely.
When they convene, the conversation never lags.
How did you get your agent? someone asks.
How many rejections before your manuscript was accepted?
Do you write every day?
So it will go when the local chapter of the Women's National Book Association holds its fall social and networking event 7-9 p.m.on Monday at Rooftop, 201 Epicenter, 201 E. Trade. The event brings together book lovers and book industry professionals to support reading, writing and community service.
The event is free. Members and potential members are welcome.
For more information: Nicole Ayers at or call Prisclilla Goudreau-Santos at 904-371-7751.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn to sign books at Harvey Gantt Center

James E. Clyburn
U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn will sign copies of his new memoir, "Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black" (University of South Carolina Press, $34.95), about his journey as a civil rights leader from the Jim Crow-era South to the Washington Beltway from 5:30-9 p.m., on Thursday at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture.
Admission to the signing is free, and proceeds from the sale of the books will benefit the alumni of the Charlotte Chapter of South Carolina State University.
From his beginnings in Sumter, S.C., to his prominence on the Washington, D.C., political scene as the third highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, Clyburn has lived an eventful life. He has represented South Carolina's sixth district since 1993 and currently serves as Assistant Democratic Leader of the House.
In "Blessed Experiences," Clyburn explains how an African American boy was able to beat the odds to become, as President Barack Obama describes him, "one of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens." 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Adam Phillips: 'There is no creative process - I sit down and write'

Adam Phillips from The Guardian
Adam Phillips is a leading British psychoanalyst whose books of essays sport such intriguing titles as "On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored," "Monogamy" and "Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life," in which he posits that instead of mourning the life we could've lived, we get busy enjoying the life we have. His most recent book is "Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst." In an interview in the Paris Review last spring, Phillips talked about his writing schedule.


You are very productive for someone who spends four days a week seeing patients and two days at home with his family. When and how do you write?

That’s easy to talk about, but difficult without either sounding precious or glib—because there is no creative process. I mean, I sit down and write. That is really what happens. I sit down in the morning on Wednesday and I write. And sometimes it doesn’t work and almost always it does work, and that’s it. Like everybody else, I sometimes have a problem starting, but it passes quickly. I sometimes get stuck and then I just abandon it. I don’t try. I’m not somebody who works hard at writing. I wouldn’t know how to do that. I wouldn’t know what to do, if you see what I mean. I just write until it runs out, and then I start again when I can do it again, but I do like to be able to do it regularly, simply because I love the experience of doing it.

-- From an Interview by Paul Holdengraber in the spring issue of The Paris Review

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Alan Michael Parker's third novel, 'Committee,' a home run

Alan Michael Parker by Felicia Van Bork

What joy to find a novel that's exactly right. You're skimming through. First, the pages turn to
silver in your hands, then to gold. You know it's the real thing. Delight breaks out on your body, and you must put the book down for a few seconds and simply breathe.
Such is "The Committee on Town Happiness" (Dzanc Books, $14.95), a third novel by the poet Alan Michael Parker of Davidson College.
"The Committee" is 99 linked episodes (voice steady as hummingbird wings) laying bare the absurdity of committee-think and the elusiveness of happiness. A spoof, of course. An existential satire with ribbons of magical realism. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite novels, "Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son," by the Nobel-winning Camilo Jose Cela, in which Mrs. Caldwell writes letters to her dead son Eliacim proclaiming her great smothering love for him. The tragedy in "Mrs. Caldwell," is, of course, that Eliciam will never read the letters, and mother and son will never be reunited. The tragedy in Parker's novel, if I must spell it out, is that "town happiness" is impossible to achieve.

The Committee on Major Financing convened, decreed its lack of jurisdiction. The Committee on Animal Safety made recommendations in light of the incessant barking. The Officer of Public Generosity deployed new azaleas. Two committees folded for lack of a quorum. We set a watch, deputized three teens. We made private overtures. We unsewed our shrouds.
As though day were night we went to sleep and rose to the falling darkness, to eat and work and play. We moved throughout our darkened town.We would see the fuss. We would learn what we were missing.
 We want to say that we have succeeded. Soon we will do away with walking around and not knowing.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Charlotte Poet Barbara Conrad to read at McIntyre's on Sunday

Barbara Conrad

Charlotte poet Barbara Conrad will read at 2 p.m. on Sunday at McIntyre's Fine Books at Fearrington Village, outside Chapel Hill.

Conrad is the author of "Wild Plums" (Future Cycle Press) and "The Gravity of Color" (Main Street Rag) and editor of "Waiting for Soup," a collection of art and poetry from her weekly workshops with homeless neighbors in Charlotte.

Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Tar River Poetry, Sow's Ear, Southern Women's Review and Kakalak. She's won awards for her poetry as well as a Pushcart nomination.

Also reading on Sunday will be Janice Moore Fuller, writer-in-residence at Catawba College, and Raleigh poet Larry Johnson.

Fearrington Village is on US 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro. The reading is free and open to the public.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sarah Dessen and Lee Smith to appear on segments of N..C. Bookwatch

Sarah Dessen
Bookwatch has become such a favorite in our house that we now record it. No matter the guest, the host, former Charlottean D.G. Martin, is himself a treat. No one is more animated, and no one works as charmingly to draw out the essence of the writer and his or her work. If you're new to the state, it's a wonderful introduction to the personalities and minds of our literary riches.
Lee Smith

This Sunday, Aug. 24, young adult writer Sarah Dessen will appear on the show.

Her most recent title, "The Moon and More," set on Emerald Isle, recently won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Award in the young adult category. Lead character, Emaline, loses both her long-time local boyfriend and her newfound summer love. There's heartbreak, of course. But new beginnings await.

Bookwatch airs at noon on Sundays and at 5 p.m. on Thursdays on UNC-TV.

On Aug. 31, award-winning Hillsborough novelist Lee Smith will appear on Bookwatch. Her most recent novel, "Guests on Earth," includes a character based on Zelda Fitzgerald and her stay at the elegant and now-defunct Highland Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Asheville.