Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Mudbound' author in Charlotte with her new novel, 'When She Woke'

Hillary Jordan's debut novel, "Mudbound" became a bestselling book club favorite when it was published in 2008. Now, Jordan returns with "When She Woke," a futuristic retelling of "The Scarlet Letter" that Publishers Weekly calls "an instant classic for the 21st century."

Jordan's book tour will bring her to Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. She'll read from her new novel, set in a dystopian future where convicted felons are no longer imprisoned. Instead, their skin color is altered to match the class of their crime. Jordan's main character, Hannah Payne, has been "chromed" red after being found guilty of murdering her unborn child.

"Christian fundamentalists may shun this novel," says Library Journal, "but book clubs will devour it, and savvy educators will pair it with Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter."

Monday, November 28, 2011

A new book from Charlotte's 'Southern Fried Preacher'

The Rev. Harold Bales has been entertaining readers with his newspaper columns for decades. Now, the retired Methodist minister has a new collection of columns, "Southern-Fried Preacher: Musings from a Made-in-America Minister."

Bales will sign copies of his book 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Rehobeth United Methodist Church in Terrell and 10:30-11:30 a.m. Dec. 9 at the North Mecklenburg Senior Center, 16601 Old Statesville Road, in Huntersville.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"The Warmth of Other Suns" author here next week

Inspired by her parents' own migration, Isabel Wilkerson spent 15 years writing "The Warmth of Other Suns." Her critically acclaimed history chronicles the decades-long migration of six million black Americans who fled the South in search of better lives.

Wilkerson will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square. Tickets are $12. They're available through or by calling 704-372-1000.

Her 2010 book, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, follows three African-American families who left the South for new lives in the North and West.

She'll sign copies after her talk, which is presented by the Levine Museum of the New South, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and The Mint Museum.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wilmington author's 'Pulphead' wins raves

With the publication of “Pulphead,” his debut essay collection, Wilmington’s John Jeremiah Sullivan is being compared to a number of nonfiction icons, including Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson.

Sullivan is funnier than Didion, certainly saner than Thompson. But I get the references. Like Didion, he can deliver a piece that captures the spirit of the times. Like Thompson, he can be gonzo.

Publishers Weekly praises his book as “extraordinary prose that’s stuffed with offbeat insight.” The Los Angeles Times calls the work “thoughtful, electric and alive.” In short, he’s a guy worth reading.

Subjects in “Pulphead” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $16) include Tennessee’s prehistoric cave art, reggae legend Bunny Wailer and Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose.

The book also offers an inside look at Creation, a huge Christian rock festival. Initially, Sullivan had planned a festival road trip with a van of hard-core fans.

It seemed a fine idea, until he posted a chat room invitation and learned the fans he was soliciting were young – very young.

“I had just traipsed out onto the World Wide Web,” he writes, “and asked a bunch of twelve-year-old Christians if they wanted to come for a ride in my van.”

One girl who responded tried to set him straight: “I’m not saying you’re a creepy petifile, lol, but I just don’t think you’ll get too many people interested.”

One of my favorite stories in the book is “Peyton’s Place,” Sullivan’s tale of renting his family’s Wilmington house to the people filming “One Tree Hill.”

The family was paid to decamp occasionally to a hotel so the teen TV show could film in their home, which doubled as the home of Peyton. Peyton’s character, Sullivan writes, was “complicated, deeper than the other teens on One Tree, which in teen-show terms meant that she often wore flannel shirts.”

Sullivan, 37, grew up in Louisville, the son of an English teacher and a newspaper reporter who covered, among other things, horse racing in Kentucky. His first book was “Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son.”

Since 2004, he has lived in Wilmington. His wife, Mariana Johnson, is a UNC Wilmington film professor. They still live in Peyton’s house, but they stopped renting it out to “One Tree Hill.” It got too weird, he told me. Fans, however, continue to pay them visits.

GQ magazine recently published a version of his “One Tree Hill” story. Read it here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Charlotte native to read from "Growing Gills"

In "Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey," Charlotte native David Joy delves into his lifelong obsession with fish.

Joy, a columnist for the Crossroads Chronicle in Cashiers, will sign books and do a reading at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hot guys, ingested objects and other oddities

One of the best parts of my job is that publishing companies send me free books. Also fun is showing colleagues the really weird ones, the ones that make me think: Who's going to buy this? Why was it published? and This is stupid, but it'll probably sell.

It recently dawned on me that you, dear readers, would enjoy these titles, too. So, here's a first installment:

"Hot Guys and Baby Animals": A collection of photographs featuring handsome, shirtless men snuggling with cute animals.

"Stuck Up! 100 Objects Inserted and Ingested in Places They Shouldn't Be"
: Authored by three physicians, this book includes black-and-white photos of X-rays of objects -- a banana, Christmas lights, a screwdriver -- stuck inside various parts of humans and animals. It would be much more interesting if it explained how these events occurred.

"Jack and Jill Went Up to Kill: A Book of Zombie Nursery Rhymes": Zombies are all the rage, as you probably know. Last year, I got a copy of "The Zombie Night Before Christmas," so this one didn't even surprise me. The rhymes are also predictable: "There was an old Zombie woman who lived in a shoe. She ate so many children she was covered in goo."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Snow forecast Friday at Park Road Shopping Center

Jeff Kinney's newest "Wimpy Kid" installment, "Cabin Fever," out Tuesday, Nov. 15, has a winter setting. So when Kinney appears at Park Road Books for a book signing at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, he'll be accompanied by a truck that churns out snow.

You don't need to buy anything to play in the snow. But you do need to buy a copy of "Cabin Fever" (Amulet Books; $13.95) from Park Road Books to meet Kinney and get the book signed.

As long as a there's a child in line, Kinney will keep signing books. The signing starts at 4 p.m. on Nov. 18.

For more information, check out the Park Road Books website or call the store at 704-525-9239.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"God Bless America" author at UNC Charlotte

No, Steve Almond is not the guy who wrote the patriotic song. That was Irving Berlin.

But Almond, a prize-winning essayist and short story writer, has written "God Bless America" (Lookout Books; $17.95), a new story collection by the same name. Almond's publisher, Wilmington's Lookout Books, describes the collection as a meditation on the American Dream and its discontents.

Almond will read and sign books at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 16, in room 200 of UNC Charlotte's Denny Building.

His previous books include the nonfiction "Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Charlotte's Julie Suk reads Sunday at Park Road Books

Charlotte poet Julie Suk's latest book, "Lie Down with Me," includes new poems along with selected works from four earlier collections.

"That's my whole life in that book, from my very earliest writings," says Suk, 87.

"Her poetry," says Michael Simms, her editor at Autumn House Press, "balances on that razor's edge between fulfillment and desire."

She'll give a reading at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Here's one of her new poems:


Splayed against the window,
its moth powder sifts
through the screen.

The eyespot on each wing
blind as I was toward those I loved --

meaning the ghosts who still
mill around in my dreams.

The dust of rue
must have been terrible
for my 103-year-old grandfather,
wives and friends he outlived
haranguing his sleep.

A lovesick boy once threw pebbles
at my bedroom window.

Huddled in a cocoon of sheets
I refused his pleas,

afraid he might break
through my green will, afraid
of loss even before I took flight.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Charlotte named one of America's best public libraries

After just missing the cut last year, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library has regained a spot on the Library Journal's list of America's best public libraries.

The library is among 262 U.S. public libraries -- and the only one in the Carolinas -- that the magazine designated this year as "America's Star Libraries." The ratings use data from four areas -- visits, circulation, program attendance and public Internet computer use.

One big caveat with these ratings, however: They're based on 2008-09 data. That's data gathered before Charlotte-Mecklenburg made huge budget cuts in 2010. Back then, libraries were open 1,521 hours per week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg library spokeswoman Cordelia Anderson tells me. Today, they're open only 824 hours a week.

"We are pleased with the designation," Anderson said in an email, "but we also acknowledge that it is a reflection of where we were three years ago."

This year, the Library Journal gave Charlotte three stars out of five. In 2008 and 2009, it earned five stars, the highest rating. But in 2010, it slipped off the list, just missing the three-star designation. The Library Journal describes its 262 star libraries as "delivering exceptional levels of service despite economic hardships." Learn more about the ratings here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

'What Writers Do': New anthology from Lenoir-Rhyne

They are a diverse bunch of writers, but Julia Alvarez, Billy Collins, Dori Sanders and the late John Updike have one thing in common: They have all paid visits to Hickory.

Since 1988, they have been among nearly 200 writers who’ve read and discussed their work at Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Visiting Writers Series. Now, this stellar series has produced an anthology, “What Writers Do,” to celebrate its achievement.

The book (Lorimer Press; $29.95) includes poems, fiction and nonfiction from 35 writers who have taken part in the annual literary series. Some selections, including memoir excerpts from Updike’s “Self-Consciousness” and the late Reynolds Price’s “A Whole New Life,” have been previously published.
But many poems and stories will be new to readers. Several nonfiction pieces also offer insight into the writing process itself.

In “Ghost, Come Back Again,” for instance, Joseph Bathanti describes how his first visit to Thomas Wolfe’s boyhood home in Asheville launched his writing life. In “Finding Louise,” Josephine Humphreys tells how a chance meeting with a Lumbee Inidian woman on a bus inspired her to write “Nowhere Else on Earth.”

Co-editors of this volume are Anthony Abbott, a poet and retired Davidson College English professor, and Rand Brandes, the Lenoir-Rhyne English professor who started and continues to direct the series.

The two split up the work of contacting authors and requesting submissions, and both ended up securing pieces with which they’re particularly pleased.

Brandes points to “Beacons at Bealtaine,” a poem by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. It has appeared on a website, but has never been collected in a book.

Abbott is proud to have Lee Smith’s “Goodbye to the Sunset Man,” an essay recounting the mental illness and death of her son. “It’s an astonishing piece,” he says.

The volume includes lots of engaging author photos by Hickory photographer David Crosby, plus some photos of contributing writers’ desks and workspaces.

Lenoir-Rhyne has hosted more than 150 authors who aren’t in this book, and that number grows each year. Already, Brandes is working on the next anthology.

The college is launching the book 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Hickory's Barnes & Noble, 2405 Highway 70 Southeast. Nearly a dozen contributing writers will attend.