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.