Tuesday, February 24, 2015

U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright reading at Davidson College Thursday

Charles Wright by Dan Addison

"It's not just a bunch of words," says U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright. "Language has purpose," The 1957 Davidson graduate will be the star of "An Evening with Charles Wright" at 8 p.m. on Thursday in Duke Family Performance Hall on the Davidson College campus.
Wright chose Davidson as an  undergraduate because his parents wanted him to have a proper education. He majored in history, but his greatest desire was to write fiction. One thing he learned at Davidson was that he was not a storyteller -- a shock for the Tennessee-born student.

He gave up on the idea of writing fiction, but later, in Italy, Wright happened on the poems of Ezra Pound, and, as he told the Paris Review, "I discovered a form that seemed suited to my mental and emotional inclinations -- the lyric poem, a form that seemed suited to my mental and emotional inclinations -- the lyric poem, a form, or subgenre, I guess, that didn't depend on a narrative structure, but on an imagistic one, an associational one."

The author of 20 books, Wright has won every prize awarded to poets, including the Pulitzer Prize. He is retired from the University of Virginia where he taught English literature and creative writing.

The reading is free and open to the public. However, tickets are required. They are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Alvarez College Union ticket office. They are also available for $3 by calling the ticket office (704-894-2135) or by reserving online.

Read Tmore here: http://readinglifeobs.blogspot.com/search?q=Charles+Wright#storylink=cpy

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Body Tourist author at Park Road Books this Saturday

Dana Shavin
Reviewers have been calling Dana Shavin's memoir, The Body Tourist, riveting, brilliant, witty, insightful, courageous and ...excruciating.

The Body Tourist is the Atlanta native's personal journey into and out of anorexia. One reviewer calls it "the biography of an illness as stubborn as the woman determined to kill it.."

Another reviewer says Shavin can "write with both hands."

You can hear the author read and talk about her book at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Park Road Books.

A former therapist, Shavin now makes her living as certified life coach and as an artist and a writer. Since 2002, she has been a monthly columnist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and she is editor of the Chattanooga Jewish Federation newspaper, the Shofar.

WHAT: Dana Shavin will read and sign copies of The Body Tourist. 

WHEN: 11 a.m., Saturday

WHERE: Park Road Books, Park Road Shopping Center, 4139 Park Rd., Charlotte, 28209.

COST:  Free and open to the public.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dan Fesperman to talk on drones at Park Road Books Friday


Drones. The very word sounds invasive.

On Friday, at 5:30 p.m., at Park Road Books, Dan Fesperman, a Charlotte native and a 1972 graduate of Olympic High School, will talk about his new thriller -- his ninth -- called "Unmanned" (Knopf, $26.95).

A former reporter for the Baltimore Sun, Fesperman draws his plots from his own  international assignments to Pakistan, Germany, Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Reviewing the novel for the Wall Street Journal, Howard Gordon says:

Dan Fesperman's excellent and timely ninth thriller, Unmanned, "...explores the ethical conundrums of the most potent new weapon in the American arsenal: the unmanned aerial drone. Watching our enemy from the sky is one thing, but what if those same eyes are looking down at us? And who is watching the watchers? Unmanned is a smart and thoughtful exploration of the unintended consequences of waging war by remote control."

WHAT: Dan Fesperman reads and answers questions about his new novel.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte, 28209
COST: Free and open to the public.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Poet Philip Levine dead at 87: Home and far from home

Philip Levine

I didn't know the poet Philip Levine. I never met him, and I never heard him read, except on the Bill Moyers show in 2013 on TV.
But I loved him from afar.
Called the working man's poet, Levine died Saturday of pancreatic and liver cancer in Fresno, Calif. He was 87.
Born in 1928 in Detroit to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Levine grew up in the midst of the Great Depression. His heroes were the ordinary folks who worked at hopeless jobs simply to stave off poverty. Noted for his interest in the grim reality of the blue-collar worker, Levine resolved "to find a voice for the voiceless" while working from age 13 in the auto plants of Detroit. A former U.S. Poet Laureate, Levine won the Pulitzer Prize, twice the National Book Award, and in 2014, the $100,000 Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement.

Here's one of my favorite of his poems.


Sixteen years ago, in the high meadows
on the French side of the mountains, a clear
April morning, a warm wind slowing
through the young grains and grasses, the sun
touching everything with yellow light, I called
to my son Teddy, then fifteen, to come see,
and he left the car to stand beside me. He spoke
first, in a voice the wind half-swallowed, to say
something about the sweetness and the air
at this height. I had been asking a farmer
if he knew was the pass to Adorra open. Yes,
of course, on a day like this, and he laughed
his great laugh, a thickly built man
sweating in the open wool shirt high above
me on the tractor seat. I felt my wife's hand
in mine, squeezing, and turned in time to see
her holding back the tears for a moment before
they overflowed. Just the three of us, home and far
from home, a tiny family on so vast a plain,
with forty miles to go, yet were there.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Anne Tyler on inspiration, routine and the power of the unconcious

Pulitzer-winning novelist Anne Tyler, whose 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread," was published last week by Knopf, was interviewed in the summer of 1992 by the Virginia Quarterly Review. She talks about not relying on inspiration, on what makes a routine and how sleep often solves her writing problems.

Tyler doesn’t wait for an inspiration before she begins writing. She makes writing a routine, reviewing a bit of her previous day’s work and then starting again, following the characters through the plots. “It’s like playing dolls,” she believes. “Writing is a sort of way of disobeying two major rules I heard as a child: stop daydreaming and stop staring into space.” To Tyler, tapping her imagination “is really an extension of day dreaming. I just sit around thinking “What if?” about things.” The process of writing for Tyler is one of continual discovery.
 Tyler has been writing thoughts and observations on white, unlined index cards since high school. The cards are eventually filed in a small metal box; divided by chapter number, the box also has “extra,” “general,” “look up,” and “revise” sections.
 When starting a novel, Tyler reads through her file of cards and selects ones that bring to mind interesting associations, looking for a story that will tie them together. As characters emerge and develop in her imagination, she explores their personalities. Before she begins writing, she insists on knowing her characters intimately so that she will understand each person’s reaction to the events that occur. Only after this preparatory period is over will she be able to outline the novel, using a single sheet of paper and one or two sentences per chapter.
 While she sleeps, she told an interviewer, “some sort of automatic pilot works then to solve problems in my plots; I go to bed trustful that they’ll be taken care of by morning. And toward dawn I often wake up and notice, as if from a distance, that my mind is still churning out stories without any help from me at all.”
 Tyler frequently suffers from insomnia from two to four in the morning, a malady she believes she inherited from her family. She says that half of her family “fights” this condition; the other half gets something done. Tyler uses those wakeful hours to write on index cards.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gail Peck Reads from 'Within Two Rooms' Sunday at Park Road Books

Gail Peck

Before Charlotte poet Gail Peck could give her first reading for her new chapbook, "Within Two Rooms" (Finishing Line Press), she learned that a full-length poetry manuscript, "The Braided Light," had won the Lena Shull Book Contest, sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society.

Her prize is $250 and a reading in March at Catawba College in Salisbury. Former poet laureate Fred Chappell calls "The Braided Light," about Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, "a poignant envisioning of visions, a look into the heart of light." Main Street Rag will publish this book in March.

Meanwhile, back at the chapbook ranch, Peck will read from "Within Two Rooms" at 2 p.m. Sunday at Park Road Books. Charlotte poet and essayist Rebecca McClanahan calls these  poems "a bittersweet litany of praise for the world the mother teaches us to notice, and to love."

WHAT: A poetry reading by Charlotte's Gail Peck
WHEN: 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 15.
WHERE: Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, Charlotte 28209
COST: Free and open to the public


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Margaret Walker once sued Alex Haley for copyright infringement

Margaret Walker
Carolyn Brown's "Song of My Life: A Biography of Margaret Walker" (University Press of Mississippi, $20), is a new look at the prize-winning poet and author of "Jubilee," a semi-fictional historical novel based on the author's bi-racial grandmother. In the biography, I learned many things I had not known.

  • That Walker and husband "Alex" Alexander began their married life in 1943 in High Point, N.C.
  • That Walker began her teaching career at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C. in 1940.
  • That Walker was the first African-American woman selected to attend Yaddo, an artist's retreat in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Also in residence with Walker were Carson McCullers, Langston Hughes and Jean Stafford.
  • That Walker sued Alex Haley, author of the Pulitzer-winning book, "Roots," for copyright infringement for "significant parallels between her "Jubilee" and Haley's "Roots"...enough to lead her to believe that he had stolen her work." Walker did not win the case, but she considered it "time well spent" for what she learned about copyright infringement. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

John David Smith on 'Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops'

John David Smith, author of  "Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops," will give a free public lecture at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday at UNC Charlotte Center City, 320 E. Ninth Street, in Uptown Charlotte.

The book tells two stories: Lincoln's decision to use African Americans to keep the Union in tact and the yeoman service of the more than 180,000 black soldiers who wore the Union blue. 

Smith is the Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of History at UNCC, and he is also the author of "We Ask Only for Even-Handed Justice: Black Voices from Reconstruction, 1865-1877," and "Soldiering for Freedom; How the Union Army Recruited, Trained and Deployed the U.S. Colored Troops" (with Bob Luke.)

The event is sponsored by  UNCC's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the J. Murrey Atkins Library at UNCC.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Jason Mott on D.G. Martin's 'North Carolina Book Watch' Sunday

Jason Mott
 Jason Mott, author of the recent novel, "The Wonder of all Things," is a writer's writer. I was lucky enough to moderate a panel last fall on which he served. He was extremely articulate about the writing life and his no-nonsense approach to tackling a novel, and he gave the audience valuable tips on what to do when you're stuck: keep writing.
Mott will be on D.G. Martin's "North Carolina Book Watch" this Sunday at noon and again on Thursday at 5 p.m. (UNC-TV).
I'm hoping Martin will ask him what inspired his first novel, "The Returned," on which the ABC television series, "Resurrection," is based.
His latest, "The Wonder of All Things," concerns a 13-year-old girl who has amazing healing powers. But each time she uses her powers, there's a cost to her.
You don't want to miss this inspiring writer from Bolton, N.C.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Betty Adcock's 'Widow Poems' -- 'conversations shredding in the wind'

Almost four years ago, Raleigh poet Betty Adcock lost her long-time husband, Don, a jazz musician. His death has changed her life, of course, and over the ensuing months, the poems began to come. Poems, she says, that were "hard to write, hard to live through," and the book, she says, "has changed her, too. I care much less for some things and much more for other things than I used to."
Now her chapbook "Widow Poems" (Jacar Press), $12.95) from which the following is taken.

The Widow's House

seems to be coming apart -- pieces
of wall, snatches of a rug, chair-rungs,
shingles, plumbing, lamps and doorknobs.
Glass shatters from rows of still-framed 
faces. The mirrors are dusking over,
no longer disclosing.

                              Everything floats
as if gravity has left the place. It's not
violent; it is a loosening, a soundless
disengagement. Even her body has become 
otherwise, flesh that can no longer
recognize itself.

Perhaps it is she who has gone to ash,
gone to ground and the dark.
She has asked so hard for him,
crying out in the night, weeping into
pots on the stove, roses in the yard.

Perhaps she is the ghost 
in the house they built dissolving,
turning now as if in the grip of a slowed
tornado, air full of what could be
confetti in some kind of decelerating
celebration: music, books, conversations
shredding in the wind that memory
always becomes -- unfastened, recasting,
disheveling as the end of lovemaking.
She sits on a splintered floor
surrounded by the done-for.

Betty Adcock is the author of six collections of poetry from LSU Press. She has taught for many years at Meredith College in Raleigh and most recently at the low-residency Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers in Swannanoa, N.C. To order the book: Jacarpress.com

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hubbard's 'And We Stay' named Printz Honor Award book by ALA


Some people won't answer the phone if they don't recognize the number. I'm not one of those people. It could be a free trip to Paris or to the Grand Canyon or maybe someone's offering great gobs of cash. Who knows what awaits?

On the other hand, Jennifer Hubbard, a young adult novelist who once taught at Charlotte Country Day School and now lives in Salisbury, doesn't answer strange numbers.

You might say what happened recently will change that.

The call came on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday. Jennifer was at home, working the New York Times cross-word puzzle. Ring. Ring. The phone showed a Tennessee area code.

She let it ring.

Jennifer and her husband went out to dinner, and the calls continued. Once. Twice. She ignored  each one.

As she was stepping into Salsibury's Keppel Auditorium for a performance of the North Carolina Symphony: ring, ring. This time, a New York number. Jennifer listened to the voice mail, which chastised her for not answering the previous calls.

So Jennifer returns the Tennessee call and learns that...

Her 2014 young adult novel, And We Stay, had been named a Printz Honor Book!

Now, what does this mean exactly?

The Michael L. Printz Award, given annually by the American Library Association, honors the best book written for teens based on its literary merit. In addition, the Printz Committee names up to four honor books, which also represent the best writing in young adult literature.
So Jennifer's book now keeps company with past winners of the Printz Honor, including The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak, and Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
This means that And We Stay will be in print for a long time to come. It also means that every library in the country will want to have a copy on its shelves. It means a lot of things, really, but most of all, Jennifer's hoping it means that her work will be taught in high schools, and that she'll be invited to talk with students about it. 

Oh, and Sofia Coppola, if you are reading this, Jennifer would also very much like for you to be the one to adapt the novel into a screenplay and direct the film version.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Shelby Foote on aging, Joan Crawford dancing and Thomas Wolfe

The Paris Review interviewed Shelby Foote at his house in Memphis, Tenn., in 1999, and Foote  talked about various subjects, including his use of real ink and blotters, which were getting almost impossible to find. Foote, of course, is the author of the monumental trilogy: The Civil War: A Narrative, but he continued to think of himself as a novelist. In 1999, he was still working on his yet-to-be finished novel, Two Gates to the City. 
When he mentions Thomas Wolfe below, he is obviously referring to their time at UNC-Chapel Hill. Foote did not graduate, but holed himself up n the library and plotted his own course of study.
At the time of the interview, Foote wa 83 and, unbidden, began to talk about aging.


Getting old has way more virtues that it has faults, if you leave out the pain you might suffer if you have some serious injury. But I take great pleasure in being able to look back on things. I remember certain little scenes that are almost meaningless, like Thomas Wolfe coming up the library steps while I was coming down, being with William Faulkner and talking to him about his work, all kinds of things. I remember a sky without a jet trail. I remember Joan Crawford dancing. I remember Roosevelt’s fireside chats and people sitting in front of the radio, like warming their hands in front of a stove. Everyone on the face of the earth has such remembrances if he lives long enough. I’m eighty years old now, which is almost inconceivable to me. I don’t believe it for an instant. 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

All I want is to hunker under the covers and read 'The Girl on the Train'


Never mind washing the dog, if we had a dog.
Never mind feeding the cat, if we had a cat.
Never mind stuffing the pillows with water fowl feathers, if we had water fowl feathers.

Never mind the blackberry pie I promised I'd bake.

Never mind. Never mind.

All I really want is to hunker under the covers today and read Paula Hawkins' smash hit, "The Woman on the Train."

Even Stephen King tweeted that it kept him up all night. "The alcoholic narrator is dead perfect," he wrote.

Critics are calling the bestseller by the UK author "compulsively readable," a "Hitchccokian thriller" and comparing it to "Gone Girl" and "The Silent Wife."

The hardcover is in its 10th printing and DreamWorks has optioned it for a movie, according to USA Today .

What's it about? Rachel, the woman on a train, is alcoholic and obsessed with a couple she sees from the window on her commute to London. They seem the perfect couple to her until the morning she sees something that draws her into a possible murder investigation.

Who's Paula Hawkins? A Londoner who admits to a darker side of her personality. She worked as a journalist for 15 years before publishing three novels under a pseudonym -- "chick-lit," she calls them. And, without being told, we know -- and celebrate -- that she's now remarkably wealthy.