The solidarity was evident.
Sitting onstage this past Monday at Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City, I conducted another episode of “Smoky Mountain Voices,” where local characters and officials are interviewed during an extended face-to-face conversation. It’s in an effort to learn more about the people and places that make Western North Carolina such a unique and cherished region.
As a writer, it’s easy to feel that one’s ability is never quite good enough; as a writer in the American South — long a befuddled region characterized by ugly stereotypes highlighting ignorance and violence — even more so.
Just after I bought The Weight of the World, I ran into an old friend of mine who is extremely well-read, and since I knew that he had already read the book and since I value his opinion, I asked, “So, what did you think?”
What would you do?
A pile of drugs. A stack of cash. More money than you’ve ever seen in your life, and more illegal fun and chaos than you ever thought possible. And yet, while standing at this crossroads there’s a dead body on the floor, bullet hole through the head, blood spilling across the floor, ever closer to your shoes, and also your link to the situation.
Novels written by a Western Carolina University professor and by his former student are among the 147 titles in the running for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award, widely acknowledged as one of the top — and most lucrative — honors in the publishing world.
Ron Rash, WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, is nominated for his Above the Waterfall, while David Joy, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WCU, is among the nominees for his Where All Light Tends to Go.
Eighteen-year-old Jacob McNeely, a shy high school dropout from Walter Middleton High School in Jackson County, North Carolina, seems resigned to a bleak future: As the son of Charlie McNeely, the biggest drug dealer in Cashiers Valley (and Laura, a mother who is a hopeless crack addict), his options are woefully limited. He can continue to endure his father’s contempt and abuse as he performs menial (drug-related) tasks, or he can venture into the world outside the mountains ... a prospect for which he has no training or aptitude. (At one point, Jacob wryly notes that he could count the times that his father had been proud of him on one hand, even if he had lost two or three fingers in a saw mill accident.)