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Wednesday, 13 August 2014 14:06

Novel explores life in Chairman Mao’s China

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After running into numerous critical references to this little novel, which has won a series of international awards and has…
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 14:19

A critic’s guide to literary genres renamed

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Not so long ago, a neighbor in the building where I love in Montford, a budding comedian in her early…
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 13:35

Stephen King’s newest is more noir than horror

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Each time Stephen King is interviewed, he finds himself responding to the same question: “Where do you get your ideas?”…
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 13:26

Summer reading always takes a different tack

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For whatever reason — the leisurely pace of days, the break in my work routine, the annual trip to the…
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 14:52

Harlem Hellfighters deserve their due

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I have always been something of a fanatic about graphic novels and my collection includes Maus (which depicts the holocaust…
Wednesday, 09 July 2014 03:32

Give thanks to Burroughs for telling us ‘how’

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This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More, For Young and…
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 13:03

A story of Jackson County’s Hooper-Watson feud

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Since I happen to love folklore and storytelling, I have always felt blessed to be a resident of Jackson County.…
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 13:59

Book examines alcohol and the writer’s life

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Let’s begin by noting the continuing biographical interest in writers and drinking. In my own collection are Tom Dardis’s The…
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 13:58

Old West comes alive in Enger novel

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If you love epic tales that celebrate the American West; if you treasure novels like Trail of the Lonesome Dove,…
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 14:15

Trio of quality books explore facets of faith

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Back in the day when the “culture wars” focused more on literature, music and movies — Tipper Gore, for example,…
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 00:00

Dark story explores love, retribution

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I have always been drawn to authors who can seize your attention in the first paragraph and like a pit…
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 14:45

A frank look at monogamy through the ages

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In our tell-all age of talk shows and reality television, of Facebook and Twitter, the idea that restraint and repression…
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:18

Social media gone awry in this compelling novel

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In recent years, I have developed a growing discomfort with the Internet. Services like Facebook, Amazon, Linked-in have become increasingly…
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:25

The excitement in a bag full of books

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Recently I returned from a trip to the library with a bagful of books. When handling these books in the…
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 14:39

The Jane Goodall of sea turtles

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As I write this, I am wondering if I should disqualify myself from writing a review about a book written…
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

A story in which nothing is as it seems

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Early in this novel, an old retired teacher with Alzheimer’s, mistaking a visitor for his son, gives the young man…
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 13:55

Curmudgeon offers words of wisdom

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May is fast approaching, and with May comes the season of graduations. Daughters and sons, nephews and nieces, young people…
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 14:37

Bleak story has far-reaching implications

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Russell Banks knows how to hook the reader’s interest. In the opening pages of Lost Memory of Skin, the book’s…
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:17

A well-written, lively look through history

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In the first half of the fifteenth century, decades before Columbus set sail, the great Chinese admiral Zheng He commanded…
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 14:42

Disappearances, nightmares and a sense of terror

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Some 30 years ago, a science-fiction writer named Whitney Striber wrote a novel called Wolfen, and it frightened me badly. The…
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

Finding elusive love in the modern world of dating

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“Chick-lit” is, of course, the slang expression for those books appealing especially to women. Though not politically correct, most men…
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 13:17

Wading into a few of my favorite ‘dipper’ books

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Some books — novels, certain histories and biographies — deserve full immersion. We dive into them, plummet into their depths,…
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 02:38

Distilling the life of blues legend Robert Johnson

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I have always been fascinated by the folklore attending the too-short life of Robert Johnson, “King of the Delta Blues…
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:49

Of rhyme and reason, for better or worse

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Poetry. Po-e-tree. A word with a lovely sound, but with bleak connotations.
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 15:47

A poetic description of a savage time

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It took me almost a year to read this book. I kept losing it, leaving it in restaurants and other…
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:03

Mailer — a man of his time and shaper of it

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In the Prologue to Norman Mailer: A Double Life (978-1-4391-5019-1, 2013, $40), biographer J. Michael Lennon writes that “Mailer’s desire…
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 15:40

‘Night Film’ is a tiring yet mesmerizing read

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I did not like this book. My first response on finishing it was that I would not review it, but there…
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 16:20

Raising youth in the digital age

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Four years ago in November, a schoolteacher in Knoxville asked her English class to write a composition on family dinner…
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 15:21

Slave narratives an insightful collection

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This remarkable collection of interviews with African-Americans in North Carolina who were once slaves is a fascinating discovery. Conducted by the…
In Voyage To Alpha Centauri (Ignatius Press, ISBN 978-1-58617-832-1), Michael O’Brien, Canadian writer and painter, gives us a grand tale…
Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00

The remaking of a learned writer

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The new year is a time when many people, dissatisfied with some condition of their lives, resolve to make changes.…
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 00:00

Koch novel a hearty serving of words, plot

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Back in 1981, a provocative film called “My Dinner With Andre” created quite a stir by reducing drama to the…
The times in which we live may someday be celebrated for our advancements in medicine, technology and education, but surely…
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 15:31

Santa and reindeer and drones… Oh my!

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I was never a fan of drone missiles. Until now, I had always regarded drones as killing machines or mechanical spies.…
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 16:24

‘Green’ text more relevant today than ever

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Although this book was published over a decade ago, A Fierce Green Fire has grown steadily in popularity and is…
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 15:58

Can you believe the gall of this grafter Jeff Minick?

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By Joe Ecclesia My name is Joe Ecclesia, and I have a bone the size of an elephant’s thigh to…
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:00

Tarrt delivers once again — a decade later

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I first encountered a Donna Tartt novel some 20 years ago when a friend reverently placed a copy of The…
Wednesday, 13 November 2013 14:32

Hays’ new book succeeds on several levels

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In What I Came To Tell You (Egmont Publishers, ISBN 9781606844335, $16.99), local author Tommy Hayes brings us the story…
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 02:47

Vintage King is a frightening prospect

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It has been more than 30 years since Stephen King published The Shining, but I still remember that little kid,…
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 02:01

To those teachers who exacted excellence

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Book reviews shouldn’t begin with dedications. But with Strings Attached (ISBN 978-1-4013-2466-7, $24.99) being the book under review, I feel…
Wednesday, 23 October 2013 00:00

A ‘writer’s writer’ delves into 1929 explosion

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I am convinced that author Daniel Woodrell is what is frequently referred to as “a writer’s writer.” In other words,…
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 13:43

Some old-fashioned lessons for living

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Google books on parenting, and you will find thousands — tens of thousands — of titles. There are books on…
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 02:40

A warts and all biography of a WNC original

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I first encountered Robert Henry’s name some 30 years ago in Lyman Draper’s account of the Battle of Kings Mountain…
Thursday, 03 October 2013 01:18

Jim Harrison keeps churning out quality writing

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Jim Harrison is an American phenomenon. Not only has he written more than 30 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction…
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 15:09

Another AT book, but a new set of lessons

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An online visit reveals hundreds of books written on hiking the Appalachian Trail. These range from Bill Bryson’s A Walk…
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 14:18

New Burke novel is not to be

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In Light of the World (ISBN 978-1-4767-1076-1, $27.99), James Lee Burke once again gives readers writing cut and polished like…
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 14:42

The lost West in all its violent glory

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I have always had a fondness for great, sprawling epics, especially if they chronicle the downfall of a family/dynasty that acquired…
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 14:41

A realistic, refreshing look at teaching

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For most students, parents, and teachers, autumn rather than spring is the season of budding growth, new life, and hope.
Wednesday, 28 August 2013 03:31

Carden’s new book depicts Appalachian bestiary

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By Newton Smith • Contributor Gary Carden, local bard, playwright, host of the Liars Bench and reviewer for The Smoky Mountain…