Discovering the dawn

In April I began working a few weekend hours in a bookshop in Asheville. Having operated my own bookstore for more than 20 years and having worked in bookstores for 10 years before that, I took up this newest position as a way of keeping my rather dusty, book-begrimed hand in the business.

A Melange of murder and myth

If you have a TV, you probably know that the film version of Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel is scheduled for release this month. According to a bevy of movie commentators, their projections indicate that “The Da Vinci Code” will be the most popular film of the summer (and possibly, of the decade). Of course, the book has already eclipsed all “best-seller” records with 8 million copies sold in just the first year.

Love sex print: Two different treatments of this oh-so-important ritual

Well, it’s spring — a beautiful spring indeed this year — and that time on the calendar when a young man’s fancy turns to love.

A lost soul finds a home

On a spring night in 1929, Mary Seneca Steele escapes from her home in Charleston, taking only her two children (Pet and Hugh), a new Auburn Phaeton (belonging to her abusive, shiftless husband, Hubert (Foots) Pettigrew Lamb, and $33. Her destination is a little vague: somewhere over 300 miles to the northwest. Beyond the North Carolina and South Carolina line, Mary “Sen” hopes to find safe harbor with “her father’s people.” Armed only with her memory of her deceased father’s tales of a near-mythical mountain realm inhabited by the Steeles and their kin, this feisty little woman is making a desperate bid for a new life.

Of Rhyme and Reason: Books to celebrate National Poetry Month

Besides being what T.S. Eliot called “the cruelest month/Breeding lilacs out of the dead land,” April is also National Poetry Month. To do honor to poetry, let’s look at two books that have much to do with the poem and with the poet.

King’s zombie nation

Yes dear reader, when Stephen King’s dread armies of the mindless begin their apocalyptic trudge through the devastated towns of New England, they march to the sweet trills of Debbie Boone. As they tread their way around the bodies of their murdered victims, or as they gather by the thousands each night in football stadiums and parking lots, they hum to the electronic whine of countless battery-powered tape decks (all eerily playing the same song).

Simple significance

Writers typically aim to give the reader a protagonist who is likeable. Most of us don’t want to spend hours of our life getting to know protagonists who leave us cold inside, central characters who are so odd or so unlike ourselves in some basic way that we end the book loathing them.

An attempt to straighten the world

There is a passage in the heart of Ron Rash’s novel, The World Made Straight, in which Leonard Shuler remembers a visit to Shelton Laurel with his grandfather shortly before Shuler leaves to attend the University of North Carolina.

Books that evoke special times

Sometimes a book touches our hearts in a very special way. In the winter and spring of 1978, having saved from our combined incomes of the previous year, my wife and I celebrated our January wedding by traveling for three months to Europe. We lived there cheaply, as young people traditionally do. With friends we shared an apartment in Switzerland for a month. In March we fell in love with Italy, staying in rooms for as little as $4 per night and exploring Rome and the southern coastline.

Leaving no doubt behind

About 15 years ago, one frequent guest at our bed and breakfast here in Waynesville was a Mrs. Irene Harrison, wife of a well-known New York state attorney and daughter of Charles Seiberling, the tire manufacturer. Though Mrs. Harrison was 106 years old on her last visit here, she maintained an intense and often eccentric interest in politics, remaining convinced, for example, that fluoridated water involved some sort of government plot against the American people. Once, as I passed through the parlor where she and her son nightly debated current political developments, I stopped and asked her, “Mrs. Harrison, you’ve obviously seen quite a few presidents in your lifetime. Which do you judge to be the best among them?”

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