An excellent history lesson

Having recently read and reviewed for the Smoky Mountain Living magazine Vicki Lane’s And The Crows Took Their Eyes, a fine novel set in Madison County during the Civil War and focused on the Shelton Laurel Massacre, this week I returned to that era with J.L. Askew’s War In The Mountains: The Macbeth Light Artillery at Asheville, N.C. 1864-1865 (Covenant Books, Inc., 2020, 535 pages).

Lit-bits: a wild week with books and words

Sometimes I feel waist deep not in flood waters, troubles, quandaries, or even grandchildren, but in books, literature, literary classics, movies based on books, questions about authors, and friends and family members either recommending titles I should read or asking me what books they should read.

A look inside a Nazi family

About 10 years ago, I was standing in the checkout line at my local Ingles. The clerk, age 19 or 20, tattooed and pierced, was telling a customer, clearly an acquaintance, that she couldn’t wait until society fell apart and we’d all be forced to survive by our wits and resources.

Ginseng, family, friends and home

Many of us who read novels find ourselves in awe of authors who create a landscape and a place so well that we can see the fields and forests, hear the birds, and feel the sunshine and rain on our faces. 

Joys and comforts of cooking: Kitchen Yarns

Before taking a look at Ann Hood’s Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food (W.W. Norton & Company, 229 pages), I feel compelled to make two personal points. 

Though I can whip up a tasty breakfast — my wife and I operated a Waynesville bed-and-breakfast for 15 years — and my gazpacho soup and quiche with salad have brought me compliments from family and friends, I am no longer much of a cook. Living alone these past six years, I mostly subsist on low-calorie microwave meals, bagged salads, grocery store rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, and canned soups. Occasionally I’ll cook up a big pot of chicken soup and live on that for two or three days, but over half of the ingredients come out of cans. 

For what would you lay down your life?

Not everyone will enjoy Michael Walsh’s Last Stands: Why Men Fight When All Is Lost (St. Martin’s Press, 2020, 358 pages). His thoughts in the Introduction regarding masculinity and traditional reasons why men have fought wars since the dawn of history — to protect their women and children, their homes and homeland — may offend some.

Life, dreams, canoes and rivers

One fond childhood memory involves a yellow fiberglass canoe and the Yadkin River. My dad, one of my younger brothers, and I took to those waters several times, and when I was a teenager, my brother, a friend, and I made several overnight trips without adult supervision, camping on islands, cooking over an open fire, and pushing off again the next day.

Secrets, winning friends, and ‘Ivanhoe’

All families have their secrets, but some families have deeper and darker secrets than others. In June Titus’s novel Banjo Man (Fulton Books, Inc. 2020, 258 pages), we meet such a family.

A resolution to get back to the books

Harper Lee of To Kill A Mockingbird fame once wrote, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved reading. One does not love breathing.”

Folks and faith: two books about the South

In his short essay, “Dear Santa (Again),” Rick Bragg writes, “For my big brother Sam, I would like you to send a cinder block. He can place it atop his foot, when he drives. I once wrote that all he needed to pass for an old woman behind the wheel was a pillbox hat and pearls, but have since decided that is insulting … to old women. Old women blow right past him.”

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