Tracing the human family tree

As someone who was an anthropology major in college and have been somewhat obsessed by the truth behind the idea of human evolution, discovering best-selling, prize-winning Canadian author Claire Cameron’s 2017 novel, The Last Neanderthal (Little Brown & Co., 2017, 273 pages), not only came as a surprise, but as I began reading, soon became a revelation. Instinctively, I have never cottoned to Darwin’s ideas or path to contemporary human existence. It’s too linear, too set in stone for variation or the unexpected or the undiscovered. 

Sitting in the sweetgrass of freedom

“I want to dance for the renewal of the world.” —Robin Wall Kimmerer

Lost and found in the woods

It has been said that the best place to start a story is at the beginning. With the first page of John Lane’s new novel Whose Woods These Are (Mercer University Press, 2020, 224 pg.) we literally begin at the beginning. “The first woods grew up far back in time, ancient as the last Ice Age, back beyond any notion we would call now.” After a brief description of how a woodlands came to be formed and how it looked through the ages up until the present day, we find ourselves in the western-most uplands of South Carolina and in the woods with two families who own hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of undeveloped property and living side by side. 

A train ride through Prohibition-era NC

“We are here on this earth separated from God, so that we might learn and grow.” — Jedidiah Robbins

If there’s anything to the bumperstickers that read “Buy Local” (and I think there is), then that not only applies to the food produced in our region but the literature too.

Two for the price of one

When I find an author I like, I usually get on a roll reading several of their books. Such was and has been the case with Sue Monk Kidd. I started off with her most recent novel The Book of Longings, then went to the Jackson County Public Library in Sylva and borrowed a copy of The Mermaid Chair, another novel. Still wanting more, I branched out into some of her nonfiction as I wanted to get into the author’s head. To do this, I went to the library again and read the book she wrote with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, titled Traveling With Pomegranates. Having already reviewed The Book of Longings in this paper, in this review I’m going to try and flush out two birds with one drone.

In her own words

If you’re like me and are interested in or curious about the day-to-day life and especially the early life of Jesus — the so-called missing years — then you’re probably going to like Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, The Book of Longings. 

A meeting of two great minds

Looking for a reading challenge and something with a little depth to it? If so, then I’ve got the book for you. I’ve always had a curious nature and have a “want to know” mind and have an interest in physics, metaphysics and religious thought. And what we have in The Quantum and the Lotus is a meeting of the minds discussing  those three schools of thought. Matthieu Ricard was a molecular biologist in France who became a Buddhist monk now living in Kathmandu, Nepal. Trinh Xuan Thuan was born into a Buddhist family in Vietnam and is now an acclaimed astrophysicist teaching at the University of Virginia here in the U.S. Interesting, the reversing of roles early on. 

Back to the future

If it’s true that timing is everything, then Ben Okri’s new novel The Freedom Artist is right on time. 

As we, here, in Western North Carolina are going through an unparalleled time of trauma and uncertainty, Okri’s most recent novel opens up like a mirror for how at the present moment our country is organized for inequality and ineffectiveness in terms of proper governance and freedom of the individual. In a country that claims to be “the land of the free,” the United States of America is rapidly moving in the direction of “the land of the prisoner.” And Okri uses the word “prison” in his new novel to emphasize how his fictional system of governance is set up to keep people in line and asleep when it comes to self-realization and equanimity. 

Fire, fire burning bright … the notebooks of Leonard Cohen

In some literary and music circles the debate continues as to whom is the best songwriter of the 20th and current 21st centuries. In circles I travel in, this debate usually comes down to either Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. 

A legend re-told: the story of Crazy Horse

On Feb. 8, William B. Matson and members of the Clown/Crazy Horse family were scheduled to give a talk at the Jackson County Library in Sylva. I planned to attend, but unfortunately that was the day of the only snow and ice storm we’ve had all winter. So, as soon as I could get out I went to the library and checked out a copy of the as-told-to biography of the Crazy Horse/Clown family Crazy Horse: The Lakota Warrior’s Life & Legacy written by William Matson. 

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