Still jazzy after all these years

I first discovered Lawrence Ferlinghetti in high school and his book Starting From San Francisco and have read everything he’s ever published. I wrote my junior thesis paper for my English major in college on the light and dark imagery in his poetry. 

In his new book, Litte Boy, practically the whole narrative is concerned with light and dark imagery — in all their guises. Apparently he is still working all that out. I also had the good fortune to be his neighbor in the North Beach community of San Francisco in the 1970s and to spend valuable time with him, first as a member of my generational entourage, then as a friend and collaborator on protest and benefit events and publishing projects during that decade. So, I know Lawrence Ferlinghetti and much of his life story. And his memoiristic “novel” Little Boy, which was just published on his 100th birthday in March, is a stream of consciousness portrayal of those 100 years. 

When love is illuminated

Sarah Hall, born in the Lake District of the Cumbria region of northwestern England in 1974, began to take writing seriously at the age of 20. First as a poet, then as a fiction writer. She studied and earned English and Creative Writing degrees at both Aberystwyth University in Wales and at St. Andrews University in Scotland before moving to North Carolina where she lived for several years before moving back to Norwich, England, where she now makes her home. 

Yiddish noir novel hits the mark

So, how many Yiddish authors do you know? If you’re like me your answer would be none. That is until I happened upon Jacob Dinezon’s (1855-1919)  novel The Dark Young Man (first published in 1877), translated by Tina Lunson and adapted and edited by Scott Hilton Davis and newly released by Jewish Storytelling Press in February. 

A master in our midst

Michael Revere grew up here in these mountains. He went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He hung out with the elite literati there in the 1960s, had a book of his poems published by a press in the Triangle and then hit the road Kerouac style as a rock and roll drummer and headed west. 

His life story is an adventure worthy of a biopic that resulted in his eventual return to his geographic roots where he has been now long enough to raise a couple of children who are now approaching middle age. During all this time he has maintained his allegiances to his first two loves: poetry and his wife Judith. Hence the title of his new book of poems just out by Milky Way Editions titled Hey Jude in honor of his wife and after the Beatles song of the same name. 

You can’t make this stuff up

One of my favorite and most often used aphorisms in this lifetime has been “you can’t make this stuff up.” This adage applies 100 percent to Michael Finkel’s recent national best-selling book The Stranger in the Woods (The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit). Gifted a copy of the book from a friend who had read my book Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods and who thought that I would enjoy reading about “the ultimate hermit,” I dove right into the book and didn’t come up for air until I had reached page 203 at the end of the book.

University of the streets: With new book, WNC writer chronicles the Baby Beat movement

At 69, Thomas Rain Crowe feels pretty good, considering.

“I’m not looking forward to 70, it’s kind of a psychological thing with a lot of people,” he chuckled. “But, I feel great, except for that my body is starting to do what it normally does as it gets older. Certain things start to go down, go out — I’m slowing down.” 

University of the streets

At 69, Thomas Rain Crowe feels pretty good, considering.

“I’m not looking forward to 70, it’s kind of a psychological thing with a lot of people,” he chuckled. “But, I feel great, except for that my body is starting to do what it normally does as it gets older. Certain things start to go down, go out — I’m slowing down.” 

A new writer with an old heart

In a prologue that will make you cry — bringing hackles of guilt to your eyes — Tommy Orange has brought past Native American history front and center and welded it to a story set in present day Oakland, California. “Urban Indians” he refers to his characters and their kin. This is not the Res or  tales told by celebrated Native American authors such as Sherman Alexie and Scott Momaday, but one of urban angst complete with all the modern technology and vibe to which cities are prone. 

Where local and global meet

Do I have one for you! Elaine Neil Orr’s Swimming Between Worlds was recommended to me by Wayne Caldwell and got my further attention after reading Charles Frazier’s endorsement “[Her book is] a perceptive and powerful story told with generosity and grace.” How could I refuse? The review copy arrived in the mail and I was into it the same day. If the cliche “I couldn’t put it down” ever applied to a book of fiction, it certainly applies to this book.

A tribute to the Lord of Scaly Mountain

While it is difficult to write objectively yet critically about someone whom you know personally or about a book whose subject matter and/or authors are familiar, sometimes necessity is more than the mother of invention and you have to do things you normally or ethically wouldn’t do. Such is the case for me in writing a review about the recent publication Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards about the life and legacy of the poet-publisher Jonathan William, whom I knew and was a relative neighbor of mine who lived just up the mountain from my home in Tuckasegee, on Scaly Mountain near the town of Highlands. 

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