One long, three short: reviews and reflections

We are, at our core, remembering and story-making creatures, and stories are one of the chief ways we find meaning in the flow of events.

Historical consciousness is to civilized society what memory is to individual will. 

Why we need honest journalists right now

The ancient philosopher Diogenes used to stroll about Athens holding a lantern to the faces of those he met and claiming he was looking for one honest man.

In the public square of modern America, truth can be just as hard to find.

A story about second chances

A friend in a book club to which I once belonged disliked Anne Tyler’s novel, Saint Maybe. “I’ve read other novels by her,” she said, “and her characters are always eccentrics.”

Her comment brought a smile then and brings one now.

A feast for readers: A Poor Man’s Supper

The years following the Civil War brought great changes to Western North Carolina. The railroads penetrated these coves and mountains, carrying tourists, flat-landers and goods to small towns previously isolated by their forbidding terrain. Following the railroads were the timber barons, eager to harvest the ancient forests and able now to move and sell the lumber to outside buyers. Though many of those native to the region remained in poverty, others were able to make their fortunes in the mountains.

Advice for those ‘Walking Through Hell’

Many among us have committed crimes or wronged other people, dark deeds which we regret and which may well have ruined not only their lives but ours as well.

Our prisons are full of such people, criminals who have repented of their felonies and who on gaining their release resolve to walk a different path. The strangers we pass in the streets or see in the grocery store may hide a firestorm of guilt and self-accusation in their hearts: the man who hasn’t spoken to his father in years, the woman who lost her job for spreading rumors about a fellow employee, the drunk whose addiction left him abandoned by his family, the adulterer who lost his reputation. They are the ones who by wounding others have wounded themselves.

Redemption and Occasional Magic: two books of inspiration

Many readers are familiar with his story. 

Johnny Cash, also known in later life as “The Man in Black,” grew up poor in Arkansas, son of a hard-nosed father and a pious mother. His brother Jack died at age 14 after a horrific sawmill accident, leaving J.R., as he was then called, emotionally crippled for years. 

Writer argues that common sense is not so common

“At the heart of this wonderful book by Robert Curry is the simple belief that you as a human being can govern yourself. That shouldn’t be a controversial proposition, but when an army of federal bureaucrats, university professors, and social science “experts” begin telling you how you ought to be living your life or running your business or raising your children, you might start to wonder. You may begin doubting your own ability to make decisions and to distinguish true from false, with the fundamental faculty of common sense.”

Story delves into illicit affair and its fallout

About halfway through Kate Russell’s My Dark Vanessa (William Morrow, 2020, 372 pages), I nearly put the novel aside. Like many of my fellow Americans, I am suffering the coronavirus blues, a bit down from the daily reports, often contradictory, about death tolls, masks and gloves, social distancing, the shuttering up of schools, businesses, and churches, and the tens of millions of unemployed. My Dark Vanessa, the dark tale of a teacher and his student who become lovers, somehow added to my melancholy.

An old book for today’s mayhem: The True Believer

Let’s take a look at fanatics, particularly political fanatics. Heaven knows there are enough of them around these days, most recently evidenced in the mobs that have looted, burned, and vandalized scores of American cities in the last couple of weeks in reaction to George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis policeman. 

Trailblazers & Traditionalists pulses with life

Years ago, in the parking lot of the Haywood County Public Library, I met a man in his late 20s who worked at the Champion Paper Mill. As we talked about what we did for a living — I was in debt to my eyeballs running a bed-and-breakfast and a bookstore — the man told me that when he was 18 his uncle had helped him buy a house in South Carolina and that he now owned 10 other houses, which he rented out. Fascinated by the history of the West, he made an annual trek every summer to places like Texas and the Dakotas to study first hand what he had read about in books. On his latest expedition he had traveled to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.