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.

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. 

Soldiers who shaped our nation

May the memory of these men sustain us all and remind us of their sacrifice to secure our freedom. May we never forget their bravery and all they gave up so that we might live free. We are forever indebted to these heroes, whose unknown valor we are obligated to know.

Churchill’s spirit comes through in new biography

Sometimes in a crisis it helps to take a look in the rearview mirror.

In The Splendid And The Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (Crown Publishers, 2020, 546 pages), Eric Larson vividly revives those days when Britain stood alone against Nazi war machine and suffered almost daily aerial attacks on its military bases and cities. The Battle for Britain left 44,652 dead, 5,626 of them children, and wounded 52,370. After watching one of these attacks on a beautiful English night, John Colville, Assistant Private Secretary to Churchill, wrote in his diary “Never was there such a contrast of natural splendor and human vileness.”

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. 

This pandemic may bring us closer

Weird, weird, weird.

Every morning until about two months ago, the online sites I visit daily offered accounts of someone — a celebrity, a politician, or an ordinary American — accused by another of racism, homophobia, misogyny, or some other social peccadillo demanding the cat o’ nine tails and a flogging post. We were a country divided by identity politics, a nation more at war with itself, or so we were told, than at any time since the Civil War.

Four essential reads for the Anthropocene

By Boyd Holliday • Guest Writer | Concerned about the reports of global climate change? Depressed? Confused by the competing arguments of warring sides? Can’t find signs of hope? May I suggest four resources that will inform and inspire?

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.