King’s newest novel is as good as it gets

bookDuring the past 60 years, I have maintained a hearty appreciation for what is called “fantasy/horror” literature. I guess it began with the dark little fairy tales of Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen and yes, the Grimm Fairy Tales, and it extends to the current works of writers like Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker and Angela Carter. My favorite fantasy/horror stories were created by Ray Bradbury, Jonathan Carroll and Stephen King, and if I can qualify my preferences still further, I have a special love for stories with a carnival/circus setting.

Advice for becoming a body ‘gardener’

bookIn French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, Mirielle Guiliano produced a No. 1 New York Times bestseller and became an international sensation, with her book translated into 37 languages. 

Now Guiliano is back with another book regarding les femmes francaises. In French Women Don’t Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude (Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4555-2411-2, 259 pages, $25), Guiliano takes her readers into the secrets of dieting, nutritional supplements, exercise, makeup, rest, and fashion that can help women (and men) fight the effects of aging.

Painted Horses is one for the ages

bookWhen people ask me what I’ve been doing this fall, I tell them I’ve been on a reading jag — reading new novels hot off the press. What I’ve found is that there have been a lot of very good books that have come out in the last year, including some by some very talented new writers who are just coming on the scene. 

Regrets: books I now know I shall never read

bookFor many of us, the bells ringing in the New Year carry a bittersweet tune. We look forward to better times, which means we’ve gone through some hard times. We make resolutions, which means we have found faults in ourselves. Here in the South, we eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day in the hope that these will bring good luck, implying that the past year brought some bad luck. (Note: one research study found that black-eyed peas cause the least amount of flatulence. Seconds, anyone?)

The fascinating evolution of the fool killer

bookOne of the oldest traditional folktales, ‘Godfather Death,’ exists in all cultures; however, the tone of the stories may vary from bleak and grim invocations of death’s certainty to humorous tales of tricksters who scheme to avoid death’s coming. Death becomes personified as a shadowy figure who comes to collect “his due.” 

Along the way, Godfather Death has inspired memorable creative works: film (“The Seventh Seal,” “On Borrowed Time”) and even Appalachian folk tales (“Soldier Jack, the Man Who Caught Death in a Sack”). However, one of the most provocative variations is “The Fool Killler.” In these tales, Death has been transformed into a terrifying agent of divine justice.

A renewed appreciation for ‘The Great Gatsby’

bookIn 1977 I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

That was a year of deep reading for me — Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, Flaubert, and so many others — but it was Gatsby I loved. The novel obsessed me, not so much for its characters or its plot or its literary symbols as for the rhythms of its sentences and the juxtaposition of unlikely adjectives and nouns.

Country noir masterpiece gets its due — again

bookOne of the things that I admire about the New York Review of Books is a special honor that they reserve for what they call the “lost masterpieces of American fiction.” In effect, they acknowledge that occasionally, a major literary work goes unacknowledged. Sometimes, a decade or more goes by and then a noted American critic or author asks, “How did you miss this one?” It seems to have flown in under the radar, undetected and then passed into oblivion. 

Faster than thought: two book covers

op ellisBy Steve Ellis • Guest Columnist

As we leave this political season, which has been nasty, brutal and long, I’d like to offer some thoughts. If you doubt my description of nasty, brutal and long, I remind you of our recent controversy here in Haywood County over the newly elected tax collector.

Start your holiday shopping at the bookstore

bookFor all of you who haven’t started your holiday shopping yet, for you who scorn Black Friday, who keep telling yourselves day after day that you will go buy gifts tomorrow (tomorrow: what a wonderful word!), for all of you who wake at dawn in a cold sweat knowing that you are down to the wire, the holidays can hover like dark clouds at midnight. Gift cards are the backup plan, but then you remember you gave your mother, your siblings, and Uncle Billy-Bob plastic for the Olive Garden for the last five years running. Suddenly your mouth is drier than a sack of Kibbles and Bits, and your hands are shaking the way they did that morning after Billy-Bob’s New Year’s party and you woke face down in his backyard bean patch without a clue as to how you got there.

Tolle Lege: Reading that changed my Life

bookWhen I was 6 years old, I entered the first grade at Boonville Elementary School. For months, various adults had told me I would learn to read in school, and I marched into that old brick schoolhouse eager to acquire this skill. My memory of my return home from that day in school is vivid: I got out of the car, looked at my mother, blurted “They didn’t teach me to read,” and stomped into the house.

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