Cormac McCarthy

I imagine every writer fantasizes about having his/her writing made into successful books – and then movies. 
This has been McCarthy's fortune. He's a skilled and stylized writer whose work has drawn as much criticism as praise. but his work has influenced my own – and that's perhaps the greatest praise a writer can achieve.

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Cormac McCarthy was born in Rhode Island on July 20, 1933. He is the third of six children (the eldest son) born to Charles Joseph and Gladys Christina McGrail McCarthy (he has two brothers and three sisters). Originally named Charles (after his father), he renamed himself Cormac after the Irish King (another source says that McCarthy's family was responsible for legally changing his name to the Gaelic equivalent of "son of Charles").

via www.cormacmccarthy.com

Tim Gautreaux

I'm originally from Louisiana, but I never realized, despite the state's colorful history, that a modern writer was depicting Louisiana and its history so accurately. Once discovered, Gautreaux has become another positive for the ol' home state. Below is a review from across the "pond" of one of his more recent efforts.

 
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Website of the Telegraph Media Group with breaking news, sport, business, latest UK and world news. Content from the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers and video from Telegraph TV. Enhanced by Google

via www.telegraph.co.uk

Terry Kay

 
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I thought I'd highlight here a few of the U.S.'s lesser known but most respected novelists. Georgia's Terry Kay is certainly one.

I first became acquainted with Kay's "To Dance With The White Dog," which was made into a movie.

Terry Kay's novels include Taking Lottie Home, The Runaway, Shadow Song, and the now-classic To Dance with the White Dog, twice nominated for the American Booksellers Book of the Year Award, and winner of the Southeastern Library Association Book of the Year Award. Terry Kay has been married for 44 years and has four children and seven grandchildren. He lives in Athens, Georgia.

via authors.simonandschuster.com

Order Within The Maelstrom


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Been Down So Long It
Looks Like Up To Me
, by Richard Fariña

 

Buddhist theory, I’ve heard, proclaims that the human
nervous system’s prime function is to find (create, perhaps) order within
chaos. Fariña’s book, as a prototype for what is popularly known as
postmodern literature, seems to toy with this idea as it expands its reach into
the tumult of the ‘sixties. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

I first read this book in, oh, nineteen-seventy, was it? It
was at the time an underground phenomenon, presenting its readers with an
emotional purgative contrived from sex, drugs, jazz, and travel, all amid
college life and politics. Whether the populace of the day approved of such
hedonic pursuits or not, reading about them, in the person this book’s Gnossos
Pappadopoulis, surely moved readers to a feeling of liberation akin to
Kerouac’s On The Road, or perhaps
the Beatles’ movie, “Help!” This book influenced Thomas Pynchon and inspired
his manic literary works. The book remains in print, I think, as a monument to
the anti-establishment posturing of college students of all eras, not to the
social vomiting that seemed necessary in the late ‘fifties and early ‘sixties
to allow a truly multicultural U.S. to be born.

 

Reading the book now, it has the effect of a period piece, and more than
a bit fatuous. Reliving such times via this book seems redundant, more or less
on the order of reenactments of the American Revolution or the U.S.’s Civil
War. Still, there are good things to be said following this my most recent reading
of Fariña’s
only literary work.

 

Fariña, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1966, was clearly a
skilled writer. Perhaps if he’d lived, Pynchon would have been forced to share
credit for the uniqueness of his writing. As averse as I am to
redundancy, let me refer you to this blog’s critique of Pynchon’s Gravity’s
Rainbow.   

 

But anyway….

 

As with most postmodern literature, there’s no structured
plot – more of a series of connected vignettes that go nowhere in a linear
sense, but leave the reader with an understanding of situations or historical
events based in emotion. All that can be said in relation to story here is that
Gnossos ends up where he began, on a college campus – but with fate thrusting this
hapless character into a student demonstration against the college
administration.

 

But how does Fariña put this no-story together? As implied
at the beginning of this post, the author moves from Gnossos’ and his friends’
assault on their nervous systems through sex and drugs to an implied
stirring-of-the-pot of the U.S. (college campus) body politic – all in the hope
of bringing into being a new form of order reflecting new sensibilities and
a new, multicultural national reality.

There’s humor here, but of the sophomoric type – exaggerated
excess, posturing in the face of authority, scatological. But Fariña also manages to interject moments of paranoia,
solitude, whimsy, pathos, crashed-and-burned idealism. But he’s no slouch at
eloquent narrative, either, as this passage suggests:

 

"He awoke at noon, the sun exploding under the lids of his
eyes like silent-film incendiary bombs; ears ringing with the drip and seethe
of the thaw. Through the slats on his bedside window…he could see the swollen
Swiss drolleries on the porch. The snow had melted and slipped away, saturating
the wood. The fat icicles were gone as well, patches of lawn miraculously green
after months of entombment, walks and porches clear but for the wet; beams and
timbers creaking with the sigh of shrugged-away weight, stretching back into
place…"

 

The passage goes on for another hundred or so words, clearly
pronouncing in well-hewn prose a sense of newness and rebirth. And as the
passage ends, the scene shifts once more to Gnossos:

 

He bellowed like a Cretan Bull. “Fitzgore! Where the hell
are you? I’m in love!”

 

This passage is, in a nutshell, Gnossos, the era, and the
book itself. The ‘sixties, in most any piece of writing you’ll find on the
subject, exemplifies the best and the worst of humanity, as it does here:
idealism, romanticism, daring openness. Chaos, conflict, secrecy. All building,
as poet and rocker Jim Morrison said of this era (I’m paraphrasing liberally here),
toward a new human reality, but born of an ugly face.

 

My rating: 3-1/2 stars of 5

 

 

 

A new e-book Novella (and other things)

With the rising popularity of the e-book and renewed reader interest in the short novel, maybe I've hit the reading market where it lives. My novella The Blue Bicycle, is out now as a Kindle e-book. If you're curious enough about what this blogger might write and don't have a Kindle, don't despair:

An iPod or iPod touch, an iPad, or a Blackberry, will access Kindle, and so will any PC or Apple desktop or laptop

Here's how to make reading this novella as easy as plucking a book from a shelf:

A link to the various forms of Kindle readers you can download.

TBB118
 

Once you have the Kindle software downloaded, open it and you can access the text here

You'll notice on the right side of the AMAZON page…a box with the header "try it free". This allows you to download a sample of the text. 

If you like what you see there, you can go to the green box above the "try it free" icon to purchase.

This is risky business; seeming a shill, even for my own work is not what I do best. But I'm fascinated with the opportunity to write in an electronic medium. I hope you'll enjoy the story, which is set largely around the Asheville, NC, area and in Nova Scotia.

– – Other News – –

On June 19, 2010, I'll be giving a presentation on book reviewing at the Appalachian Authors Guild Association Annual Symposium at Richlands, VA.

On July 24, 2010, I'll be participating in a book fair at the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon, VA. 

Abingdon is a nice little town on the Cumberland Plateau, and there's a lot to do there during festival time. Hope you can stop by the AAGA tent if you're there.

NCW–What the Critics Say About Ron Hansen

 
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 Once in a while I have to brag on the writers who inspire me. Hansen is one of a shortlist of these – a writer of great range who can occasionally leave me slack-jawed at his turns-of-the phrase. 
He's hardly a genre writer – and that too inspires me – moving between literate westerns, literary, fiction, historical fiction, and the humorous – despite the pub industry's insistence on handcuffing writers with one of these categories.

It is 1881. Jesse James, at the age of 34, is at the height of his fame and powers as a singularly successful outlaw. Robert Ford is the skittish younger brother of one of the James gang: he has made himself an expert on the gang, but his particular interest — his obsession — is Jesse James himself. Both drawn to him and frightened of him, the nineteen-year-old is uncertain whether he wants to serve James or destroy him or, somehow, become him. Never have these two men been portrayed and their saga explored with such poetry, such grim precision and such raw-boned feeling as Ron Hansen has brought to this masterful retelling. — from the jacket Wonderful. This is great storytelling, not undermined by our knowing how it turns out. The reader is driven — by story and by language and by history…the best blend of fiction and history I've read in a long while! — John Irving Vivid and sustained. — New York Times Book Review As he did in Desperadoes…Ron Hansen has turned low history into high art. This is a terrific book. — Newsday Recalls the literature of Americana by John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell, Willa Cather, and Hamlin Garland…. Hansen has broadened our perception of the West in much the same way as the best historians … and proven himself one of our finest stylists of American historical fiction. — The Christian Science Monitor Here is the James book. Let your prize $1,000 mint copy of Jake Spencer's Life and Career of Frank and Jesse James (published a week after the outlaw's death) repose peacefully on your shelf of scarce Americana. Put Hansen on your bedside table. — Richmond News-Leader Retells the familiar stories, making them fresh, finding in them an unresolvable mystery and tragedy about fame and ambition in America. This book is a wonderful achievement. — San Francisco Chronicle The language of Hansen's novel is dense and textured, requiring careful reading. The pleasure of the book is in the eloquence of its dialogue and description, which are both literary and historically appropriate. — A thickly textured novel [that] seems to hover deliberately between fiction and biography…. [Hansen has] crafted a very effective novel — Peter S Prescott, Newsweek A first-rate piece of craftsmanship that gives off the aura of legend without ever letting us succumb to any sentimental or ignorant aspects — Alan Cheuse, Los Angeles Times Book Review Hansen continues his tales of the real West with his imaginative retelling of the life of the most famous outlaw of them all, Jesse James, and of his death at the hands of the upstart Robert Ford. — Amazon.com

via mockingbird.creighton.edu

Book Review: ‘Matterhorn’ By Karl Marlantes — A Stark, Brutal Vietnam War Epic : NPR

 
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 This recently published book is significant for readers, not because of its literary summation of this complex war, but because of the author's 30-year effort in having it accepted by the pub industry. I plan to read it this summer, then I'll compare notes with reviewer Michael Schaub.

Thirty-five years have passed since the fall of Saigon, but the Vietnam War has never really loosened its grip on the American imagination. Even people born years after the war have the painful images burned into their minds — Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the little girl running down the street after being burned in a napalm attack; South Vietnamese police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting a handcuffed Viet Cong soldier in full sight of a television camera. There's no such thing as a kind or gentle war, but the sheer brutality and hopelessness of Vietnam set the tone for American conversations about war and foreign policy for decades after.

via www.npr.org