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Wednesday, 21 August 2013 13:53

Miracles and the miraculous in everyday life

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Every once in a while, we encounter a situation so strange and so far removed from the natural order of…
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 13:50

Tragic realism makes for a riveting read

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Let me begin by saying that this is a remarkable novel, and I suspect that it will be around for…
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 13:00

Prickly but also extremely insightful

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On June 24, 1993, David Gelernter, then an associate professor of computer science at Yale University, opened a package in…
Priscille Sibley’s The Promise of Stardust (ISBN 978-0-06-219417-6, 399 pages, $15.99) is a fine first novel by a woman who…
Wednesday, 24 July 2013 14:00

Dad is Fat, and comical truths about child rearing

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Thirty some years ago, my wife and I announced to my mother that we were expecting our first child. After…
Wednesday, 17 July 2013 15:02

The hard truth about the Cold War

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We Americans like to sidle around the truth nowadays, which we do by labeling ourselves relativists. Like Pontius Pilate, we…
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 13:55

Oil thicker than blood in Texas

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Reviewers of Philipp Meyer’s new novel, The Son (ISBN 978-0-06-212039-7, 561 pages, $27.99) have compared his epic story of the…
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 02:21

Kingsbury gives us a comfortable summer read

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In The Bridge (ISBN 978-1-4516-4701-3, $19.99), Karen Kingsbury treats readers to a tale of romance and tribulation centered on a…
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 00:00

King’s Joyland set in eastern North Carolina

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There is something about carnivals, amusement parks and shoddy summer circus operations that inspire a special kind of supernatural tale.…
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 13:48

The power of books to change lives

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Here are the true stories of some young people, all of them still under the age of 35. For the…
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 00:00

Morgan conjures the past with a poet skill

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Robert Morgan has a rare and cunning gift: he can sift through the detritus of the past, pluck objects and…
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 13:18

A book to help wade through self-help industry

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In The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need: Repress Your Anger, Think Negatively, Be a Good Blamer, and Throttle Your…
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 13:41

A story of violence and race in small-town N.C.

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My decision to read this “docudrama” (part memoir, part history and part detective story) was prompted by my genuine wish…
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00

A fast look at a few worthwhile tomes

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Here they are, books yammering for review: a hillock of books on the floor by the desk; more books stacked…
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 14:11

Dobyns novel reveals small town underbelly

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Stephen Dobyns has written 20 novels and more than 10 volumes of poetry; however, he is difficult to “classify.” His writing…
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 00:00

A rural bookstore that beat the odds

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“Bookshops are magic.” This quotation, buried in the middle of Wendy Welch’s The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A…
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 01:48

For your culinary and reading pleasure

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Most booklovers have suffered that “Oh, no” moment when a friend, with nothing but the best of intentions, presses an…
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 01:39

Tension-soaked novel is one of Appalachia’s best

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Mark Powell’s The Dark Corner is probably the best Appalachian novel that I have read in the last decade. It is…
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 13:28

History of Cherokee War is top notch

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We Americans sometimes forget how new we are to the history of the world. Here in Western North Carolina, for…
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 14:20

Movies, book explore travails of Memphis Three

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They were known as the West Memphis Three: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., three teenagers who were accused…
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 19:48

To bee or not to be

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With its title Colony Collapse Disorder taken from a recent mysterious collapse of honeybee populations in North America, Keith Flynn’s…
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:41

The unforgettable life of Nancy Silver

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Recently, when I was surfing through a depressing collection of nighttime TV programs — religious rants, psychics, cooking shows and…
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 13:49

An insightful look at guerilla warfare

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Since the Second World War, Americans have lived by the old dictum that only the dead have seen the end…
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 16:04

Rash’s Appalachia is both rich and flawed

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Ron Rash’s latest collection of short stories echos a theme that runs through all of his works: an awareness that Appalachia…
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:00

Final volume of Churchill biography a long-awaited gem

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William Manchester, author of a number of best-selling books, including The Death of A President, American Caesar, and Goodbye, Darkness,…
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:01

1967 novel sheds light on obscure mass drowning

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In recent years, I have become interested in an obscure incident that occurred in Jackson County in 1882 — the…
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 13:39

To be (born) or not to be

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Since reading Ben Wattenberg’s The Birth Dearth 25 years ago, the subject of demography has fascinated me. This past week…
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:57

Zombie lore, one bite at a time

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If you are literate and moderately aware of what passes for entertainment in film, popular novels and comics, then you…
Of all the Beat writers of the 1940s and 1950s — Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes, Gary Snyder,…
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 14:30

Historian presents a factual story of Cleopatra

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“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” — Cicero, 106 B.C. Stacy…
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00

An America divided by class

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For the past 80 years more and more Americans have linked themselves economically to the machinations of the federal government.…
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 00:00

Uncompromising, dark and a worthwhile read

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A couple of years ago, I blundered into something called “The Bottom Dog Appalachian Writers Series.” Published in Ohio, this…
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 03:45

Novel explores the woes of rich white trash

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Let me take a deep breath and see if I can get this out in one long ugly sentence:  A…
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 14:40

Racism and adultery drive Spencer’s novel

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Daniel Emerson is afraid of black people. After a chance encounter with a group of violent African American teenagers left…
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

Re-discovering a child’s outlook and a sense of humor

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Although its publisher marketed Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever as a children’s book, this touching story of a mother’s love…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:26

Bringing out the horror of teen angst

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In recent years, there has been a kind of Swedish literary invasion in America, especially in the horror genre. Perhaps…
As the poet Yvan Goll lay in a hospital in Paris dying of leukemia, a continuous line of some of…
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 13:51

Books for holiday gifts can be a risky business

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Think of the times someone has said to you: “You’ll love this book!” This well-intentioned person then shoves a book…
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:35

Novel is both shocking and admirable

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Anyone who remembers Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (1967) and the Roman Polanski film that came out about a year later,…
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 00:00

Diversity within unity — a book for the ages

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From the foothills of the Southern Appalachians, and in the tradition of such spiritual classics as Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable…
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 13:49

For the love of local bookstores

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When I was a child living in Boonville, N.C., a town of 600 people, my mother would load us into…
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 01:17

Lahane scores with steamy suspense novel

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I have been a Dennis Lehane fan for about two decades now, and after reading classics like Mystic River, Shutter…
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:58

A flawed story that is still worthwhile

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Mark Helprin drives me crazy. Helprin’s novels — he is the author of A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy…
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 13:39

MacDonald may be innocent after all

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I always thought he was guilty. Any doubts that I might have felt vanished after I read Joe McGinniss’ Fatal…
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 13:20

Burke again captures the essence of the Bayou

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In Creole Belle (ISBN 978-1-4516-4813-3, $27.99), novelist James Lee Burke returns to a territory he now owns in the literary…
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 19:58

Winter has come and Martin turns up the heat

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Kind hearts, winter has come. That dire prediction that began over 4,000 pages ago with A Game of Thrones has…
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 13:25

A thoughtful examination of love and parenting

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A distracted mother off to the store forgets to shut the door from the kitchen to the garage, puts her…
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 13:47

Real stories and lessons on how to tell them

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Here is a book about storytelling that strikes a responsive chord in my own heart. Not only is Mary Hamilton a gifted…
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 12:51

As fall nears, let’s clear the clutter

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By early September in these mountains the markers of autumn are very much with us. The cool nights diminish the…