Monday, April 26, 2010

New Hall-of-Famers

Yesterday, the North Carolina Writers' Network announced this year's inductees into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, founded in 1996 and administered by the Network. This year's honorees:

-- W. J. Cash (1900-1941), Charlotte-based journalist and author of the highly influential work, The Mind of the South.

-- Allan Gurganus, born in Rocky Mount, author of numerous books but probably still best known for his debut novel, Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All.

-- Robert Morgan of Hendersonville, whose works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction include the novel, Gap Creek, and the biography, Boone.

-- Walter Hines Page (1855-1918), born near Raleigh, one of the leading literary figure of the post-Civil War "New South" movement: journalist, editor and co-founder of the publishing house Doubleday, Page and Co.

-- Samm-Art Williams, raised in Burgaw, actor, playwright and screenwriter, who rose to prominence through the Negro Ensemble Company, and is the author of the highly acclaimed play, Home.

More about the Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Writers' Network can be found at the Writers' Network website.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Friday, 4/23, at Accent on Books: Wayne Caldwell

Wayne Caldwell has been busy promoting his wonderful new novel, Requiem by Fire, something that we at Accent on Books know to a certain extent first hand. In late February there was a reception for Wayne at Ambiance Interiors, his place of work, and we supplied the books. We performed the same function at the Requiem by Fire launch party at First Baptist Church in downtown Asheville in early March. And last week Wayne spoke on his "home turf" at the Enka-Candler library and, again, we were privileged to provide books for the event.

So isn't it about time that Wayne dropped by Accent on Books itself for a reading and signing? Absolutely, and that will happen this coming Friday, beginning at 6:00. Requiem by Fire is the sequel to Cataloochee, Wayne's highly regarded historical novel published three years ago, and shows the same combination of down home storytelling and literary excellence that won the earlier book national praise. And Wayne the speaker and raconteur is just as entertaining as Wayne the novelist.

So if you have not yet gotten a copy of Requiem by Fire, here's the perfect time to correct that oversight. And even if you have, we hope you'll drop by and greet this wonderful Asheville author who has justifiably garnered national attention both for himself, and for the landscape and people whose story he tells with such beauty and eloquence.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Never mind the cherry tree -- where are the library books?"

The New York Society Library recently discovered that two overdue library books checked out long ago had never been returned. Sadly, it's a bit late now, since they were checked out on October 5, 1789, by a patron who was simply identified as "president."

As in the President. As in George Washington.

Yes, the Father Of Our Country owes the New York Society Library about $300,000 in overdue book fees, factoring in inflation. The library insists they only want the books back, but alas, they seemed to have disappeared. (No doubt the First Dog ate them.)

And what were these now irreplaceable volumes? Law of Nations, and a volume of debate transcripts from the British House of Commons.

Hope George enjoyed them.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"The entire book is written in stupid metaphors"

"I tend to use Amazon more as a resource about books than to actually purchase books."

First of all, I would like to thank Jeannette Demain for starting her blog post on Salon with this statement about an eminently sensible way to use the ubiquitous e-commerce site. (I believe many of our customers use Amazon for exactly this purpose.)

What Demain goes on to discuss is one of the most famous -- or infamous -- aspects of any webpage for a book on Amazon: the reviews. These, of course, can be written by anyone -- anonymously if they so choose -- whether they have bought the book or not, or even whether they have read the book or not. Thus, if your Uncle Fred has recently published his collected grocery lists you can praise that book to the skies and give it five stars. On the other hand, you can take deeply felt, or gratuitous, pot shots at all-time classics, and it is this latter phenomenon that Demain writes about here, complete with examples. There is the person who describes Jane Eyre with the quote used in the title of this blog post. The Grapes of Wrath is declared, "absolute tripe," and Where the Wild Things Are has "good graphics" but "the message is all wrong." A review of The Bible manages to reference both The Lord of the Rings and Miley Cyrus. My favorite, though, is this comment regarding A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: "This book is 3 words over and over again: MY LIFE IS BAD." I hope this reviewer doesn't decide to start commenting on math textbooks.

Bitter students, trolls or courageous renegades declaring that the literary emperors have no clothes? You can reach your own conclusions and read more here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Montcoal, West Virginia

I wasn't born in these mountains, but I spent my summers here as a child and I've now lived here more than half my life. The vistas fire my spirit and the deep forests nourish my soul. I will never have the understanding of the land and its people that a true native would but I feel that some of its essence has entered my being.

It's a long way from Asheville to the mining communities of West Virginia, but we are connected by the ancient line of peaks and ridges known as the Appalachians. And today it is a connection of grief and remembrance as the community of Montcoal, West Virginia, deals with the final reckoning of the mining disaster that took twenty-nine lives. The strong and proud people of Montcoal don't need my help -- and they certainly don't need my pity -- but perhaps our thoughts and prayers can travel the spine of these mountains and provide some extra comfort and resilience.

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook this video of scenes from the Kentucky coal country set to Patty Loveless' magnificent recording of the Darrell Scott classic, "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive." It's seems a poignant, fitting elegy on this day. And it's also, I think, a time to remember the famous quote from Mother Jones, the great rabble-rouser and organizer who did much of her work among coal miners: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Friday, 4/9, at Accent on Books: Sarah Addison Allen

"...then the apple tree started throwing apples and the story took on a life of its own...and my life hasn't been the same since."

That's Sarah Addison Allen talking about the genesis of her 2007 novel, Garden Spells, which went on to become a national bestseller. The acclaim grew with her next novel, The Sugar Queen, and now the Asheville native and resident has yet another huge hit on her hands with her new novel, The Girl Who Chased the Moon. We are thrilled that Sarah will be with us this coming Friday night to talk about and sign copies of her books, beginning at 6:00 PM.

Sarah's unique combination of down home romance and magical realism has proved to be a winner with fans nationwide, and it's gratifying to see such a talented -- and genuinely nice! -- hometown friend become a tremendous success. Her new book takes place in what has become recognizable Allen country: a small Southern town with supernatural elements such as giants, ghosts, mysterious wallpaper and magical cooking.

So come on down to Accent on Books Friday evening and share some tales with one of our favorite writers and favorite people. And, in the meantime, you can find out more about Sarah at her website.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Trying to Preserve an Ancient Art

As the Trappist monks of Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey in Oregon celebrate Easter this year, they are facing a serious decline in one of the businesses that sustains them: bookbinding. For hundreds of years, many of the finest bookbinderies have been associated with monasteries; but now, a combination of digital publishing and economic hard times has led to a sharp drop off in business for the abbey. Instead of binding up collections of periodicals, college libraries are putting the documents online. And budget cuts have caused government agencies, another major customer, to put off upgrading their archives.

Appropriately enough, the monks are responding to this loss of business by going to the very sphere responsible for the drop off: cyberspace. They've set up a website,, to promote their bindery not only to institutions but also to individuals, who form the customer base for one of their most cherished -- and renowned -- services: rebinding family bibles.

As Ed Langlois points out in an article about the monks' business, this is about more than the welfare of one Trappist abbey. Digital archiving may seem a cheap, efficient way to preserve documents, but a simple virus or software glitch could conceivably cause such a collection to disappear. And, as one of the brothers of Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey points out, "a few catastrophes may bring people back to hard copies." Especially when created with care by those who know and love the art of bookbinding.