Archive for September, 2009


Last Chance At Love! (& More N.C. Events)

September 16, 2009

Today — Wednesday, September 16 — marks your last chance to catch N.C. readings by contributors to the great new anthology, Love Is A Four-Letter Word: True Stories Of Break-Ups, Bad Relationships, and Broken Hearts. Editor Michael Taeckens and contributors Margaret Sartor and Patty Van Norman will each read from their contributions to the book at two locations: 3:30 p.m. at the Bull’s Head Bookshop in Chapel Hill and 7:30 p.m. at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books. (And there’s a rumor at the book’s Facebook page that Peppermint Schnapps will be involved…. We make no promises, but encourage you to become a fan of the page anyway.)

If you’ve missed coverage of the book, check out my interview with Taeckens here. One of the latest reviews of the book is from the Oxford American‘s September “Books We Love” column, and a survey of other reviews can be found at the book’s own webpage here.

If you don’t have the book yet: Get it. If you have the chance to make the readings: Go.

Trust me on this. This anthology is love at first read.


On Thursday, September 17, Bull’s Head Bookshop and Quail Ridge Books host a similar one-two combo, so to speak, when each store welcomes Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, founders of of the indie record label Merge Records and popular pop-punk band Superchunk, with their new book, Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label that Got Big and Stayed Small — same times as the readings above, but new day for all.

Also on Thursday evening, over at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop, Marianne Gingher (interviewed here) joins contributors Lawrence Naumoff, Joe Ashby Porter, Randall Kenan, Bland Simpson, and Elizabeth Spencer, for a reading from the terrific anthology Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-five of North Carolinas Finest Writers. That event begins at 7 p.m.

And on Friday evening, September 18, Quail Ridge Books welcomes Adriana Trigiani for a 7:30 p.m. reading from her latest novel, Viola In Reel Life.

For a complete schedule of events in the Triangle and Eastern North Carolina, check out the MetroBooks Calendar here.

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Marianne Gingher On “Long Story Short”

September 13, 2009

Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-Five of North Carolina’s Finest Writers offers a concise, comprehensive, and compulsively readable collection of short-short stories. Concise on two counts: In total, the stories number less than 200 pages, and the longest of the stories is less than 1,700 words (the shortest is a mere 95). Comprehensive: The authors featured here make up a who’s who of writers with ties to the Old North State, including Russell Banks, Doris Betts, Will Blythe, Wendy Brenner, Orson Scott Card, Fred Chappell, Angela Davis-Gardner, Sarah Dessen, Pamela Duncan, Pam Durban, Clyde Edgerton, Philip Gerard, Gail Godwin, Randall Kenan, John Kessel, Michael Malone, Doug Marlette, Margaret Maron, Jill McCorkle, Lydia Millet, Robert Morgan, Michael Parker, Bland Simpson, Lee Smith, June Spence, Elizabeth Spencer, and Daniel Wallace, just to sample the list of contributors. And as for compulsively readable: Despite the pile of books I should have read first, as soon as Long Story Short arrived in the mail, I couldn’t resist reading at least one of the stories. Since that one was so short, I tried another. And then a third. And, as with a box of bon-bons, before I knew it….

The anthology, edited by Marianne Gingher (who also contributes a story) and published by the University of North Carolina Press, is a timely one. While Gingher points out in her introduction that short-shorts are as old as Aesop, there seems to be a growing trend toward the popularity of very short fiction in all of its forms: flash fiction, sudden fiction, microfiction, even twitter fiction and hint fiction. While many of the stories in this collection tend toward the traditional, to my mind, the book as a whole offers an array of different storytelling strategies and narrative structures, and they’re short enough that you’re able to re-read them easily to figure out how they work. Pam Durban’s “Island,” for example, struck me as so marvelous when I read it the first time that I turned around and read it again, aloud, to my wife. (And the stories are ripe for discussion too: Tara (a flash fiction writer herself) and I disagreed about whether Durban’s piece was as effective as it could be — where the heart of it was, where it might have been cut further, how it all played out.)

Today (Sunday, September 13), Gingher debuted the new collection on the closing day of the North Carolina Literary Festival, and tonight the book will be the focus of the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation’s 50th anniversary, but even if you miss those events, there are plenty more opportunities to catch readings by the contributors. (See a full list at the bottom of this post.) In advance of the NCLF, Gingher and I talked about the book via email, and I’m grateful for her time (especially in the midst of all the festival’s busy-ness!) and glad to share our interview here.
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Is It Shameless Self-Promotion If It’s Your Wife You’re Bragging About?

September 11, 2009

Looking for some good weekend reading? Let me suggest some recent very short fiction by Tara Laskowski — a completely unbiased recommendation, of course.

Each of these three stories has been published in the last two weeks — the latest (Barrelhouse) having been posted just this afternoon!

Congratulations, Tara!

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N.C. Lit Festival Kicks-Off On Sept. 10

September 9, 2009

Kathy Reichs

N.C. friends, don’t forget: The 2009 North Carolina Literary Festival takes place this weekend, Sept. 10-12, at UNC-Chapel Hill. Thursday afternoon events include poet James Applewhite, fiction master Tobias Wolff, and a keynote address by John Grisham and Kathy Reichs. And that’s just the beginning of a long weekend that includes not only leading North Carolina writers but also fine talent from beyond the state’s borders. Check out the full schedule at the NCLF website here.


Margaret Maron Talks About “Sand Sharks”

September 8, 2009

After tackling immigration issues in Hard Row and the crisis of rampant residential and commercial overdevelopment in Death’s Half Acre, Margaret Maron’s latest Deborah Knott mystery, Sand Sharks, finds series heroine Judge Deborah Knott taking a vacation of sorts to a summer judge’s conference down in Wrightsville Beach — and Maron herself seemingly taking a break from some of her exploration of North Carolina’s most pressing social and political issues. But when Deborah discovers the corpse of a fellow judge, her beach trip takes a dark turn. As potential motives for the murder emerge — with a wide range of suspects among the other judges attending the meeting — so too does another pattern take shape: an examination of ethics both personal and judicial and of the costs for letting those ethics lapse.

Sand Sharks has already enjoyed a wave of strong reviews: from the Winston-Salem Journal, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and even the New York Times. Over Labor Day weekend, I’ve finally had a chance to read the novel myself, and not only did reading the book offer a quick holiday beach trip but it turns out that a character with my name shows up as a witness in the novel, so I was “there” in more ways than one. (Check out page 221 for my cameo appearance.)

As Maron prepared for a quick vacation of her own, she indulged me with a quick email interview about Sand Sharks, which I’m happy to share here.

Art Taylor: I enjoyed the novel’s set-up — reminding me in many ways of some classic Agatha Christies: A vacation destination, a group of characters who each have a motive for the killing the victim, all of them together in one place when the killing happens, opportunities and motives abounding.… You even include scenes of investigators charting who sat where at the restaurant where the murder occurs, and who left when, and who saw who last. How consciously were you exploring that classic form?

Margaret Maron: I’m very conscious of writing a traditional fair-play mystery, which means that I have to show the reader everything Deborah sees. I was not consciously trying to echo Christie, but have always resisted trying to plumb the depths of my subconscious, so it’s quite possible.  Playing fair with the reader is harder than keeping things up my sleeve, but I can always misdirect the reader by showing them more than is actually relevant.
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