Posts Tagged ‘Jill McCorkle’


N.C. Events: New Stories From Jill McCorkle

October 14, 2009

A.S. Byatt may be the big-name literary celebrity in the Triangle this week, but it’s a homegrown talent that’s really cause for celebration. Algonquin Books has recently published Jill McCorkle‘s first short story collection in eight years, Going Away Shoes, and she’s once again proven herself a master of the form. I’ve long been a follower and a fan of McCorkle’s work, and while her novels are undoubtedly impressive, I’ll admit that I take the most joy out of her richly textured, densely packed shorter work — it’s simply a marvel how much life she’s able to pack into such a short amount of space. Even the briefest of the stories here, “View-master” (barely five pages), marks the intersection of several complete lives, and another  of my favorites, “Intervention,” seamlessly weaves past and present — the weight of a lifetime of relationships — into the story of a single momentous evening, one that marks both a turning point and a reaffirmation. That story is also one of the most highly lauded in this collection, having appeared in Ploughshares before being selected both for the Best American Short Stories anthology and for New Stories from the South, and a second story, “Magic Words,” has recently been selected for the upcoming Best American Short Stories.

After reading “Intervention” myself a couple of years back, I had the opportunity to encounter it again when McCorkle read it aloud one evening — and it was just as fascinating that second go-around, maybe even more so since I knew where the story was going and could focus on the small moves that she made to get us there, the layering of information, the small asides that seemed extraneous on the first read but ultimately integral, indispensable. Let that be encouragement for others to check out the new collection and to catch one of the author’s upcoming events: Thursday, October 15, at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines and again on Saturday, October 17, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village.

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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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Festival News Across Two States

June 24, 2009

As part of my various jobs, I keep tabs on two literary festivals in the Carolinas and Virginia — and both have breaking news.

Jill McCorkle

Jill McCorkle

The North Carolina Literary Festival has just announced a terrific addition to its line-up. Authors Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle will join musicians Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman for an evening celebrating the highly acclaimed musical Good Ol’ Girls, which debuted as a work-in-progress at the first NCLF in 1998 and recently made its television premiere on UNC-TV. Smith and McCorkle will read and discuss selections from their fiction, works which first inspired the show, and Berg and Chapman will perform songs from the musical itself. The September 12 event, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will be sponsored by Metro Magazine, under whose aegis I write this blog. For more information on the event and on the entire festival, September 10-13, check out the NCLF website here

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout

Up in Virginia, Fall for the Book has announced a large slate of poets who will be appearing over the week-long festival, September 21-26 at George Mason University and at locations throughout Northern Virginia, D.C., and Maryland. Headlining the list are two seminal “language poets,” Rae Armantrout and Ron Silliman (the latter also the author of a tremendously successful blog on contemporary poetry), and nearly a dozen more poets are included so far — among them one of my own new favorites, Charles Jensen, a fascinating wordsmith and fine blogger in addition to his work directing The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. For more information on Fall for the Book, check out that festival’s website here.

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Good Ol’ Girls Premieres Wednesday On UNC-TV

April 21, 2009


Good Ol’ Girls, a musical inspired by the stories of Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle, premieres on UNC-TV on Wednesday, April 22, at 9 p.m. As most of us know, the musical has been touring around the southeast here and there for many years (I mentioned it in Metro magazine as early as 2003, and that was a returning tour through the area), and the show’s history features a distinguished group of writers, songwriters and musicians, including many Tar Heel talents: Matraca Berg, Marshall Chapman, Paul Ferguson, Bo Thorp, Mike Craver, Joe Newberry, Julie Oliver… the list goes on.

If you’ve missed it before, be sure to tune in Wednesday. And check out UNC-TV’s web site too for complete information, photos, songs, quotes, recipes, and more.

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