Posts Tagged ‘John Shelton Reed’

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Matthew Vollmer Visits Triangle Bookstores

March 25, 2009

More than two months ago, I began asking when some of North Carolina’s bookstores might be hosting a visit by Matthew Vollmer, an N.C. native and author of the great new short story collection Future Missionaries of America. I had the great honor of interviewing Vollmer about his debut book back in January, and I can’t tell you how pleased I am to know that two Triangle bookstores will be hosting Vollmer this week: Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh on Thursday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m., and McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village on Friday, March 27, at 2 p.m.

Talking about the craft to which he’s dedicated himself, Vollmer is both charming, insightful and surprising — qualities that can also be used to describe his fiction. Just to give readers a taste, here’s the opening paragraph to the title story of the new collection: 

It’s sleeting on Valentine’s Day. I’m in the back booth of the Franklin Street McDonald’s, waiting for Melashenko to deliver the robotic baby we’re supposed to keep from suffering the slings and arrows of an unhappy infanthood, and writing him a letter on a napkin with the emergency topless ballpoint I keep in a hole in the lining of my hoodie. I write a I. in the corner of the first napkin and below that the date, February 14, 2003. I consider adding a little arrow-pierced heart, but I don’t want to conjure even the smallest of question marks in Melashenko’s head, so instead I draw a phantom heart in the air above the paper, which only confirms that I should definitely not draw it for real and that hearts are even more dangerous than sentimental closing signatures like Love or Love ya or Yours, any of which could inspire Melashenko to think I might think or even hope that we’re anything more than we are. So, potentially disastrous heart drawing averted, I begin the letter, as usual, with Dear Melashenko (his first name’s David but I use his last because I like the way it sounds, plus it ensures that I maintain a certain level of formality). Ten minutes later I’ve scribbled seven napkins’ worth of words, which I roll in a floppy scroll. I snap a hair band around the middle and draw the letters of his name down the side in the Gothiest font I can muster, to give it this look like it might’ve been written by an ancient scribe, one who’d dreamed of future devastations and consigned them to this fragile parchment, to be delivered on this date to the father of a baby who’s never been born.

And if you think the opening is good, just wait for the story’s remarkable twists and unforgettable finish. And don’t miss Vollmer’s visit to the Triangle this week.

Also noteworthy on this week’s literary calendar for the Triangle and Eastern North Carolina:

Bart Ehrman, chair of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and author of the bestselling book Quoting Jesus, with his new study, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions of the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) — on Wednesday evening, March 25, at Quail Ridge Books; on Tuesday evening, March 31, at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop;  and on Friday afternoon, April 3, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village.

Shelby Stephenson, award-winning poet and editor of Pembroke Magazine, on Thursday evening, March 26, at McIntyre’s. 

John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed, author of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, on Saturday afternoon, March 28, at the Barnes & Noble, New Hope Commons, Durham. 

Lynne Hinton, bestselling author of Friendship Cake, with her new book, The Order of Things, on Monday evening, March 30, at Quail Ridge Books.

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, with her new guidebook, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir,  on Monday evening, March 30, at the Regulator Bookshop.

And Raleigh author Therese Fowler, author of Souvenir, with her new book Reunion, on Tuesday evening, March 31, at Quail Ridge Books, and again on Thursday afternoon, April 2, at the Country Bookshop. 

For updated information on literary events in North Carolina, bookmark the MetroBooks calendar.

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Allan Gurganus Reads “A Fool For Christmas” — Plus Other Upcoming Events

December 3, 2008

As part of my various jobs, I serve two large communities.

In my home state of North Carolina, for example, I write regularly on books and literary events as a contributing editor for Metro Magazine; I’ve long been involved with the North Carolina Writers’ Network; and I’ve build some great relationships with several authors and booksellers throughout the region.

In my current home in Virginia — and specifically at George Mason University, where I teach — I work closely with the annual Fall for the Book Festival; I have friends and contacts at several other organizations, most particularly The Writer’s Center in Bethesda; and I’ve become a regular reviewer for The Washington Post (hardly a local paper, I know, but still an integral part of the regional community in addition to serving a national audience). 

As part of my connections to these two communities — and specifically as part of a new coordinated effort with Metro — I’d like to offer a weekly post that’s more local in scope, highlighting upcoming events that seem of particular interest to me and, I hope, to readers of this blog who call either of those two regions home. Here then are some suggestions from Wednesday, December 3, through Wednesday, December 10.

North Carolina

Allan Gurganus

Allan Gurganus

Among the top literary events in the Triangle area this weekend is an appearance by Allan Gurganus at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham. Gurganus will be reading “A Fool for Christmas,” an unpublished short story which was originally presented on NPR’s All Things Considered back on Christmas Eve, 2004. The story centers on a pet store manager named Vernon Ricketts and the pregnant teen he hires to do some part-time work around the holidays. Gurganus will be reprise the story at the Regulator on Friday, December 5, at 7 p.m. (And for those who can’t make it, NPR offers the original broadcast online.)

Other events this week in the Triangle and across Eastern North Carolina include:

  • John Shelton Reed & Dale Volberg Reed, authors of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, on Wednesday afternoon, December 3, at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, and again on Friday evening, December 5, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.
  • Chapel Hill author Kate Betterton, author of Where the Lake Becomes the River, on Thursday evening, December 4, at Quail Ridge Books.
  • Dr. Mardy Grothe, Raleigh-based psychologist, management consultant, and author of I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History’s Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes, on Thursday afternoon, December 4, at The Country Bookshop
  • Bruce Roberts, former director of photography for Southern Living and author of Just Yesterday: N.C. People and Places, on Saturday afternoon, December 6, at Quail Ridge Books
  • Paul Austin, author of Something for the Pain: One Doctor’s Account of Life and Death in the ER, on Tuesday evening, December 9, at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington.

Northern Virginia, D.C., and Maryland

Two of the biggest events in D.C. over the next week — Toni Morrison discussing A Mercy on Thursday, December 4, and photographer Annie Leibovitz on Tuesday, December 9 — are both sold-out, but the events’ bookstore host, Politics and Prose, are still taking orders for signed copies of each author’s latest book; for information, call 202-364-1919. 

Cynthia Ozick

Cynthia Ozick

Another big event is the presentation of this year’s PEN/Malamud Awards, honoring excellence in short fiction. Peter Ho Davies and Cynthia Ozick are the 2008 recipients, and the two authors will read from their works at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Friday, December 5, at 8 p.m. The event is presented by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Tickets are $12. 

In other news:

  • Writers in the MFA program at George Mason University offer a free reading on Friday, December 5, at 7 p.m. at The Firehouse Grille in Old Town Fairfax, VA. Slated to present new works are fiction writer Tim Rowe and nonfiction writer Valerie Lambros.
  • On the same evening, poets Reed Whittemore, Cicely Angleton, and Elaine Magarrell appear at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, at 7:30 p.m. to read from the recent anthology Inventory.
  • Finally, DC Poets Against the War host readings on Saturday and Sunday, December 6-7, in conjunction with the Peace Mural Exhibit. Readings take place at 3 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, and at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday at 3336 M Street, NW. 

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