Posts Tagged ‘Lee Smith’


NC Events: Lee Smith!

March 24, 2010

In Southern literary circles, the biggest news this week is the publication of Lee Smith‘s new book, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger: New and Selected Stories. While perhaps best known as a novelist of major repute (and with a fervent following), Smith is also a master of the short form, as she displays here with seven works sampled from her previous collections — Cakewalk (1981), Me and My Baby View the Eclipse (1990), and News of the Spirit (1997) — as well as seven new pieces. Among the new stories is a little gem called “Toastmaster,” about a shy, underdeveloped eleven-year-old boy (often mistaken for eight, says the story, and it’s a a mistake the book’s dustjacket made as well, which must be slightly embarrassing). Jeffrey travels from Washington, D.C. to Key West with his domineering mother and there, in a beachside bar called Salute, he discovers something bold and daring inside himself: a stand-up comic, waiting for his stage. Radical shifts in his family dynamic — and his entire future — follow, and throughout it all, Smith captures a sense of both life’s messiness and its gloriousness: individuals struggling to find their place in a chaotic world, and then — happily, amazingly — actually finding it.

Smith’s tour takes her to a number of North Carolina venues, beginning tonight (Wednesday, March 24) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge books. She’ll also be reading next Wednesday, March 31, at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop, and then on Saturday, April 3, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village. A complete listing of her events can be found at her own website here.

A few other events of note over the next week include:

  • Frank Lentricchia with The Italian Actress, on Thursday, March 25, at the Regulator
  • Harlen Coben with Caught, on Friday, March 26, at Quail Ridge Books
  • and poets Marty Silverthorne and Nancy King as part of the monthly NC Poetry Society Series on Sunday, March 28, at McIntyre’s Books

For a more complete listing of North Carolina events from the Triangle to the coast, visit 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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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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A Book in Brief & A Warm Welcome

November 1, 2008

The November issue of Metro has just gone online, and in my column this month, I write briefly about Laura Sloan Patterson’s Stirring the Pot: The Kitchen and Domesticity in the Fiction of Southern Women. As I note in my article, the book spans an equally diverse array of authors, from a discussion of the various readings of entrapment imagery in Ellen Glasgow’s Virginia-set novels to a examination of three novels by the seemingly non-southern and non-domestic writer Toni Morrison to a survey of how the Internet has impacted the “homemaker” in a chapter titled “Betty Crocker, Betty Friedan, and the Techno-Southern Belles.” Novels by Eudora Welty and by Lee Smith are also examined in great detail.

This month’s issue also features the return of film critic — or more appropriately, filmmaker-critic — Godfrey Cheshire. In 1978, Cheshire began writing film criticism for The Spectator, an alternative weekly serving North Carolina’s Triangle region and in many ways a precursor to Metro magazine in its content if not its style, and by the time I became Spectator‘s managing editor in the late 1990s (and Cheshire’s editor there to the extent that he actually had one), Cheshire was working for New York Press, contributing to The New York Times, Variety, Film Comment and others, and even serving as president of the National Film Critics Circle. Cheshire continued to write for Spectator and then The Independent, another (rival) Triangle weekly which later bought Spectator long after I’d left the paper myself. More recently, Cheshire has made his own first film, the documentary Moving Midway, which the New York Times praised as “extraordinarily rich. Takes up the agonies and ironies of Southern history with remarkable empathy, wit, and learning.”  (And for audiences in the Washington, D.C. area, where I live now, the film will be screened on Thursday, November 13, at the Avalon, with a q&a with Cheshire and Robert Hinton, associate producer of the film and associate director of Africana Studies at New York University.) Cheshire’s first column in Metro’s pages promises good things to come. 

— Art Taylor

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