Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'd rather be in some dark holler

(cue the appropriate background music here)

I picked up the new Ron Rash, The Cove, from the public library this morning. Last week I ordered Wiley Cash's debut,  A Land More Kind Than Home, which I hope will arrive by the weekend. Earlier this year I bought three Wilkes County-centric books. I am officially kicking off a new reading project, although I am hard-pressed to find the appropriate heading for the thing.

Library of Congress prefers Mountain People and Appalachian Region - Southern  to Hillbilly (music can get away with the hillbilly designation, evidently; not literature). Western North Carolina is also an appropriate subject heading, although not one that's been used on any fiction in the university's library catalog, and one that would exclude books set beyond the state line. The public library here uses Mountain Life - North Carolina - Fiction for Sharyn McCrumb's The Ballad of Tom Dooley, but it's a dead end: clicking on that subject heading won't lead a reader to any additional titles. North Carolina - Fiction takes you to 373 titles at the public library; to 103 at the university, but it isn't a designation that's been used more than haphazardly: Cold Mountain's only in the catalog as United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1865 - Fiction and John Ehle's fiction, shelved in the North Carolina Room at the public library, receives no subject headings at all.

Suggestions? Will it make sense if I just call this my Some Dark Holler Project?

Initial proposed reading list:

Surreal South: An Anthology of Short Fiction and Poetry. Laura Benedict and Pinckney Benedict, eds.
The Astronomer and Other Stories. Doris Betts (okay, so this is kind of a cheat. Only the northwest corner of  Iredell County's the least bit mountainous. Sue me; it's my list)
The Wettest County in the World. Matt Bondurant (Virginia)
A Land More Kind Than Home. Wiley Cash
Ancestors and Others. Fred Chappell
The Landbreakers. John Ehle
Thirteen Moons. Charles Frazier
The Ballad of Tom Dooley. Sharyn McCrumb (Wilkes County)
Rain on the Just. Kathleen Morehouse (Wilkes County)
We Are Taking Only What We Need. Stephanie Powell Watts (Wilkes-by God-County)
The Cove.Ron Rash
Serena. Ron Rash
The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart. M. Glenn Taylor (West Virginia)


  1. I am so intrigued with this reading project. I look forward to hearing updates on your book selections and your reviews.

  2. Anonymous3:00 PM

    This sounds like a wonderful project. Your searches made me question what cataloging terms would show up for N. Carolina writer Sheila Kay Adams. Entering her name at worldcat.org resulted in a book list, which I followed to the entry for My Old True Love. Among the headings on the sidebar is "Appalachian Region, Southern -- Fiction." Clicking on that brought up a good reading list, not limited to your specific interest, but worth checking out.

  3. Feel free to join in if you like, Kathleen. North Carolina has wonderful writers who don't just appeal to navel-gazers like myself.

    Fay, the public library here uses the same cataloging term for the Adams title--makes sense, since cataloging's all outsourced now. And thanks for bringing the World Cat list to my attention. I'll have plenty of other titles to work my way through once I've completed the ones already on my shelf. Based on WC, looks like I need to add the Velma Jean book my mother-in-law gave me a couple years back. I knew it was Southern lit, but hadn't connected it with the Appalachians.

  4. Sounds like home to me. I live in Yadkin County and spend my weekends mountain biking in Wilkes. I loved The Landbreakers so much I read some of the other books in the series. I also enjoyed Thirteen Moons and Frazier's most recent, Nightwoods. I read and enjoyed One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash and am curious about his newest. Have you read any Kaye Gibbons? I loved both Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman.

  5. This looks like fun! I read little Appalachian fiction, so I'll be watching to see your reviews.

    Have you read any Clyde Edgerton? I loved some of his earlier books (Raney and Walking Across Egypt in particular).

  6. Yadkin County? I think I've heard of that. ;)

    Amy, I went to an Ehle reading in Charlotte back in the late 80s/early 90s. Just from listening to me and my friend talk for a few moments in the book signing line, he was able to place my accent as coming from Wilkes. He was just incredible. I've read only Widow's Trial and The Winter People, so it's about time I get around to his earlier stuff.

    I have enjoyed every Kay Gibbons novel except for the sequel to Ellen Foster. But really, how can you possibly top a book like Ellen Foster?

    And like Gibbons, I think Edgerton's never surpassed Raney. Actually, I think he modeled Raney on my family and he nailed 'em, every last one of 'em, so that's why I love it more than the others. I did enjoy Walking Across Egypt a lot as well.

    Although she's not an Appalachian writer, Jill McCorkle pegged my high school experience in The Cheer Leader like no else has. (Not that I was a cheerleader; I was a band geek.) Have you read her?

    (This project really is going to devolve into navel-gazing, I'm afraid. :) )

  7. Jenny got me to read Raney because it reminded her of my descriptions of my family, and I could see why once I read it. I was convinced that Edgerton must have met my grandma when writing Walking Across Egypt. I pictured that whole book taking place in her house, and the descriptions were spot on. I keep thinking I want to read some of his newer books, but the descriptions just don't appeal as much as those two.

  8. Nice to run into a fellow hill billy. This conversation has been bad for my amazon card. The other Ehle novels I've read are The Road, Time of Drums, and Last One Home. I enjoyed them all. And now I've ordered the others. Because I don't already have 500 books at home waiting to be read. Ugh.

    I agree about Edgerton. I loved Raney and just liked the others.
    I did enjoy Jill McCorkle's Ferris Beach. Haven't read The Cheerleader, as I was one and don't want to face the PTSD.

    Oral History by Lee Smith! How could I have forgotten that? I enjoyed On Agate Hill too, but Oral History is the must-read.

  9. Tim McLaurin and TR Pearson,(not Appalachian; they're Piedmont) but worthy all the same. Lordy this could get out of control. You may have to do more than one challenge and break it up by region.

  10. Sounds like a very interesting project, I've never read Frazier, so I'll be reading your reviews with interest.

  11. Anonymous9:47 PM

    I admit all these sound very new to me... as a Canuck from Alberta, hundreds of miles (if not thousand?) away from N. Carolina. I was introduced to Ron Rash not too long ago by another blogger, so I look forward to your review of The Cove.

  12. As a Taylorsville native (well, the country near Taylorsville) who had to do my drinking in Wilkesboro (Alexander County being dry)and who met Stephanie when she was still Stephanie Powell and a waitress at the late, lamented Roselli's, I'm curious if you have finished _We Are Taking Only What We Need_ yet, and what you though of it. Also, if you haven't read Rash's poetry, you definitely should

  13. Ah, Roselli's. I particularly miss Sunny Italy and Mama Rosellii's cooking there.

    I haven't started Stephanie's collection yet. I wanted to finish the Doris Betts collection first, but then she died a couple days after I'd started The Astronomer, and then I needed to wait until we got past what would have been Doris's 80th birthday (she shared a birthday with my husband) before I could resume reading it. I definitely want to read the three Wilkes County books before the summer's over.

    Have you read it yet, Bob? Glad you stopped by and left a comment!

  14. Ack! Of course you've read it. You're Stephanie's husband. Sorry about that. I'm from Wilkes County; I'm slow on the uptake. :)


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