Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hometown Heroes: Some Locals You Should Know, Pt 2 (Doris Betts)

In the last “installment” of Hometown Heroes, I talked about how much I love mountain-man and accomplished NC author Ron Rash. In this one, I’m going to steer us closer to the Piedmont to discuss the recently deceased and wildly talented Doris Betts.

A short story girl at heart, my first encounter with Doris Betts began in a Southern Literature class at UNC my senior year. Jaded, worldly, and obviously as sage as they come, I had, by that point, grown pretty bored of most of the required reading my professors had assigned that semester. Then came Betts’ short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” -- perfectly paced, beautifully-rendered, sympathetic characters, and themes that unfold like a blossom under water. It centers on a “homely” woman (quotation marks to indicate a narrator who is lovably unreliable and insecure), whose journey to see a religious healer in the mid-century American South forces her to confront her perceptions of herself as they compare to the rest of the world’s.

The writing is that rare-as-they-come mix of effortless and devastating. I would read a few sentences speedily, and then stop in my tracks at some gorgeous turn of phrase. By no means flowery, Betts encompasses what I see as a real woman’s writer. The protagonist isn’t daffy or shallow, and her superficialities peel back to reveal the depth of a real human. Fellows, that doesn’t mean this isn’t for you. Like Henry James’ “Portrait of a Lady,” a flesh-and-blood character is enjoyable no matter what sex you happen to be.

Her short story collection Beasts of the Southern Wild (no connection to the movie, so far as I can tell) is at turns surreal, grounded, and nightmarish, like Kafka strained through a molasses sieve (is that even a real thing?). Come pick up a copy here at Flyleaf!

So Many Books...

Hoping that readers haven’t abandoned me after my long hiatus, I have an exciting list of titles for you to check out.  These are amazing books that have either recently been published or are about to appear on Flyleaf’s shelves.  Holiday gifts, anyone?

I haven’t read all of these, but I’ve read a few and people in the store have read others.  Always ask the staff about a book if you are uncertain.  They are very enthusiastic readers.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
NW by Zadie Smith
Elsewhere: A Memoir by Richard Russo
Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe
In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

For those who want to support local authors/photographers in their work I'd like to recommend that you check out Eric Muller's book, Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II   
It's both lovely and haunting.  

In addition, photographer (and friend) Alex Harris has a new book out with E.O. Wilson entitled Why We Are Here:  Mobile and the Spirit of a Southern City.  I am biased, but I think this is a spectacular book.  

And coming soon to Flyleaf to read from her new book, The Inexplicables, Cherie Priest.  I have just finished Boneshaker and enjoyed it.  I am looking forward to hearing Cherie read from the new book on Friday, 30 November.  

Friday, November 2, 2012


    Today, a regular (and, dare I say, a favorite) customer came in with a quandary. In the midst of Scott Hutchins’ A Working Theory of Love (a book I haven’t read, but which everyone, including this beloved customer, seems to have enjoyed), he still couldn’t find the get-up-and-go to get excited about reading. As a certified expert in the field of prescriptive books (self-proclaimed), I had only one prescription: a slump-buster.
    Both fortunately and unfortunately, the phrase means something different to everyone. I won’t begin to tell you your own perfect slump-buster, because you might have different leanings than I do. Where some might go for Stephen King’s The Shining, I typically reach for something in our Young Adult section. Either way, slump-busters are the perfect excuse to whip out something you might otherwise have deemed too fluffy, juvenile, plot-based, or what have you. All bets are off, and all judgments get put aside (for at least a few chapters or so).
    Here are some of my favorite, most trusted reads that have gotten me out of a slump or two in the past:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hometown Heroes: Some Locals You Should Know, Pt 1 (Ron Rash)

It ain’t a secret: the Tar Heel State claims a hefty swath of the nation’s literati. In the same way that we boast the best of so many things – sweet potatoes, barbeque, whatever kind of pharmaceutical alchemy they’re working on in RTP –  North Carolinians can proudly point to enclaves like Hillsborough and rattle off a list of impressive names a few paragraphs long. Obviously bookstores, particularly indie ones, often rely on local authors and publishers. They’re our lifeblood, and if it’s between Jill McCorkle and Jodi Picoult, you know which lady’s wares we’re rooting for you to buy.