At times, poetic like Allen Ginsberg.
At times, staccato like Raymond Chandler.
At times, dramatic and full of dialogue like Pat Conroy.
That’s how Rob Neufield describes Joseph Bathanti’s latest novel, The Life of the World to Come, in his review in the Asheville Citizen-Times.
I haven’t read Bathanti’s most recent novel, but if it’s one-tenth as good as his recent collection of essays, Half of What I Say Is Meaningless (Mercer University Press), it’s a solid winner.
Bathanti, our former poet laureate, will read from this new novel at 6 p.m. Friday at Park Road Books.
Bathanti’s latest novel, described as “an intrepid road novel,” takes place partly in Queen, which is ole Charlotte, N.C., where Bathanti arrived in 1976 to work as a VISTA volunteer with prison inmates.
It was a strange world to the young Bathanti, who was raised Catholic in Pittsburgh, Pa. So strange his fertile imagination must have begun to percolate a plot right away, though he may not have been totally conscious of it at the time.
Bathanti is also a poet and short story writer. He recently won the prestigious Roanoke-Chowan Award for his collection, Concerntina, lyrical poems inspired by his work with prisoners. And his collection of short stories, The High Heart, won the 2006 Spokane Prize.
Others awards include the Samuel Talmadge Ragan Award for outstanding contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina over an extended period; the Linda Flowers Prize; the Sherwood Anderson Award; the 2007 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize.
He is professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University in Boone.