Reading Matters

On lynching, Hamlet, Dale Earnhardt Jr.,Queens 46th event, Lee Smith

So much news...

No wonder there’s a wait list for Queens University’s 46th Annual Book and Author Luncheon on March 7. Speakers are the bestselling New York Times novelist (“Rules of Civility” and “A Gentleman in Moscow”) Amor Towles and Charlotte’s own debut novelist Phillip Lewis (“The Barrowfields”). Wait list:

I am deep into Lewis’s fascinating “Barrowfields,” and it’s always a pleasure to read descriptions of places I know. He writes: “A lonely twilight lay upon the city when I arrived in Charlotte. ...The house was situated just off Sharon Road in Myers Park. ...a very nice part of Charlotte. The kind of place where you drive by a stately brick manor that spans half a block and say, ‘Is that one house or two’ ’’?

What do sports and Elizabethan theater have in common? Cynthia Lewis, who teaches English at Davidson College, can tell you exactly. She’s at work on a book about sports and Shakespeare, and she knows the two share several things: a rowdy and engaged audience, live performance in an arena and, she says, “above all, compelling stories.”

One of the chapters in her book, due later this year, will be on Hamlet and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Both had powerful, demanding fathers, Lewis says. “By all reports,” Lewis writes in a chapter that appeared in Shenandoah magazine, “Dale Earnhardt Sr. displayed every bit the warrior’s spirit, confounding mix of traits, and influence on his son that characterize King Hamlet.”

Lewis’s chapter won Shenandoah’s Thomas Carter Prize in nonfiction.

These days whenever someone tells me they’re reading “such a great book,” I can guess what it is. Yes, J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.”

A friend who’s a Michigan transplant is deep into Lee Smith’s 2010 collection of short stories, “Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger.” She loves the humor in these stories, she says, and notices that Southern fiction includes more extended family than does Northern fiction.

Seventy years ago this week, a 24-year-old black man named Willie Earle was lynched in Greenville, S.C. Earle’s story is told by former dean of the chapel at Duke University Will Willimon in a new book, “Who Lynched Willie Earle: Preaching to Confront Racism.”

On Friday, in Spartanburg, Willimon will be among the lecturers at Wofford College’s conference on that lynching, the subsequent trial and the continuing challenge of confronting racism. Conference: free. Box lunch: $10. To register: Elizabeth Fields at

Sarah Creech, who teaches English and creative writing at Queens University, is the author of a second novel, “The Whole Way Home,” about a country singer poised to hit the big time in Nashville. The novel is due from William Morrow in June.