Reading Matters

N.C. writers reading pretty days away

Elizabeth Spencer
Elizabeth Spencer

Don’t tell me it’s too pretty out to stay inside and read. Somehow, North Carolina writers are reading the days (and likely the nights) away. Here’s what I know:

Pam Durban, Doris Betts Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at UNC (“Soon” is her latest story collection) is readingAtticus Lish’s “dark and beautiful” novel, “Preparation for the Next Life.” It‘s about love between a damaged Iraq war vet and an undocumented immigrant woman from China. Says Durban: “I love this book for the power and authenticity of its language and the emotions and connections that language evokes.” Also Rebecca Solnit’s essays, “Men Explain Things to Me,” – “clarifying, passionate essays on the ways women are silenced and the urgent necessity of being heard.” And Ellen Bryant Voigt’s poetry collection, “Headwaters,” marveling “at the formal beauty of the lines and the deep and unsentimental celebration of life that they convey.”

Charlotte’s Webb Hubbell (the former mayor of Little Rock, Ark., wrote about his friendship with the Clintons in “Friends in High Places,” and the recent thrillers, “When Men Betray” and “Ginger Snaps”) gave himself a month off when he turned in his latest manuscript, “A Game of Inches.” He plunged into Bill Bryson’s “The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain,” which he loves for Bryson’s humor, “but in this one he’s a little crustier.” Also Patrick LeighFermor’s “A Time to Keep Silence,” cq “a wonderful piece of travel writing and also a short, wonderful, thought-provoking book on what it is to be human.”

Former N.C. Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer of Cullowhee is enjoying Jacar Press’s anthology of poems,“Intimacy,” especially Kelli Russell Agodon’s “Love Waltz with Fireworks,” a love poem to a cinnamon bun and other unlikely objects. Also Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s “Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times.” Says Byer: “It explores the way various cultures have created a sort of language through clothing, allowing us to communicate with our mouths shut.” Again and again, it’s James Hillman’s “Blue Fire,” as she’s always “entranced by his poetic approach to the psyche and its image-making.”

For Elizabeth Spencer of Chapel Hill (among her many works is the novella, “The Light in the Piazza,” and the recent story collection “Starting Over”) it’s Lee Smith’s memoir, “Dimestore,” which “dispels the mystery of what growing up in Appalachia must be like.” Also portions of a novel Allan Gurganus is writing. Back again to some of the Chekhov she’s missed. “And there’s always Eudora (Welty) to rediscover.”