Tag: Ron Rash

Gifting the Perfect Book: For Grit Lit Aficionados

Ron Rash, man.  Ron.  Rash.

In a previous blog, I waxed poetic (or, maybe I approached giddy) about Ron Rash’s writing.  I’ve yet to encounter a writer who can shift gears so seamlessly between genres.  His short stories are perfect, his poetry is stunning, and his novels are exquisite.  His most recent foray into long-form fiction, The Risen, does not disappoint.  While it doesn’t quite have the punch that his previous novel, Above the Waterfall, does, it’s still a fantastic read.

risenLike all of Rash’s fiction, The Risen is set in North Carolina, and this place informs both the characters and plot.  Our narrator, Eugene, tells us two parallel stories: first, he recalls his youth, specifically the summer of 1969, in which his sixteen-year-old self and his older brother Bill meet Ligeia, a rebellious teenager spending the summer away from her native Daytona Beach.  Ligeia’s parents have shipped her to live with relatives in small-town North Carolina as a way of insulating her from the drug-fueled lifestyle she had created for herself.  Instead of detoxing, though, Ligeia uses her charms to pull Bill and Eugene into her world, causing a rift to emerge between both the brothers, and their domineering, manipulative Grandfather.

Second, Eugene also spends time in his present day, which is equally fraught. Bill has become a well-known and respected surgeon (following in Grandfather’s medical footsteps), while Eugene’s alcohol abuse has dried up his potential talent as both a novelist and English professor.  The two plotlines converge, however, when Eugene comes across a news report of the discovery of a body next to the creek at which he, Bill, and Ligeia would rendezvous for teenage mischief—namely, drug use (thanks to Bill and Eugene lifting painkillers from Grandfather’s clinic).  Eugene is convinced that the body is Ligeia’s and, after pressing Bill for the truth, ends up discovering some troubling truths about himself, his Grandfather, his brother, and his past.  He also makes some revelations to us, the readers, that were hinted at but never fully explained.

The beauty of so much of Rash’s work is the music in his language—his prose is flowing and gorgeous.  Above the Waterfall was  a slow, dense read because of Rash’s poetic wording.  The Risen is still beautiful, but reads at a much quicker clip.  Unlike most of Rash’s other writing, The Risen’s use of parallel plots adds a touch of complexity to the work.  Don’t worry, though: this isn’t indecipherable  (I’m looking at you, William Faulkner).  Eugene’s narration is clear and the reader is never confused whether we’re following him in the past or the present.

The Risen would make a fantastic gift for someone who needs an enjoyable read, or as a gift to yourself as a break from the hustle of the season.

Ron Rash will serve as a panelist on the “Larry Brown, the South, and the Modern Novel” discussion at the Mississippi Book Festival on Saturday, August 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the State Capitol in Room 113.

Ron Rash and his powerful ‘Poems’

I’ve stopped fighting Ron Rash.

This is how it usually happens: I see a book on the shelves at the store, hear other booksellers talking about it, and think to myself Sounds good, but I really need to wait till my next paycheck to buy another book. Then, said author shows up and does a phenomenal reading. Predictably, my aforementioned responsibility dissolves, and I become Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, clutching a copy of the book and mumbling to myself, “I want it NOW!!!”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Source: The Wall Street Journal

However, I’ve learned to stop this futility with Ron Rash. When he read from Something Rich and Strange, I knew I would love the book, and I snagged a copy before he left the store; when he read from Above the Waterfall, the entire audience was transfixed to the point of collective held breath, and I knew I needed that power on my own bookshelf. So, when I saw his Poems: New and Selected, I didn’t even wait till he came to the store. I went home with a copy that afternoon and haven’t regretted it.

Rash is one of the rare writers who can shift between prose and poetry seamlessly. Fans of Rash’s fiction often cite the depth of his characters, rich description, and gorgeous language. These things are present in his poems as well. Yet a poem can explore an idea in a different, more direct way than fiction can. While fiction examines the condition of humanity and relationships, a poem can focus on things beyond humanity, like the natural world. Take his short poem “Deep Water” for instance:

The night smooths out its black tarp,

tacks it to the sky with stars.

Lake waves slap the bank, define

a shoreline as one man casts

his seine into the unseen,

lifts the net’s pale bloom, and spills

of threadfin fill the live well.

Soon that squared pool of water

flickers as if a mirror,

surfaces memory of when

this deep water was a sky.

Jacket (4)First off, the description of the night being a “black tarp” that’s held in place by stars is simply genius. Trust me: this will affect the way you look at the night’s sky from now on. And the way the poem shifts its (and our) focus from the sky to the lake in which this unnamed man is flinging his fishing net feels natural. This sky/lake relationship is maintained at the poem’s close when, as the threadfin fish slip out of the seine net, the lake is compared to a mirror that reminds us of “when/ this deep water was a sky.”

How, exactly, was the water once a sky? That depends on who you ask. For the fish, the water is their atmosphere, and its top is to them as the sky is to us. For us, when we look skyward and see clouds, there is also a quiet understanding that those clouds will fall as rain and eventually become an earthbound body of water. Rash cleverly puns on the verb “surface,” the word serving both as the action of rising to the top (literally, the memory is being brought up) and as a reminder of the barrier between air and water.

Whether dealing with the complexities of humans or of nature, he always delivers with inventive description and clever language. If you find yourself mildly afraid of or curious about poetry, come pick up a copy of Rash’s Poems: New and Selected. Or, if you need a little more convincing, come hear Mr. Rash read from the book this Thursday. You’ll get firsthand evidence of why I’ve quit resisting his books when you listen to the current of his words, and any hesitancy to buy the book gets swept away.

Three books for your bedside table

I normally write my blogs on one book at a time. BUT! Today I thought I would share three books that I’ve recently read and really enjoyed.

One book has been made into a movie, one is currently being made into a movie, and the other…well, this author has several books, and two of his books have……yep, been made into a movie!

So, if you’re planning on seeing any of these films, I thought I would introduce you to the authors’ books first.


Ron Rash’s Above The Waterfall.

Jacket (3)Although this particular book has not yet been made into a film, two of Rash’s other novels, Serena and The World Made Straight, have. Yep, you’re remembering the one with Jennifer Lawrence (yeeeeeees) and Bradley Cooper. I watched “Serena” a few weeks ago (on the lovely Netflix) and it really made me want to check out some of Rash’s other books. I’m really in love with the fact that his books are set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina; this sets everything up for a beautiful story. In Above The Waterfall Les, a sheriff just on the edge of retirement, must deal with the ugliness of crystal meth cooks throughout his mountain town, while also dealing with an elderly local that is being accused of poisoning a trout stream. Becky, a forest ranger who seems to have a dark past, weaves in and out of the story in a rather beautiful way. Rash cuts back and forth from Les’ dealings with the law, to Becky’s love with the nature and mountains around her. Both Les and Becky seem to have difficult pasts, but both are being brought together, not only with defending the elderly local, but also for their love of the natural world they live in.

If you’re looking for a quiet, yet entertaining read…give this one a go!

P.S. Ron Rash will be here tonight at 5:00 for a signing and reading!


Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.

Jacket (1)This book came out as a film in 2014, and if you haven’t seen it…..read the book first! (Although, the movie is good, too).

My husband and I recently took a trip to Washington and spent a few days hiking around Mt. Rainier. Within those few days, we quickly decided we wanted to do this again…and soon. We’re already trying to gather up backpacking gear and looking up trails to get ourselves started. Our goal is to hike the 93 miles of the Wonderland trail (around the base of Mt. Rainier) one day. Which….will definitely take some training. I figured, why not read about Cheryl’s time on the PCT trail with little, to no training? This book is definitely going to identify more with individuals that are interested in either hiking or backpacking. But, Cheryl was also an advice columnist before becoming an author and this book is filled with metaphors, quotes, and stories that will inspire one to pull themselves back up if they are down. The main reason that Cheryl started her journey on the trail was based on grief, she was grieving her mothers death and her divorce. My favorite part of Cheryl’s writing/journey is how she ties in the nature around her to her healing process. For example,

“Crater Lake was a mountain with a heart torn out, that eventually healed— like myself”

If you’re interested in maybe picking up hiking, or you possibly already backpack and hike, you should definitely pick this book up. If you’re wanting a good story with a ton of brilliant metaphors throughout, take a chance on this one, and I think you’ll really enjoy it.


Emma Donoghue’s Room.

Jacket (2)Room is being made into a film and will be out nationwide on November 6th, 2015. Please, please read the book first! Because, I’m not completely sure how well this book can be made into a movie and still have its full effect.

In Donoghue’s Room, Jack and his Ma live in an 11×11 foot room morning, day and night. This room has been their prison since Ma was 19 and all of Jack’s life (because he was born in that very room). Ma and Jack eat, sleep, sing, play, read, cook and bathe in this room, since “Old Nick” kidnapped Ma six years before. What makes this story so interesting (and why I think it may be difficult to adapt into a film) is that it is told from the perspective of five-year old Jack, who has never been outside of Room. Just pick this book up and read the first paragraph…here’s a taste of what Jack is like:

“Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.”

The only things that Jack has ever known is Ma, Room and all of the things that are located in Room. To Jack, there are a million things to do in Room (read, water Plant, play Track, sleep, color), but for Ma, she is continuously thinking of the Outside and her life before being put in Room. There are two different perspectives on life coming from Ma and Jack throughout this book and it’s an awesome read. I couldn’t get over how incredibly content Donoghue made Jack’s reality feel to him, I wanted to scream “There’s a whole world out there, Jack!”. But, he wouldn’t have understood that. His Ma has to slowly introduce Jack to things throughout the book before finally getting him to understand that she had not always been in Room.

Please pick this book up and read it before the movie comes out….I really think reading this is going to make the movie so much better for you!

So, there ya go. Three new books to add to your pile! Please find me in the store and let me know how you like one, two or all three!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén