Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel
  • Alternative view 1 of Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel
  • Alternative view 2 of Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel

Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel

5.0 1
by Fred Chappell

See All Formats & Editions

This story of a day in the life of Joe Robert Kirkman, a North Carolina mountain schoolteacher, sly prankster, country philosopher, and family man, won the hearts of readers and reviewers across the country.


This story of a day in the life of Joe Robert Kirkman, a North Carolina mountain schoolteacher, sly prankster, country philosopher, and family man, won the hearts of readers and reviewers across the country.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Deeply felt, warm, and funny . . . a wonderful tale, one full of wild humor and humanity.” —The Los Angeles Times

“The resonantly lyrical novel enchants us . . . we are lifted to a height of exhilaration few current writers can take us to.” —New York Newsday

Brighten washes you with language. Reading it is like leaping into one of those streams in the middle of nowhere where everything is green and our childhoods wait to reclaim something lost, something astoundingly simple as joy.” —Charlotte Observer

“A raconteur of extraordinary gifts, Chappell fluidly spins mountain yarns, weaning spellbinding myths, hypnotic dreams, hilarious dialogue and unforgettable characters into the warp and weft of a funny, poignant and very human story.” —Orlando Sentinel

“At once lyrical and plainspoken, relentlessly funny and, at crucial moments, breathlessly sad . . . Brighten the Corner Were You Are is Fred Chappell's finest work so far and thus--I have been reading and writing and waiting forty years to say this--it's a blooming masterpiece.” —George Garrett

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in the 1940s, this series of interlinked yarns about life on a North Carolina ``scratch-ankle mountain farm'' is told from the point of view of Jess, age 11. PW called Chappell ``a gifted spinner of fictions that often verge on fantasy and the tall tale.'' (August)
Library Journal
Narrated with wit and engaging high spirits by his son Jess, this brief, sparkling novel re-creates the comic episodes that constitute Joe Robert Kirkman's last day as high school teacher in Tipton, North Carolina, in 1946: running afoul of a bobcat high in a poplar tree; rescuing a child from drowning; accepting a tribute from the parents of a suicide; coping creatively with the touchy subject of evolution in his general science class; discovering the humanity of the black janitor; coaxing a goat from a roof; and losing a Socratic argument to the shyest student in his world history class. With his open, Marxist (Harpo) view of the postwar world, Kirkman is a riotous, riveting fictional creation. A superb comic work.-- Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.
Kirkus Reviews
Well-crafted portraiture from southern novelist Chappell (More Shapes Than One, 1991; Brighten the Corner Where You Are, 1989, etc.), who offers proof that regional fiction is alive and well, and perfectly suited for export up North and farther afield.

The first refreshing thing about Chappell is that he knows how to tell a story. The second is that he doesn't pretend to be doing anything else. Ostensibly, the central character here is Granny Sorrells, an elderly North Carolina hillbilly on her deathbed. Granny is surrounded by her kinfolk, but we more or less lose track of her as a character once her grandson Jess starts to reminisce about Granny's stories of the local women she spent most of her life with. We thus learn about "The Shooting Woman," who seduced her husband with her marksmanship; "The Figuring Woman," who became the village soothsayer; "The Madwoman," who lost her wits after an unhappy affair, and so on. Although this concentration on strong, self-reliant backwoods girls brings the novel perilously close to self-parody at times, Chappell is able to provide enough color and credibility to the (easily recognizable) types he works with to rescue them from stereotype, and the old-fashioned and very formal device of giving us a narrator who stands largely outside the action of the tale works nicely to bring us into what ordinarily would be a very strange and disorienting world. To a large degree Chappell, like most regionalists, is attempting to re- create an entire society, and the success with which he does so gives his characters an uncommon depth and texture. Although his rhetoric can get a bit overblown, it usually supports the action and fits the characters.

Busy, satisfying, and wholesome: Chappell casts a sharp eye upon a very rich landscape and gives us a portrait as poignant as it is clear.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Fred Chappell is the award-winning author of over twenty books of poetry and fiction. His previous novels include I Am One of You Forever and Look Back All the Green Valley. He teaches at the University of North Carolina in Grennsboro, where he lives with his wife Susan.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Brighten the Corner Where You Are 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
klee54 More than 1 year ago
Fred Chappell sure brightened my corner as I read his book. This story about a day in the life of his father was an amusing, heartwarming story that made me wish I could meet the main character in real life. The teacher in me yearned to read about the rest of his days as well!