Scribblers: Stalking the Authors of Appalachia


In the small mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina, Thomas Wolfe lies at eternal rest just a few steps from William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry. Those graves are a short hop from the great inn where F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to dictate his writing from a body cast, and a half-hour's drive from the estate where the aged Carl Sandburg wrote deep into the night.

The city's ties to the world of letters are equally strong today. Gail Godwin and Charles Frazier were ...

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Scribblers: Stalking the Authors of Appalachia

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In the small mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina, Thomas Wolfe lies at eternal rest just a few steps from William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry. Those graves are a short hop from the great inn where F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to dictate his writing from a body cast, and a half-hour's drive from the estate where the aged Carl Sandburg wrote deep into the night.

The city's ties to the world of letters are equally strong today. Gail Godwin and Charles Frazier were schooled in Asheville, for example, and Robert Morgan and Fred Chappell in the immediate area. Stephen Kirk, author of Scribblers, is an editor and would-be literary gadfly. Taking Asheville as his canvas, he learns stories of the area's legendary authors and interviews some of its contemporary greats. Meanwhile, he also seeks out writers living in the shadows of the famous. He meets genre authors who make their living penning romances, Westerns, and mysteries. He immerses himself in the culture of writers' groups and conferences, exploring the hopes and frustrations of the unpublished and self-published. For every well-known author, there are a thousand folks laboring in obscurity. What drives them so hard, given such a remote likelihood of success? Scribblers is ultimately a humorous, sympathetic examination of the writer's urge, set against the background of a noted literary town. Its Woody Allenstyle narrator, who wants to be in the club as badly as the rest, casts a critical eye on his own efforts as he flubs a few interviews, commits a faux pas here and there, and gradually finds his way.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780895873071
  • Publisher: Blair, John F. Publisher
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,528,366
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Pencilneck's Holiday 3
Chapter 2 Authors Anonymous 24
Chapter 3 Big Game 40
Chapter 4 Toil 59
Chapter 5 Critiquing the Critiquer 76
Chapter 6 Cornucopia 96
Chapter 7 Night Sweats/Self-Gratification 122
Chapter 8 Ham-and-Eggers 142
Chapter 9 Son of Bullitt 164
Chapter 10 Girl Power 181
Chapter 11 The Worthies' Parade 207
Chapter 12 Unfinished Business 226
Acknowledgments 248
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2004

    An intriging collection of Appalachian writers

    'When I go to the barbershop and the barber says, 'What do you do for a living?' it's like I can't think of a thing to tell him. And the only answer I've come up with, which I have not had the courage yet to speak to a stranger, is to say, 'I collect people's lives.'' In Scribblers, Stephen Kirk, who for 16 years has been editor-in-chief at John F. Blair, Publisher. For Scribblers, he visited Asheville, North Carolina, and its environs, including the Black Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains, to collect people's lives, or, as Kirk elsewhere puts it, 'stalking the authors of Appalachia.' A better title for Kirk's book would be Scriveners and Scribblers, for he writes about both professionals and amateurs, veterans and wannabes, the masters of prose and those posing as masters. Asheville's greatest literary son is Thomas Wolfe, author of manuscripts famously carved by editor Maxwell Perkins into four novels--Look Homeward, Angel; Of Time and the River; The Web and the Rock; and You Can't Go Home Again. Wolfe was also the writer of numerous high-quality short stories. But there are many other striking literary connections in the greater Asheville area. At nearby Hendersonville, North Carolina, Carl Sandburg had a summer home. O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) was buried at Asheville's Riverside Cemetery, where Wolfe's remains also are interred. F. Scott Fitzgerald lived and wrote in the area, and on March 10, 1948, Scott's wife Zelda died in a fire at Asheville's Highland Mental Hospital. Scribblers is a combination of literary history and personal memoir. Kirk interviews many contemporary writers of Appalachia--such as Sharyn McCrumb, Fred Chappell, Charles Price, Gail Godwin, Robert Morgan, Jill Jones, Randy Russell, Bill Brooks, Jan Karon, Joan Medlicott, Ann B. Ross, and Charles (Cold MOuntain) Frazier--sharing fascinating anecdotes about their lives and work. Kirk peppers Scribblers with a self-deprecation that will make you laugh out loud. Moreover, he includes informative details about the creative process, the craft of writing, the publishing industry, the book trade, and print-on-demand technology. An attempt to position this book in a specific genre is doomed to failure. Let's just say that it features many items of interest for inveterate readers. For instance, a woman whom Kirk met at a writers' workshop 'began taking trips to Ireland, the land of her ancestry. Struck by the many parallels in folklore, dance, music, and crafts between Ireland and the southern Appalachians--attributed to the Scots-Irish migration of the nineteenth century--she resolved to write a book on the subject.' Kirk voice is unpretentious; he pulls no punches; he lets the chips fall where they may; he can laugh at himself as well as at others. And, although one should think twice about riding with the author in his decrepit Oldsmobile, accompanying him through the pages of Scribblers is a delightful trip. I must take issue, however, with Kirk's disparagement of Thomas Wolfe as 'a freshman trying to fill a blue book, desperately hoping windiness and obfuscation will cover for a dearth of substance.' As if, in his wildest dreams, Mr. Kirk could ever come close to the genius of Wolfe's artistry! Pat Conroy's assessment of Wolfe, which Kirk relates, is more palatable. 'For Conroy,' writes Kirk, 'Wolfe is the Babe Ruth of literature, a man who swung for the fence, who wrote like his hair was on fire, who was battered by critics but never cowed, who was more courageous than other writers because he refused to hold himself back, even for his own protection.' In this matter, Conroy rather than Kirk is closer to the truth. I agree with Conroy and consider Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel one of the dozen greatest English-language novels of the 20th century. Roy E. Perry of Nolensville is an advertising copywriter at a Nashville publishing house. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Kirk, a grad

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