The Latest from Carolina Book Beat: Wilton Barnhardt and Jeff VanderMeer


[Note: due to a technical problem we do not have a podcast recording of this show. My sincere apologies to our guests and to our listeners.]

Wilton Barnhardt and Jeff VanderMeer (broadcast 7-7-2014) — A double-feature show with guest host Samuel Montgomery-Blinn and (for the second hour) co-host Paul Nagy.

The show kicked off with an hour with NC State professor Wilton Barnhardt, who has two readings early this week to kick off a nation-wide tour in support of the new paperback release of his NY Times bestselling Southern novel Lookaway, Lookaway, optioned earlier this year by HBO for a comedy series. He reads at Flyleaf Books at 7 pm on Monday night, and at McIntyre’s Books on Tuesday at 6:30 pm. Barnhardt talked about the unique, almost-experimental structure of the book — one point of view chapter each from 11 members of the Johnston and Jarvis families — and some of the research and reactions to the book. He also gave a short reading from the book, a discussion between Duke and Gaston. Later, he gave an amazing retelling of his start in writing, post-graduation from Michigan State, getting his foot in the door at Time-Life through the various temp agencies they employed, applying for secretarial jobs while also working on articles here and there, until finally landing a regular gig as the NASCAR reporter for Sports Illustrated. He also talked about his teaching history, from UC Irvine to Warren Wilson and his current position at NC State’s MFA program. Finally, I put him on the spot by asking for 5 of his most influential and/or favorite books: The Ambassadors by Henry James, Light in August by William Faulkner, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, Sentimental Edudcation by Gustave Flaubert (which he credits as being his “aha!” moment of connecting historical fiction with satirical farce), and John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy.

After a short excerpt from the Macmillan Audio edition of Lookaway, Lookaway, and thanks to Paul’s help, I was able to welcome Jeff VanderMeer into the second hour of the show via phone. VanderMeer has 4 readings in the Carolinas in just over a week, starting and ending with Wednesday events (9th and 16th) at Hub City in Spartanburg, SC around readings on Thursday (July 10th) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books at 7:30 pm and Saturday (July 12th) at Asheville’s Malaprop’s. And! He will be my guest via phone this week on Carolina Book Beat at 11 AM. (Do check out his conversation with Frank Stasio on WUNC’s The State of Things which aired last week.) We talked about SharedWorlds, the summer teen writing camp at which he has taught for several years now, about his recent (and multiple award-winning) creative writing book Wonderbook, and of course his Southern Reach trilogy: Annihilation (published in February), Authority (published in May), and Acceptance (to be published in September). A key conversation point was on the distinction between an “unreliable” narrator and one who is purposefully careful with the details he or she reveals at which time. Speaking of narrators, we also talked about the audiobook editions for The Southern Reach, read by Carolyn McCormick and Bronson Pinchot for Blackstone Audio.

After the guest interviews, Paul and I talked about the nominees for the Manly Wade Wellman Award and went through the upcoming book events calendar with a particular focus both on new science fiction convention ConGregate (in Winston-Salem this weekend) and a multi-creator signing event at Chapel Hill Comics on Saturday evening to mark the sale of the store by long-time owner Andrew Neal.

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