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North Carolina on the Map and in the News



“[T]here are a lot of people who are in writing as kind of a hobby and then there are people who are in it for life. I think the people who are in it for life can’t stop.”—Ron Rash (Conversations 20)

IN IT FOR LIFE a review by Anna Dunlap Higgins-Harrell Mae Miller Claxton and Rain Newcomb, editors. Conversations with Ron Rash (Oxford: University Press of Mississippi, 2017).

ANNA DUNLAP HIGGINS-HARRELL grew up in Blowing Rock, NC, a small town in the highlands of Watauga County. She earned her PhD from the University of Tennessee and is now a Professor at Gordon State College in Barnesville, GA, where she also serves as Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. She has published several essays in NCLR based on interviews with North Carolina writers, including Ron Rash, and for the 2016 (twenty-fifth) issue, revisited her subjects and published an update featuring all of them. MAE MILLER CLAXTON is a Professor of English at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, where she teaches classes in Southern, Appalachian, and Native American literature. She is the editor of Conversations with Dorothy Allison (University Press of Mississippi, 2012), a contributing editor to the Heath Anthology of American Literature (Cengage Learning, 2009), and co-editor of the McMichael Anthology of American Literature (Prentice Hall, 2003). Her scholarship focuses primarily on Eudora Welty, and she served as president of the Eudora Welty Society from 2010 to 2012. Her recent work is on Appalachian writer Horace Kephart and the Native South. As the Hunter Scholar for 2012– 2013, she is developing a number of projects from the Kephart collection in Hunter Library.

How would an editor prepare a collection of interviews with Ron Rash, the Appalachian author of five collections of poetry, six collections of short stories, and seven novels? That question is exactly what I asked myself when I first heard of the approximately two-hundred page Conversations with Ron Rash, a collection of twenty-two interviews edited by Mae Miller Claxton and Rain Newcomb. After all, there are so many interviews, covering so many years and so many stages of the author’s career: there are the ones in little-known journals when Rash himself was barely known; there are interviews in regional periodicals as the career began to garner the attention of scholars of North Carolina literature; there are pieces in Southern literary journals as the reputation continued to grow; then came the post-Serena (2008) explosion of interviews in a multitude of acclaimed national news sources, followed soon after by a growing collection of interviews conducted overseas. How indeed would anyone go about the project of selecting? While I cannot say how many countless hours of work such an editorial endeavor took, I can vouch for the worth of the outcome. For a compilation of interviews spanning sixteen years, Conversations with Ron Rash is a very compelling and cohesive text,

a work so saturated with Rash’s voice that it reads much like one of his novels. Part of what makes Conversations such an effective addition to Ron Rash scholarship has to do with the medium itself. The collection is a fascinating study of the history and nature of the Ron Rash interview. Although beginning on Appalachian soil with an interview that originally appeared in the Mossy Creek Reader, the interview locale in this new edition moves from there to places like Boston and then to Australia and France. Even the methods of interviewing Ron Rash add details to this story of the author’s career. A few of the interviews were conducted by phone, first with the overworked teacher in his office at TriCounty Technical College, then later with Rash, the John Parris Chair of Appalachian Cultural Studies, tucked away in his mountain cabin near Western Carolina University. One is an NPR Broadcast with Rash set up in borrowed studio space at Clemson University. Other interviews are face to face: Jeff Daniel Marion speaks with the little-known poet at the Appalachian Center on the campus of Carson-Newman College; Joyce Compton Brown, long-time neighbor and a mentor to Rash during his years at Gardner-Webb, interviews the writer in front of the crowd at the 2003 Ron Rash

RAIN NEWCOMB lives in Asheville, NC. She is a former lecturer at Western Carolina University. Lark Books has published several of her children’s and young adult books, including Is My Hamster Wild?: The Secret Lives of Hamsters, Gerbils & Guinea Pigs (2008); The Mad Scientist’s Notebook: Warning! Dangerously Wacky Experiments Inside (2008); The Master Spy Handbook: Help Our Intrepid Hero Use Gadgets Codes & Top-Secret Tactics to Save the World from Evil Doers (2005); and Kids’ Crafts: Paper Fantastic: 50 Creative Projects to Fold, Cut, Glue, Paint & Weave (2004).

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.