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2018

NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

“YOU MUST ALWAYS HAVE AN ‘ALEX’”: HOW A WRONG TURN BECAME THE RIGHT PLACE by Emily Herring Wilson adapted from remarks given at the North Carolina Writers Conference Rocky Mount, 29 July 2017 I appreciate Jim Clark’s asking me to be part of the program. I made my first literary appearance in Raleigh at North Carolina State with Guy Owen in the last century. This is the only organization I belong to in which we are allowed to grow old together. To say a few words about Alex Albright is easy: you’ll never meet a nicer person. He is a man of many talents – teacher, writer, founding editor, organizer – and he has been honored before for those stellar and steadfast achievements. Today at the annual July meeting of the storied North Carolina Writers Conference I have been asked on your behalf to recognize Alex – and Elizabeth – for their amazing reinvention – the R.A. Fountain General Store in Fountain, NC, which has brought lights and sounds and music and an internet cafe to a sleeping town of fewer than five hundred people. But that hardly does justice to Alex. In a letter to us, Jim described Fountain as a “community center, bookstore, museum, gallery, performance space, bioregional locus, literary hub, locavore nexus.” I can’t do better than that, especially since I had to look up “locavore nexus,” though

apparently everyone else knows the meaning. I was born before my time. North Carolina used to be a place of many small towns – most of the founding members of this organization meeting in 1950, en route to Manteo, drove through towns like Fountain that had thrived as a railroad juncture. Then, North Carolina was still a rural state of small farms and dusty roads, and families came to town of a Saturday to shop and to visit. That was before interstate highways made it possible for drivers to get to the beach on cruise control. If a map of North Carolina could be animated, I think we would see the stains of tears marking the places where a small town used to be. If not ghost towns, at least they had a sad look of being left behind. If you are old enough to have learned to drive in a gear-shift car, you have waited at the stop light in one of those small towns, giving you time to look around. COURTESY OF MICHAEL BRANTLEY

ABOVE Fountain Store at Night by former NCLR editorial assistant Michael Brantley

(This “photo illustration” won a Fuji Masterpiece Award in 2008.)

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.

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