Tag Archives: Award

Lights, Camera, Novel: Allan Gurganus’s Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AllOn-screen, the Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is much like its novel counterpart. Clocking in at a hefty 718 pages, Allan Gurganus’ debut work is no quick read. And the miniseries isn’t exactly a half-hour sitcom either. Given the length and the detail of the novel, it’s not surprising it would take four hours to adapt the epic life story of Confederate widow, Lucy Marsden.

Lucy’s life story was heavily influenced by her marriage at age fifteen to Captain Willie Marsden, thirty-five years her senior, and, until his death, the last surviving Confederate soldier. Gurganus’ celebrated novel is told from the perspective of the still spunky ninety-nine year-old Lucy who resides in a North Carolina nursing home.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All spent eight months on the New York Times Best Seller list and sold more than four million copies. The novel also won Gurganus the Sue Kaufman Prize from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. All this proving it was worth the seven long years it took to Gurganus to write Confederate Widow.

Gurganus was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He drew a great amount of inspiration from his grandmother, Willie Ethel Pitt Gurganus, who he would visit during his lunch breaks when in grade school. Despite their time together, she never shared her life stories with him. Lucy is his imagination of his grandmother’s experiences as a Confederate-era woman.

Right around the release of the novel in 1989, New York Magazine wrote a detailed profile on Gurganus, still available here through Google Books. The miniseries, which was broadcast on CBS, starred Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Cicely Tyson, Anne Bancroft and Blythe Danner. Lane played Lucy from teenage to middle age. Bancroft portrayed elderly Lucy.

Confederate Widow Miniseries

Photo courtesy of the Sonar Entertainment website.

The adaptation won four Emmys (Art Direction, Costume Design, Hairstyling, and Best Supporting Actress) out of its nine nominations. The miniseries was filmed in Madison, Georgia rather than North Carolina. The novel was set in the fictional town of Falls, North Carolina.

Gurganus did not write the screenplay, which was instead adapted by Joyce Eliason. The New York Times review of the miniseries indicates that Gurganus played a small part in the production. And, Gurganus in turn spoke positively of the television adaptation.

In 2003, Ellen Burstyn starred as Lucy in a theatrical adaptation of Confederate Widow on Broadway. A critic from Variety notes that it was a very long two hours and twenty minutes, attributed partially to the fact that the page-to-stage adaptation was conceived as a one-woman show. Apparently the production closed after one official show. A few years later in 2007, the novel was adapted again for the stage, this time by Gurganus, as a part of the Theater of the American South Festival. The production was pared down to a one-act, one-woman play that was better received than its ill-fated Broadway predecessor.

Visit Sonar Entertainment’s site for a short clip from the miniseries and some production shots. But if you’re interested in watching the miniseries for yourself, copies of the movie are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog in two locations in addition to the novel. The original blog post on Gurganus’ novel is available here.

Sources consulted: Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, New York Times, News & Observer (two different articles), People, Sonar Entertainment, Variety (two different articles), Wikipedia (Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All)

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Filed under 1990-1999, 1994, Gurganus, Allan, Historical, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Lights, Camera, Novel: Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

Cold MountainNorth Carolina has been a popular setting for movies and television shows, yet that setting is most often fictitious. Of the 600 movies and shows nominally sited in North Carolina between 1980 and 2002, 95 percent were actually filmed outside of the state. Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of Cold Mountain was one of them. Charles Frazier’s novel depicts Confederate deserter W.P. Inman’s long and arduous journey from a hospital in Raleigh to his home near Cold Mountain and his sweetheart, the genteel Ada Monroe from Charleston, who struggles to survive on her own following the death of her father. British director Anthony Minghella scouted locations over a period of five years before deciding to film the adaptation in Romania. Filming in North Carolina would have been a boon to state tourism. When the novel was released in 1997, it created a small increase in tourism. Local businesses and state officials knew that filming here would both make jobs and increase tourism.

Romania was a more attractive choice to Minghella because the rural landscape is much more intact than in North Carolina, where elements of modern life, like telephone poles and paved roads, are present, and logging has altered the area’s appearance. Minghella also noted that there were too few period buildings around Asheville and its environs. By contrast, Minghella could more easily manipulate the Romanian countryside to look like Civil War era North Carolina. The majority of the film was shot in Romania, though a few locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia were used.

The real Cold Mountain at its highest point is a daunting 6,030 feet. The mountain is located within the Pisgah National Forest. Asheville’s tourism site advises that only experienced hikers should dare to take on 11-mile hike, which has no trail markers. Visitors can view the mountain from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Inman, Frazier’s protagonist is based on relatives–chiefly his great-great-uncle, but also his great-grandfather. Frazier retrieved information about Inman’s service from the North Carolina State Archives, whose records state that Inman deserted twice, although conflicting records throw doubt on the second desertion. Inman’s neck injury sustained during the Battle of the Crater and his death at the hands of the Home Guard are verified facts, represented in the novel and the movie adaptation.

Overall, the movie, featuring Hollywood stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger, is faithful to the book in terms of plot, though there are differences in mood. The romance between Ada and Inman and the violence (specifically the brutality of the Home Guard) are accentuated on-screen. Most of the characters are appropriately scruffy and disheveled, given the tough conditions, but Charles McGrath of the New York Times notes that Kidman’s Ada Monroe remains improbably radiant throughout the film.

Treatment of race and slavery drew some critical remarks. Both the book and movie’s portrayal of the Battle of the Crater downplayed the important presence of black soldiers on the Union side. Brendan Wolfe made a counterpoint during a critique of the first chapter of Kevin Lenin’s Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder. Wolfe is not troubled by how the novel and the film skirt around these tense issues since the focus of the story is not strict historical accuracy or a panoramic view of the war. Cold Mountain is the story of a disillusioned man on an epic trek home that parallels The Odyssey. But race and slavery are difficult topics to broach, and the representation of the American South throughout film history is varied.

 

The clip above from Movie Clips shows Jude Law as Inman in the beginning of the film resting in the trenches and looking at a photo of Ada shortly before the Union soldiers blow up a mine beneath the Confederate trench. After the fuse is lit, there’s a grand and dramatic cinematic explosion.

Minghella’s Cold Mountain was recognized with over 70 awards following its release in 2003. Renée Zellweger won Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, and the film was nominated for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song twice:  for T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello’s The Scarlet Tide and Sting’s You Will Be My Ain True Love. For those interested in the music of the film and Appalachian folk songs, look at this interview of Charles Frazier in the Journal of Southern Religion. Cold Mountain was the seventh film directed by director-producer-screenwriter-actor Minghella who died in 2008.  The movie is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog, as is the novel.  The original blog post on Frazier’s novel is available here.

Sources consulted here: Augusta Chronicle, Book Browse, Chicago Times (two different articles), Encyclopedia Virginia, Explore Asheville, History Extra (of BBC History Magazine), Journal of Southern Religion, Los Angeles Times, Movie Clips, New York Times, Prologue Magazine (of NARA), USA Today, Wikipedia (Anthony Minghella, Cold Mountain [film], Cold Mountain [novel], Cold Mountain [North Carolina])

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Frazier, Charles, Haywood, Historical, Mountains

Terry Roberts. A Short Time to Stay Here. Banner Elk, NC: Ingalls Publishing Group, 2012.

Western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee in 1917 wasn’t the “rural, undeveloped South” of northern newspaper articles; it was a land far beyond. It was a place of the steepest mountains, the wildest river gorges, the meanest lives, and the shortest winter rations in the country. It was deep, hard, lonesome, and –if you weren’t starving to death–beautiful.  

Stephen Robbins has been running the glamorous Mountain Park Hotel in Hot Springs, North Carolina for seven years. An insomniac, alcoholic widower, Stephen is devoted to his hotel and the people who work with him, confessing that he feels physically one with the elegant architecture. But Stephen’s life is about to change radically. World War I finds its way to the Mountain Park Hotel in the form of 2,000 German nationals, trapped in the United States after the declaration of war. Forced to turn the hotel into an internment camp, Stephen thinks he has more than he can handle. Not only is he expected to babysit 2,000 Germans, but he also has to keep the increasingly bloodthirsty townsfolk of Hot Springs from violence, especially his violent cousin Roy, who just happens to be the Sheriff. Sheriff Roy Robbins has no reason to love Stephen– thanks to a terrible mistake, Stephen shot and killed Roy’s brother a few years back. Roy is biding his time for revenge, and Stephen knows it.

Then Anna Ulmann, New York photographer, steps into the impending catastrophe. Fleeing a domineering husband in the North, she has also come south with a very real desire to photograph the internees in their prison. Stephen is by turns annoyed and attracted to the beautiful Anna, but he can’t help falling in love with her. Together, the two stand against escapees, typhoid, bodies arriving from the European front, and society’s own mandates against a married woman falling in love with a man who is not her husband. With blood feuds and angry husbands lying in wait, will Anna and Stephen survive the coming storm?

Written in descriptive, intelligent prose, this debut novel is a moving tale of finding love and empathy in a time of conflict, and what it means to be a prisoner in spirit, even if the body is free.

A Short Time to Stay Here was the winner of the 2013 Sir Walter Raleigh Award.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Historical, Madison, Mountains, Roberts, Terry, Romance/Relationship

Wiley Cash. A Land More Kind Than Home. New York: William Morrow, 2012.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. – Mark 16:17-18, KJV

Adelaide Lyle remembers her hometown of Marshall, North Carolina, as a harsh but beautiful place nestled deep in the mountains of Madison County. Like most folks there, Addie is a Christian, God-fearing individual. But when the charismatic pastor Carson Chambliss moves into town and opens the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following, he changes the face of her beloved town, and she feels an ugly, cold fear root in her soul. Chambliss covers all the windows of the little church in newspaper, and it is an unspoken agreement that no one talks about what happens during his fiery sermons. But when a woman dies from snakebite, Addie finally draws a line: children should not be involved in such things. She leaves the church, holding Sunday School for the children at her home. But like the rattlers he transports so carefully in little wooden boxes, Carson Chambliss is willing to wait patiently for his enemy to make a fatal misstep.

At nine years old, Jess Hall knows that he has to take care of his big brother, the boy everyone in Marshall knows as Stump. Stump is mute, and not as quick as the other children, so Jess has to protect him. But Stump doesn’t always listen to Jess, and one day both see something they shouldn’t– something dangerous that brings Stump under the cold and calculating eye of Pastor Chambliss. When Stump is invited to a very special service just for him, Jess doesn’t want him to go, but their mother is one of Pastor Chambliss’s most ardent followers and insists he’ll be fine. What happens next changes the little town of Marshall, and Jess’s world, forever.

Told through the eyes of three very different narrators, Wiley Cash’s excellent debut novel provides a glimpse into a town caught under the thumb of a man convinced he is God. Steeped in the history and flavor of the North Carolina mountains, fans of Charles Frazier will find this tale a fulfilling read.

 A Land More Kind Than Home won the inaugural Crook’s Corner Book Prize for best debut novel set in the American South.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Cash, Wiley, Historical, Madison, Mountains

Schweizer, Mark. The Tenor Wore Tapshoes. Tryon, NC: SJMP Books, 2005.

With writing that compares the rustling of a woman’s gown to the sounds of a cockroach rooting in a sugar-bowl, it’s safe to say that Police Chief Hayden Konig will never join the greats of American literature. Still, he insists on trying, even purchasing an old typewriter that once belonged to Raymond Chandler. Mr. Chandler, and his pipe, even show up on occasion to compliment Hayden’s efforts. Poor prose and ghostly sightings notwithstanding, Konig is an excellent police chief, and a talented organist at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in the small, sleepy mountain town of St. Germaine, North Carolina.

Hayden has just settled in from his last crime-solving adventure, which included the theft of a valuable diamond, a dead chorister, and multiple trips to England. You’d think that life would resume its leisurely pace, but this is just when St. Germaine chooses to get…interesting. First, there’s the body that parishoners discover hidden in the altar at St. Barnabas. Next, the local bakery produces a miraculous cinnamon bun in the shape of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is soon stolen. Poor Hayden loses a bet with his beautiful girlfriend Meg, and is made to enroll in a program designed to help him discover his religious masculinity, known simply as the Iron Mike Men’s Retreat. As if this weren’t enough, an itinerant preacher blows into town with his large revival tent and a feathered assistant known as Binny Hen the Scripture Chicken, who helps him select passages from the Bible.

Reeling from the amount of insanity a small town can apparently inflict in such a short time, Chief Konig somehow also finds time to be troubled by the arrival of a charming attorney called Robert Brannon, who immediately worms his way into everyone’s heart, and the very center of church politics. Hayden is also perplexed by the crimes that have sprung up throughout the community–very specific crimes that seem to follow a popular hymn depicting the trials of the saints. Will Konig solve all, or any of these mysteries? More importantly, will he have time to pay attention to what, or who, really matters? And will she say yes?

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Charles Frazier. Nightwoods. New York: Random House, 2011.

When Luce is appointed guardian for her dead sister Lilly’s young twins, her reclusive life in the back woods of a small mountain town changes forever. Frank and Dolores are not like other children. Witnesses to their mother’s murder at the hands of her abusive boyfriend Bud, their short past holds trauma and darkness that few will ever experience. But Luce has, and while she will never be able to shower them with expressions of motherly love, she comes to understand them better than anyone else ever could. When they kill her roosters, light various items on fire, and refuse to speak, she teaches instead of punishing. By taking them on long rambles in the foothills, Luce endeavors to instill in the twins the great healing interacting with the natural world has provided her. She doesn’t use force or lecture them, just allowing the simple lessons of observation and wonder to sink in.

Bud is an unsuccessful, small-time criminal, embarrassed that he has to rely on his girlfriend Lilly for support. When he unexpectedly successfully steals ten thousand dollars, the situation only gets worse: Lilly hides his money before he can drink it all away. Incensed, Bud’s behavior becomes more and more violent, until one day Lilly catches him in a monstrous act involving her twin children. She tries to kill him on the spot, but Bud murders her instead. Since the only witnesses were her kids, whom Bud is convinced are retarded since they refuse to speak, shaking the charges is a snap. The real problem is that he never found out where Lilly hid his money, but a sudden brainstorm convinces him that it must be with those kids and their aunt, Lilly’s sister Luce. So he sets out to the mountains to get back his cash, and to ensure that no one will ever be able to accuse him of Lilly’s murder.

Frazier’s third novel is a linguistic feast, combining a suspenseful plot and deep insight into the nature of love, revenge, and survival. It becomes apparent that the land, particularly the forest, is a character in this tale just as much as the men and women are, and its all-encompassing presence fills this satisfying read to the brim.

Nightwoods was the winner of the 2012 Sir Walter Raleigh Award.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Frazier, Charles, Historical, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Lauren Myracle. Shine. New York: Amulet Books, 2011.

Patrick Truman was never afraid, or if he was it never showed. When his classmates called him a pansy or a fairy, when they stole his pants and left him trapped in the bathroom, when they knocked into him or threw the word fag in his face, it never stuck. He cast off their darkness and let his light shine, just like his grandma, Mama Sweetie, told him to. But some people are so infected with hate and anger that such strength, such survival in another is unbearable. A tourist finds Patrick one Sunday morning at the gas station where he works, beaten and left for dead with a nozzle shoved down his throat. He lies in a coma, an object of gossip and fascination to the entire community of Black Creek, his small, conservative mountain town.

Cat Robinson knows she has to get to the bottom of it. Despite their statements to the local paper, the sheriff’s department isn’t doing anything, and many people even whisper that Patrick was asking for it, maybe even deserved it. Though they haven’t spoken in years, Patrick was her best childhood friend, and Cat aches for the distance that grew up between them in high school. She starts asking questions, opening old wounds, and examining herself and her class-divided, embittered town with a critical and unsparing eye. Filled with a fire and bravery she had forgotten, Cat rediscovers herself in the search for her friend’s attacker. She remembers how to shine, even in the face of the intolerant, the mentally destroyed, and the beaten down. Even in the face of her own victimization. Undaunted and unwilling to remain silent any longer, Cat is an excellent example of how we hope our children will learn to respond to hate.

Native daughter Lauren Myracle has written an engrossing tale that acknowledges human nature’s strange capacity for both chilling evil and inestimable grace. While aimed at young adults, older readers will also find that the finely crafted characters, well-written narrative, and overarching themes of friendship, acceptance, and courage make for an excellent read. It is an apt message for our times.

UPDATE July 27th, 2012: Congratulations to Shine for winning the 2012 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult fiction!

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Children & Young Adults, Mountains, Myracle, Lauren

Blonnie Bunn Wyche. The Anchor: P. Moore Proprietor. Wilmington, NC: Banks Channel Books, 2003.

I don’t consider my questions treason. I think it’s more about common sense. Pauline Moore is full of questions, and opinions. Everyone is: it is 1764 and the small town of Brunswick, North Carolina, along with the rest of the colony, is stirring under England’s stifling taxation. Unfortunately, since Pauline is female and only fifteen at that, she is expected to stay quiet and serve the real thinkers: men. But when her profligate father leaves town, Pauline is the only one left to take charge of her little sisters, sick mother, and the family tavern. The next few years will be hard ones: this spunky heroine will face the chaos of a budding rebellion, the daily tasks of managing a business and household, and powerful men who assume that her gender makes her a weak and simple target. Pauline is anything but. Educated, strong, and stubborn, she grows to adulthood alongside her new nation, where she imagines everyone, including slaves and women, will be free.

In this beautifully written and precisely researched tale, Blonnie Bunn Wyche provides a stirring look at the colonial town of Brunswick (now in ruins), the birth of the Revolutionary War in North Carolina, and a strong and fiery heroine who dares to stand up for freedom for all. Pauline Moore’s bravery and moral code will resonate in the minds of young women and readers everywhere.

Winner of the Juvenile Fiction Award from the American Association of University Women, and the N.C. Historical Society of Sherrills Ford’s Clark Cox Fiction Award.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Brunswick, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Romance/Relationship, Wyche, Blonnie Bunn

Susan Kelly. By Accident. New York: Pegasus Books, 2010.

Laura Lucas has experienced what might be the worst thing a person can experience–the death of a child.  In this introspective novel, the reader follows Laura in her grief–numbly walking through her daily routines, feeling awkward at social events, observing the radical changes in her formerly settled neighborhood. Laura loves the neighborhood, especially the trees.  It’s a pleasant surprise when the elderly woman next door leaves and a young man, an arborist, moves in.

Elliot is lively, a little crazy, and he delights Ebie, Laura’s daughter–and Laura too. They take note of the nature around them and Laura laughs and confides in Elliot. Laura’s husband senses that Elliot could become a rival.  He warns Laura and her friend warns her, but it is not Laura’s infidelity that pushes the marriage to its end.

By Accident won the 2010 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Guilford, Kelly, Susan S., Piedmont

Karen Salyer McElmurray. The Motel of the Stars. Louisville, KY: Sarabande, 2008.

It has been 10 years since Jason Sanderson’s son Sam was lost at sea. Over the years Jason has moved from North Carolina to Kentucky and remarried, but he never really dealt with his grief and his wife’s New Age attempts to help him do so backfire. Sam’s lover Lory has also spent the last decade with her grief, hiding from the world in her father’s rural hotel. After Jason meets Lory, their stories and memories of Sam are told in a series of flashbacks. Both Jason and Lory head toward Grandfather Mountain and the celebration of the Harmonic Convergence Anniversary Gathering, hoping to find some kind of peace. The Motel of the Stars won the 2003 AWP Award for Creative Nonfiction and was a National Book Critics Circle Notable Book.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Avery, McElmurray, Karen Salyer, Mountains