“NPR asked poets laureate, state librarians, bookstore owners and other literary luminaries… to recommend quintessential reads that illuminate where they live….
“Jaki Shelton Green, poet laureate of North Carolina, [nominated] North Carolina: Land of Water, Land of Sky by Bland Simpson:
“A stunning account of not only the majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains of the Appalachian range, sprawling forests and the enchanted crests of the Atlantic coastline, but also its people: our stories, identities, histories, sufferance, memory, vision and the ancestral energy that remains inside of our communities.
“North Carolina, like many states, has a layered and complex culture. Bland Simpson has written a compelling love letter to our entwined ‘goodliest land’ amplifying our collective appreciation for the sanctuary of home and kinship.”
— From “Traveling this summer? Here are book picks for all 50 states (and then some)” at NPR (June 1)
“Sara Dylan answered the door, gave me a blank look, and closed the door. About two minutes later Bob Dylan himself appeared and stepped out onto the small porched entry. He wore blue jeans, a white shirt buttoned all the way up and a black leather vest, and he was very friendly and relaxed.
” ‘Bland. What kind of name is that?’ ”
— From “Christmas With Dylan: A true-life pilgrimage” by Bland Simpson in Creative Loafing (Dec. 15, 2004)
I don’t know which I appreciate more about “Christmas With Dylan” — its unforgettable, out-of-left-field last line or its serendipitous parallel with Dylan’s own youthful pilgrimage:
“On the porch was Mrs. Lillian Sandburg. She didn’t seem startled. …. Dylan announced: ‘I am a poet. My name is Robert Dylan, and I would like to see Mr. Sandburg.’ She disappeared into the house….Finally, the poet appeared, a genial, slow-moving man …. He wore an old plaid wool shirt, baggy trousers and a green eye-shade over shell-rimmed glasses….Sandburg: ‘You look like you are ready for anything….’ ”
— From “No Direction Home: The Life And Music Of Bob Dylan” by Robert Shelton (2011)
“The Dismal Swamp Canal, on the border between Virginia and North Carolina… was basically a dredged passage through the marshes, and it enjoyed brief fame because of a hotel built on its banks directly on top of the state line.
“Young eighteenth century swells would hold duels here, one man standing in Virginia, the other on the far side of the border, making their crime legally ambiguous — particularly important if one of them died. And gamblers could scurry across the hotel lounge into North Carolina whenever any Virginia marshal arrived to break up their game.”
— From “The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible” by Simon Winchester (2013)
Charlotte to the Great Dismal Swamp perhaps being the cultural equivalent of Murphy to Manteo, I’m only now discovering the notorious Lake Drummond Hotel. A more detailed description can be found in “The Great Dismal: A Carolinian’s Swamp Memoir” by Bland Simpson (1990).
“Couple of times a year, Mother could be counted on to call me: ‘Frank, turn on the public TV! Bland’s on Bill Friday’s show!’
” ‘Mother,’ I said, ‘who isn’t on Bill Friday’s show? Before he quits, Bill Friday will have interviewed every single person in the state. That’s why they call it “North Carolina People.” He’s using the alphabet — when he gets to the Waynesville Qs, then it’s you and me, Mom.’ ”
— From Frank G. Queen’s introduction of Bland Simpson as recipient of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 2010