One of my Christmas gifts from my Durham-soon-to-be-moving-to-Charlotte children, was a book entitled Amazing Place. I’ve just finished it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about writing as a craft.
The book combines two of my favorite subjects–North Carolina and writing. In it, Marianne Gingher, author and professor of comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has collected twenty-one personal narratives from some of the best writers in North Carolina, a state that has arguably produced more first-rate writers than any other. Gingher had a hunch that each author in her collection would have something to say about the role North Carolina has played in his/her writing life. She selected the broadest possible prompt to account for creative latitude as she approached the prospective contributors:
We seem to have a lot of writers here. Why? How does living in North Carolina matter? How is living in North Carolina conducive to the writing life? If a writer lived here for a time but left, what part of North Carolina does he or she carry forever? What memories of certain North Carolina places and people who inhabited them persist to the extent that a writer must allow for their influence or inspiration? How has some specific “where” in North Carolina served as a muse? (p.3)
The list of authors includes many familiar names, among them my three favorites–Fred Chappell, Lee Smith, and Clyde Egerton. Newer writers, like Monique Truong, who was born in South Vietnam in 1968, and immigrated to Boiling Springs, provide diverse and fresh prospective as well. The three geographic regions of the state are also represented: Mountains, Piedmont, Down East and the Coast.
In her introduction, Marianne Gingher summarizes best what the reader of Amazing Place can expect to find within its pages:
Readers of Amazing Place can expect what fans of North Carolina Literature most admire: the wizardry and welter of original, resonant voices telling fine tales. These tales happen to be true. Think of this book as a travelogue of muses, taking us to specific ‘somewheres’ that have impacted each writer’s imagination. (p.4)
Thanks to my Durham Stillermans–i.e., Katie, a fellow book enthusiast and much faster reader than I– for introducing me to this book.