Scenic downtown Sylva
You need to check out Sylva, one of our more scenic small towns here in Western North Carolina, which boasts not only a Confederate statue and an old-timey courthouse on the hill, but one of the best little bookstores around - City Lights Books, where I read from "Half-Life of Home" on a Friday spring evening to an appreciative audience. Thanks Chris and Eon for making me feel at home.
Meanwhile, Pam Kelley, who writes the Reading Life column for the Charlotte Observer, observed my new novel nicely in her blog "The Reading Life." It's always strange for a journalist to have the usual roles reversed and be on the receiving end of the inquistion: So what's your novel about? What inspired you to write it? Etc.
Pam did a yeoman's work in summarizing the book and picking out the high points of our conversation.
Here's Pam's review:
A simple, everyday garage sale opens Dale Neal’s new novel, “The Half-Life of Home,” but it’s a garage sale fraught with meaning.
Eva Wilder can’t wait to rid herself of the clutter her family has accumulated over two decades. But when her husband, Royce Wilder, eyes the items for sale, he sees memories, not junk.
This tug between past and present, and the complicated relationship most of us have with change, lies at the heart of Neal’s story.
It’s the second novel for Neal, 54, a reporter for the Asheville Citizen-Times. His first, “Cow Across America,” won the 2009 Novello Literary Award from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library.
“The Half-Life of Home” (Casperian Books; $15.95) takes place in two fictional N.C. mountain towns, Beaverdam and Altamont. (He borrowed “Altamont” from Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward Angel,” where it stands in for Asheville.)
Neal sets his story in 1992. The Internet and digital technology haven’t yet transformed the world, but middle-aged Royce Wilder feels his once-secure life shifting beneath his feet. Raised in rural Beaverdam, he has moved to Altamont, a town that is becoming populated by transplants, strangers instead of neighbors.
His wife seems distant, his teenaged son, rebellious. And the family is struggling to finance a lifestyle that includes his son’s private-school education.
Pressure to sell family land grows when he learns his hometown emits dangerously high levels of radon gas. There’s even talk that the area could become a radioactive waste dump.
In Beaverdam, meanwhile, a rash of break-ins prompts suspicion that Wanda McRae, a troubled soul known as the Witch Woman, has been making forays into town from her mountain cabin.
Royce discovers the Witch Woman holds a secret about his family. He also learns to move forward.
Though more than a few Southern novels mythologize the past (such as “Gone With the Wind”), one message in this book is about letting the past go.
Neal recalls a great-uncle who said it was a lot easier to start a car engine than hook up a horse. Sometimes, Neal says, progress can be a wonderful thing.
Neal will read twice in Charlotte on May 12 -- at 2 p.m. at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, and 4 p.m. at the Wingmaker Arts Collaborative, 207 W. Worthington Ave, where he’ll be joined by fiction writer Kathryn Schwille and poet Gail Peck.
Read more here: http://www.readinglifeobs.blogspot.com/#storylink=cpy
Italo Calvino dives into a good book.
Call me old-fashioned or just plain stubborn.
I’ve made my living as a journalist for the past thirty years in an industry everybody keeps insisting is in its death throes. And just for fun and my own sanity, I spend my other waking hours, working words into novels, that other mode that people keep saying is dead in our Internet Age.
I still believe in books as in physical folios of pages between covers, hard or soft, and not just pixels of an e-book on your new gadget from Amazon or Apple. I still believe in bookstores, independently owned, with their walls and shelves full of brand new books just beckoning to be opened and read.
It’s a great joy to have a new book to add to that stock of imagination that independent bookstores traffic in, and to go and meet like-minded people who love to read.
I’m excited that the book tour for “Half-Life of Home” is taking shape, thanks to my hard-working publicist Bridgette Lacy. We’ve lined up readings at a few independent bookstores across the state, and more are on the way. So mark these on your calendar and plan to come on out if you have a chance:
Malaprop's, Asheville, 7 pm April 13
City Lights, Sylva, 6:30 pm, April 19
Accent on Books, 3 pm, April 27
McIntyres, Pittsboro, 11 am May 4
Blue Ridge Bookfest, Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock, May 18
Novelist, journalist, aficionado of all things Appalachian.