In one of the most searing dialogues of Chris McGinley’s debut short story collection Coal Black, an eastern Kentucky drug dealer known as Hellbender asks a sheriff who’s been pursuing him: “Why do you think people around here are so addicted to drugs?” He answers his own question: “It’s because of depression. There is a streak of fatalism in Coal Black that is not just informed by the trappings of the crime fiction genre, but by the socioeconomic devastation of its rural Kentucky setting. The survivalist outlook of the characters in these stories is its inevitable consequence.
Arts & Entertainment
Short story collections can rise and fall by something as simple as the order in which its stories are presented to the reader. A punchy opening tale or an evocative closing yarn can compel the audience to read further or leave an impression that makes up for the weaker stories within its pages. The stakes are even higher when the stories are interconnected like in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, a standard bearer of this subgenre, where a fictional Midwest town is the canvas upon which the characters’ lives unfold, or Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, where its main character and his drug-addled perception of the world serve as the collection’s connecting tissue.
In 2018, Williams opened up his shop and decided to call the venture KimoPics Studio and Gallery. He sees the store as a means to meet new and interesting people from all walks of life that he never would have come in contact with. “I do make my photography available for sale, but more importantly, and my main goal, is to engage with those who enter my gallery on a plethora of subjects, and to create a positive camaraderie that can be sustainable once they leave.”
After fifteen years of research and hundreds of interviews with women, author Katherine Cobb has compiled her findings into the compelling nonfiction book, The Self-Loathing Project. The majority of the book is comprised by first-person essays, which Cobb formatted from the interviews. The original questions are also included, plus a resources section and information about how the author personally overcame self-loathing.
In Tim Westover’s novel The Winter Sisters, the hills of antebellum northern Georgia are the setting for a clash between science and magic in a story that treads nimbly between fantasy, picaresque, and historical fiction. In 1822, Savannah doctor Aubrey Waycross is invited to Lawrenceville, a remote town that, thanks to Westover’s evocative prose, seems to exist in a perpetual time warp where America is still new and tradition coexists with progress—a community that is as distant from cities as it is from the ripples of the Revolutionary War and the brewing tensions of the Civil War.
Fentanyl, Inc. opens with the story of eighteen-year-olds Bailey Henke and Kain Schwandt as they go on a road trip across the snowed plains of North Dakota. Henke and Schwain plan on visiting family, but they have an ulterior motive: they hope their time on the road will help them kick their addiction to fentanyl, a drug they once discovered by buying medical patches on the black market.
Timothy Dodd’s Fissures and Other Stories is a slim tome of 19 short stories that mostly take place in West Virginia, but whose range of themes and characters build a larger world, recognizable and yet intriguing.
This year, the popular Over the Mountain Studio Tour (OTMST)—the oldest studio tour in West Virginia—will host its 30th Anniversary Tour, landing on Saturday and Sunday, November 9 + 10, from 10am-5pm. The rare occasion allows the public to meet artists throughout Jefferson County, observe their studio spaces, and learn about their processes.
As I read Timothy J. Hillegonds’ harrowing memoir of addiction and youthful rage, The Distance Between (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), I was reminded of a sentence written by one of my favorite fiction authors, Richard Lange: “We can only, all of us, run so far before what we really are and what is meant to be catch up to us.”
The idea of going “back to the land” tends to evoke picturesque images of a nurturing earth and a supposed return to an uncorrupted, self-sufficient lifestyle. These beliefs are swiftly shattered for the characters of Madeline ffitch’s outstanding first novel, Stay and Fight (Farrar, Starus and Giroux, 2019). Narrated through the alternating points of view of its four protagonists, the novel introduces us to Helen, who at 31, is tired of “waiting for my life the whole time.” She decides to leave Seattle with her boyfriend Shane and, thanks to an inheritance from Helen’s deceased uncle, they buy 20 acres of land in Appalachian Ohio.
The opioid epidemic has been described as “one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine.” But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the U.S. into consuming more than 80 percent of the world’s opioid painkillers.
Tony Martirano is about as native as it gets. Born and raised in Martinsburg (WV), he attended many of the schools and visited the local libraries where he now performs for kids and families as the region’s preeminent children’s musician.
Over the last decade, Sheldon Lee Compton has published numerous short stories ranging from magical realism to gritty, working-class fiction—and everything in between. What connects most of them is their poetic prose and their rootedness in Appalachia—and more specifically, Eastern Kentucky, where the author hails from—even when they don’t explicitly allude to a setting.
Entering its 28th year, Shepherdstown’s renowned Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) runs from July 5-28 and comprises six new plays by American playwrights—spotlighting contemporary issues that both challenge and entertain audiences.
Attendees for the world premiere of My Lord, What a Night, by Deborah Brevoort, at the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) this month will be able to boast that they are as close as they can come to seeing the dwellings and dressings of a true genius—Albert Einstein. In preparation for this production, set designer David Barber and costume designer Therese Bruck joined director Ed Herendeen on a journey to discover the authentic characteristics of the world-famous scholar in his Princeton, New Jersey, home.