Ten homespun personal essays—most published elsewhere—from the author of last year’s acclaimed novel Jim the Boy.
Earley grew up in a small-town, kudzu-covered corner of North Carolina more recognizable as the terrain of Thomas Wolfe than that of Dorothy Allison. Seven of these pieces explore his early years there, as a 1960s television acolyte, a squirrel-hunting dilettante, and, through it all, an astute, heartbreaking observer of the idiosyncratic people around him. The title story, which appeared in Harper’s, serves as an introduction to this American boyhood, wholly transformed by a color, Zenith television set, replete with rooftop antenna. As the cornerstone entry here, a masterful exercise in metaphor, it’s hard to imagine what more the author could have to articulate about his young life. But Earley thankfully only has more trenchant memories to spin. With “Hallway,” in an equally unadorned language, but with more deeply felt remembrances, Earley recalls, with a child’s perception, his extended family’s peculiarities and his own fearful awe of his grandfather. A look at the odd Scots-derived Appalachian dialect of his youth (“The Quare Gene”) leads to a reflection on the “shared history” that the author is losing with his highland ancestors. A similar wistfulness pervades “Granny’s Bridge,” a tribute to a time when crossing a bridge—and certainly not one to the 21st century—could enhance a person’s outlook. In “Ghost Stories,” Earley takes his wife to New Orleans to investigate the haunted city: “We are looking for ghosts, but, I think, a good story will do.” And the final piece (“Tour de Fax”), another gem from Harper’s, follows him on a record-setting circumnavigational flight, recorded stop by stop in under 32 hours. Earley’s skewering of the trip’s corporate sponsors is good fun, and his capstone epiphany—that where he ended up, at home, is the only place he’d fly around the world to get to—rings true.
Poetic, inspiring proof that you can go home again.
"I loved the smell of incense as much as the smell of beer, and probably for the same reasons. The sad truth is that I do not like Christians very much, particularly when they congregate." Such quasi-non sequiturs characterize Earley's elegant, evocative and often provocative prose, which never slips into sentimentality or self-indulgent reverie. His memoir begins with his childhood in a small Southern town where time is measured by television sitcoms, and his parents marital problems and his sister's death are counterbalanced with Star Trek, MASH and Happy Days. Yet suicidal depressions encroach, as Earley grows up and gets married, though he eventually finds a material and spiritual life that suits him. Earley illuminates the nuances of accumulated experience without diminishing the external milestones. Whether describing his father running away from home at age 13, his grandmother's obsessive religious fervor (she drove people from the house so she could speak to God) or an imagined conversation with his dead sister ("she would say `What happened to you?' and I would say, `My hair fell out' "), Earley allows remarkable access to his inner life. As in his highly praised novel (Jim the Boy) and short story collection (Here We Are Today), he continues to create a unique, compelling voice that combines stylized prose with an emotional openness to complex truths. (May 25)Forecast: Up-and-comer Earley's literary work is poised for commercial success. Selected by the New Yorker and Granta as one of today's best young fiction writers, he will make appearances across the country on a 16-city tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.