In Southern literary circles, the biggest news this week is the publication of Lee Smith‘s new book, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger: New and Selected Stories. While perhaps best known as a novelist of major repute (and with a fervent following), Smith is also a master of the short form, as she displays here with seven works sampled from her previous collections — Cakewalk (1981), Me and My Baby View the Eclipse (1990), and News of the Spirit (1997) — as well as seven new pieces. Among the new stories is a little gem called “Toastmaster,” about a shy, underdeveloped eleven-year-old boy (often mistaken for eight, says the story, and it’s a a mistake the book’s dustjacket made as well, which must be slightly embarrassing). Jeffrey travels from Washington, D.C. to Key West with his domineering mother and there, in a beachside bar called Salute, he discovers something bold and daring inside himself: a stand-up comic, waiting for his stage. Radical shifts in his family dynamic — and his entire future — follow, and throughout it all, Smith captures a sense of both life’s messiness and its gloriousness: individuals struggling to find their place in a chaotic world, and then — happily, amazingly — actually finding it.
Smith’s tour takes her to a number of North Carolina venues, beginning tonight (Wednesday, March 24) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge books. She’ll also be reading next Wednesday, March 31, at Durham’s Regulator Bookshop, and then on Saturday, April 3, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village. A complete listing of her events can be found at her own website here.
A few other events of note over the next week include:
- Frank Lentricchia with The Italian Actress, on Thursday, March 25, at the Regulator
- Harlen Coben with Caught, on Friday, March 26, at Quail Ridge Books
- and poets Marty Silverthorne and Nancy King as part of the monthly NC Poetry Society Series on Sunday, March 28, at McIntyre’s Books
For a more complete listing of North Carolina events from the Triangle to the coast, visit the MetroBooks calendar here.