Let’s see how well you are keeping up with recent books by North Carolina authors — see how many new books and authors you can identify from the following clues:
No. 1 — Two “non-poetry” books by a former North Carolina poet laureate.
No. 2 — A memoir of growing up in the changing South by the author of a best-selling book set in Tuscany, a book that made her famous.
No. 3 — A compelling set of heart-wrenching stories about the heart, by an N. C. state professor, who writes about science as well as anyone in the country.
No. 4 — A short book by North Carolina’s best political and cultural essayist about another provocative writer, one who has been called “the greatest American journalist of the last century and possibly the best writer of American English ever.”
These books by four North Carolina authors will tempt you to add them to your summer reading list. In addition, the authors will make appearances on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch giving viewers a chance to get to know all four of these important writers.
Here are the answers. Let’s see how you did.
1. Former poet laureate and Appalachian State writing professor Joseph Bathanti’s two new books are set in Pittsburgh, where he grew up, and in North Carolina, where he has lived most of his life. First, “Half of What I Say Is Meaningless” is a series of short memoirs, about his confrontation with southern cultures and religion. Author Brett Lott says, “The title of this book is absolutely wrong: every word in here is worthwhile.”
In Bathanti’s novel, “Life of the World to Come,” a promising youth from Pittsburgh’s working class neighborhoods, after double-crossing a gambling kingpin, flees for his life to North Carolina. The dangers he faces from Pittsburgh and those he finds while building a new life in North Carolina make for compelling reading.
2. She is best known for writing about Tuscany, especially for the classic “Under the Tuscan Sun,” a New York Times best seller that became a very successful movie. Now Hillsborough author Frances Mayes shares with us “Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir,” a touching remembrance of growing up in the small town South. Those of us who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s may like the Magnolia book even better than the Tuscan one.
3. Why does the average human heart get about two billion beats during a lifetime, while most other animals get only one billion? In “The Man Who Touched His Own Heart,” N.C. State’s Rob Dunn, an associate professor of ecology and evolution and a gifted story-teller, answers this question and hundreds of others about the people who brought about new techniques in surgery, heart-lung machines, mechanical hearts, blue-baby treatments, transplants and the technical techniques to fight rejection, and pacemakers.
4. Like the legendary H. L. Mencken, Hillsborough’s Hal Crowther’s informed and insightful commentary, with its biting wit, regularly stirs us. Such work won for him The Baltimore Sun’s H. L. Mencken Writing Award in 1992. So it is appropriate that Crowther’s book, “An Infuriating American: The Incendiary Arts of H. L. Mencken,” seeks to explain Mencken’s influence and popularity and his large set of enemies. Crowther writes, “Mencken’s anger at America was his trademark. But it was also—more than once—his undoing.”
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For information, visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch