One of the great things about writers’ festivals is stumbling across a writer you’ve never heard of. 11 a.m. on the first day of Writers and Readers Week at the New Zealand International Arts Festival 2012 and the temptation was to hit one of the coffee bars.
I’m very glad I decided to take a punt and hear Appalachian writer Ron Rash instead. Not only did I learn I’d been saying Appalachian wrong all these years (Rash said it with what sounded like a T in it, as in Appalatchian, rather than a Y, as in Appalaychian), but I found another writer to add to my endless ‘For Later’ shelves.
A poet, short story writer and novelist whose family has lived on or around the same patch of land for 200 years, Rash was very entertaining (a Southern accent never hurts, I find). It can be a mixed blessing to be a Southern writer as there’s often an unspoken ‘just’ before the Southern, but being in the company of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote and Tennessee Wiliams is some consolation.
The cove, his latest novel, is set in one of the German internment camps set up in the U.S during the First World War, examining what it means to be a patriot. Other novels include Serena, with a main character who is a cross between Medea and Lady Macbeth, and One foot in Eden, which is shaped like a tragedy although the reader never really knows where it is going.
Rash’s short readings of his work really whetted my appetite to check it out further. The moral of the story? Always go for literature over caffeine.