Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wiley Cash's 'A Land More Kind Than Home' a fresh new voice in fiction


            Young Jess Hall has been punished for spying on adults, but that doesn’t keep him from peeking into the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following. Inside people are heady with the spirit and the piano and drum music shakes the building. 
            But it’s Jess’s mute brother that draws his attention, along with his mother who is not happy with the direction the service is taking. What Jess sees through the secretive church’s backboards and does will change many lives in the small mountain town outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
            The incident surrounding two brothers provides the riveting backbone of Wiley Cash’s debut novel, “A Land More Kind Than Home.” We slowly learn of the mysterious church, its work with snakes by its charismatic preacher with a shady past and the incident that disrupts the town. More importantly, the book weaves in and out of the character’s back stories, showing us the reasons for their intense religious pursuit, their instinctual desire for violence and one woman’s ability to delineate between a calling to God and the work of evil and her attempts to protect the town’s children.
            The book’s narrative of the three town characters is gripping and intimate; by the end of the story they become family. The suspenseful plotline keeps readers guessing, with all stories interconnecting to a dramatic finish that feels as if we’re standing on Jess’s porch, watching his innocence disappear.
            Cash hails from North Carolina and now teaches English at Bethany College in West Virginia, but he received his Ph.D. at UL-Lafayette.
            Let’s hope more is coming of this fresh new voice in fiction. As Ernest Gaines quotes on the back, “I think this could be the beginning of a long, fruitful career.”
           
Cocktails tales
            James Teitelbaum examines craft cocktails, libations made with care and expertise akin to gourmet food in “The Traveler’s Guide to Superior Libations.”
            The author details several hundred destinations both within the United States and aboard, including New Orleans (of course!), looking at atmosphere, pretension, slow cocktails and craft distilleries, including eco-friendly companies and those who support local farmers. He also discusses bartenders and their role in the process, incorporating quality ingredients, “a baseline knowledge of mixology” and the addition of cuisine, among other subjects.
            In his section on New Orleans, Teitelbaum gives nods to original Crescent City drinks Ramos Gin Fizz, Brandy Crusta and the Sazerac, also noting how others have an association with the city. Establishments include Arnaud’s, Cure and the Museum of the American Cocktail, to name a few.           
            It’s a comprehensive guide for world travelers, as well as those wishing to learn more about the art of the cocktails. The book includes a handy index of bars as well as a lovely list of cocktail recipes Teitelbaum learned from his travels.
            Appropriately, Teitelbaum will be signing copies of his book at the Tales of the Cocktail from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday in the lobby of the Monteleone Hotel. For information on New Orleans’ annual celebration of the cocktail, visit www.talesofthecocktail.com.

Slam support
            The Lafayette National Poetry Slam Team is headed to Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 6 through 12 for the 23rd annual National Poetry Slam Festival. To help them get to the national event they are asking for financial support. Donations will be accepted at the Pay Pal link on the home page of www.spokeninnovation.com (the official website of the Lafayette National Poetry Slam Team). 
           
Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at chere@louisianabooknews.com.