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D.G. Martin

Eastern North Carolina Eating, The Literary Way

There are hundreds of reasons to celebrate Georgann Eubanks’ third and last in her “Literary Trails of the North Carolina” series. Follow her travels in the just released “Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina,” and you will have the most enjoyable and efficient survey of authors and literary connections in that region.

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North Korea, North Carolina, and a Pulitzer Prize Winning Book

The Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded this week to Adam Johnson for “The Orphan Master’s Son” set in North Korea. It is a very timely selection, given our interest in, puzzlement about, and fear of that country. I have revised and updated a column I wrote last year about the book and North Carolina’s connection to North Korea. Charles Robert Jenkins. Does that name ring a bell? Jenkins is a North Carolina native whom I have wanted to meet for a long time. Why? He knows something first hand about a country that is threatening to send nuclear missiles at our armed forces and at our country’s territory. This strange communist country is led by a hereditary monarchy. I would like to talk to somebody who knows how North Korea works and how North Koreans think and live. As an outsider living half a world away, I find that this country and its people just do not make sense. Jenkins, who was born in Rich Square, is one of a very few Americans who have lived for a substantial time in North Korea. While serving in the Korean War, Jenkins surrendered to the North Koreans and wound up living in North Korea for 40 years. As a North Carolina native, he could explain things to me in terms I could understand. Before the Soviet Union broke up and...

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Hard Facts and Hard Heads on the Outer Banks

Every week we read another news story about access to our coastal islands. Last year Hurricane Sandy and two other storms pushed water across Highway 12, cutting the road to shreds one more time. The channel across Hatteras Inlet filled up, forcing the ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke to close down. Bonner Bridge, which crosses Oregon Inlet and connects Hatteras Island to the mainland, was closed for repairs. As the Oregon Inlet moves southward, the bridge’s support system is washing away. Planned ferry toll increases will penalize island residents and working people who will be denied the kind of access from their homes that other North Carolinians take for granted. When is all this uncertainty going to end? Never, according to retired East Carolina University Geology Professor Stanley Riggs, unless North Carolina’s decision-makers come to grips with certain facts about the long-term future of our barrier islands and other coastal areas. Riggs and his co-authors lay out their version of these facts in their book, “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future.” Their book explains some of the complex factors that operate in coastal zones where water and land meet. Although the science may be complicated, its application to North Carolina has simple, easy to understand lessons as Riggs explained for his publisher, UNC Press: “Shoreline erosion is the direct product...

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Political Power Grabs in 1875 and 2013

“We could use your help in the Republican Party. We need more moderate voices.” One of my longtime friends was tempting me, noting that his political party was in charge now. If I wanted to participate in the new regime in North Carolina, I should change my registration. “And,” he said, “we could use some more moderate voices in our party.” “Well,” I said, “if you, as a moderate, are uncomfortable with the takeover of your party by the ‘non-moderates,’ why don’t you change your registration to Democrat? You might feel more at home there.” “Maybe in 10 or 15 years,” he said. “But not until we settle some scores that the Democrats built up against my party over the past more than 100 years.” If you wonder why the Republicans now in control are moving so fast to turn government upside down, you should remember that they have been waiting a long time and have a bag full of grievances to settle. Turning out the boards of agencies and educational institutions, gutting popular programs that were pet projects of prior Democratic office holders, and taking away powers from local government entities that are or could be controlled by Democrats, are all part of a political revolution. At least there are no firing squads. Not yet. But, as my friend reminded me, there are grievances to settle and, perhaps,...

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Life According To Jill McCorkle

Is there really “Life after Life”? People asking me that question are not talking about survival of the soul. They are teasing me about my excitement about popular writer Jill McCorkle’s first novel in 17 years. The book was officially released this week. So it is time to evaluate the results. The novel is set in the fictional Pine Haven Retirement Center, where characters come together as residents, staff, visitors, and family. The central character, Joanna, provides hospice-like counseling and comfort to dying residents and their loved ones. Her activities give the novel a gentle storyline and provide a persistent reminder that illness and death are an inescapable part of the experience at Pine Haven. A mentor tells Joanna, “Make their exits as gentle and loving as possible. Tell them how good it will be, even if you don’t believe it yourself. You’re Southern, you know how to do that.” McCorkle describes how family members embrace Joanna “like she is one of them. Lung. Brain. Breast. Uterus. Pancreas. Bone. The families discuss and explain the symptoms and diagnoses for her as if they have never been heard of before, have never happened to anyone else, and she listens.” Each of McCorkle’s characters has a different set of challenges, but the onset of fatal illness and death is a constant. For instance, there is Stanley, a lawyer and widower. After...

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Remembering Reynolds Price at his 80th Birthday

If Reynolds Price has not died two years ago he would have celebrated his 80th birthday last month. Why am I thinking about Price today? I noticed that next Wednesday morning one of UNC-TV’s cable-only channels is re-airing a 10-year-old Bookwatch program featuring Price talking about one of his most provocative books, “A Serious Way of Wondering: The Ethics of Jesus Imagined” in which he speculates about Jesus’s views on homosexuality, suicide, and the plight of women under male domination. It has been more than 50 years, but I still remember my introduction to the work of Reynolds Price.  In 1957 my mother was reading a new book called “A Long And Happy Life.” “This is one of the best books I have ever read,” she said.  “And it is written by a North Carolinian.” My mother thought that she had “discovered” Reynolds Price and his engaging characters.  But lots of other people quickly discovered Price as well–and not just in North Carolina.  His sensitive and moving stories are about people whom his readers come to know as if they were next-door neighbors. The stories and the characters have enchanted people all over the world.  “A Long and Happy Life” won the William Faulkner Award, and his fiction kept on winning awards throughout his life.  Reynolds Price was probably the most prolific of North Carolina’s nationally known writers–with 40...

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North Carolina Writers Serve Up Spring Reading Options

Ready or not, spring is here and it is time for a seasonal update on new books important to North Carolinians. This month’s most important literary news is the release of “Life After Life,” popular author Jill McCorkle’s first novel in 17 years. McCorkle fills a southeastern North Carolina retirement facility with quirky residents, staff, and visitors whose encounters with each other make readers wonder whether to laugh or cry. She will be the guest on North Carolina Bookwatch at noon on Sunday, March 31 and Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m. Understanding the actions and attitudes of our parents and grandparents in dealing with the system of oppressive racial segregation that confronted them is one of our great challenges. Some of the best Southern writers deal with our past in ways that make for compelling storytelling. UNC-Chapel Hill creative writing professor Pam Durban steps up to that challenge in her new novel, “The Tree of Forgetfulness.” (April 7, 11) The recent temporary closings of the Hatteras Ferry and coastal Highway 12 remind us that our coast is fragile and unstable. How do we protect it? In “The Battle for North Carolina’s Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future,” retired East Carolina professor Stanley Riggs and his coauthors give the background we need to make good decisions. (April 14, 18) Vicki Lane sets her popular novels...

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Lottery and Drones Bring Bipartisan Divisiveness

Are you tired of the partisan divisiveness that is poisoning the political environment of our state and nation? Do you wish that the politicians from the two parties would work together more often on issues of common concern? Me too. Maybe we are getting what we wished for, thanks to the North Carolina lottery and our country’s use of unmanned drone aircraft to target and kill our enemies throughout the world. Welcome to the world of bipartisan divisiveness? You might get tired of this form of divisiveness, too. The legislature, then controlled by Democrats, established the state lottery at the urging of Democratic Governor Mike Easley, whose pro-lottery positions were major campaign planks. It was a popular issue for the governor, too. Schools needed the money. People wanted to play the games and were going across state lines to buy lottery tickets. A lottery would be a voluntary tax. Free money.  Most Republicans opposed the lottery’s establishment. So did lots of Democrats. Liberal Democrats agreed with libertarian Republicans that running a gambling business is not a proper function of government. Government, they said, should encourage its citizens to work and save for their future, not on fostering dreams of getting rich by winning the lottery. Certainly, they continued, government should not stoop to the low level of a carnival barker selling chances on games in which the odds of...

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