So wrote USA Today reviewer Deirdre Donahue about Charles Frazier who will be the guest on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch Sunday May 27 at 5:00 p.m., and about ‘Nightwoods,’ which will be available in paperback on June 12. Donahue does not love the book as much as she loves Frazier’s writing and his “enthusiasm for the wonders of the natural world and its ability to heal the human soul [which] is boundless.”
Others admire Frazier’s wonderful portraits of mountain people, like this one of an old woman who is an important minor character in ‘Nightwoods:’
“Maddie wore flower-print cotton dresses all year round and topped them off with pilled cardigan sweaters in the cool months, and she might have been tall and willowy when she was young, before time compressed her into herself, thickening and shortening and bending year by year until all you could see of the young woman she had been were her quick blue eyes, faded almost to the color of steel. Some days she’d be in a mood. All she wanted to use were the sorts of words she’d grown up hearing. Yonward and thither. Hither. Sward. On a really bad day, half of what she said, you had to figure by context.”
Frazier introduces his main character, Luce, a mountain beauty, who like many others have been disappointed in life so far:
“All her life, the main lesson Luce had learned was that you couldn’t count on anybody. So she guessed you could work hard to make yourself who you wanted to be and yet find that the passing years had transformed you beyond your own recognition. End up disappointed in yourself, despite your best efforts. And that’s the downward way Luce’s thoughts fell whenever she went upstairs into the dreary past.”
So wounded, Luce has retreated to work as a caretaker in a deserted former resort lodge. Frazier describes her situation this way:
“Luce’s three-year anniversary at the Lodge was coming up in the fall, and all that time she had hardly missed any of the modern world. It pressed so hard against you, like somebody standing in front of you screaming and jumping up and down to misdirect your thoughts.
“Let it all go and it fades away, similar to when you ignore run-of-the-mill ghosts. All they become is an updraft feeling. Nothing urgent. Just smoke as it begins to draw up a cold flue.
“What good does the world do you? That was the question Luce had asked herself for three years, and the answer she had arrived at was simple. A distressingly large portion of the world doesn’t do you any good whatsoever. In fact, it does you bad. Casts static between your ears, drowns out who you truly are. So she tried to cull daily reality pretty harsh, retaining just landscape and weather and animals and the late-night radio.”
If there is anything better than reading Frazier’s rich portraits of people and nature, it is watching and listening to him talk about his characters, his stories, and his mountains. Talking about such things is something you can hear him do this (Sunday) afternoon on Bookwatch.