Donna Meredith searches for the real Chuck Kinder

Chuck Kinder is the author of four novelsSnakehunter, The Silver Ghost, Honeymooners, and Last Mountain Dancer—and three collections of poetry—Imagination Motel, All That Yellow, and Hot Jewels. West Virginia University Press has just published new editions of Snakehunter, his first novel, and The Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life, his latest novel. Here, Donna Meredith, associate editor of the Southern Literary Review and award-winning author of The Glass Madonna, The Color of Lies, Wet Work, Fraccidental Death and Magic in the Mountains, explores Kinder’s remarkable career.

A dozen Chuck Kinder personas are sitting in a honky tonk. Would the real one please stand up?

At times, Kinder seems like your basic outlaw author, the “Jerry Lee Lewis of American Letters” he aspires to be (Last Mountain Dancer, 452). The man who ran wild at Stanford with short-story giant Raymond Carver and befriended fellow writers Scott Turow, Tobias Wolf, and Larry McMurtry. Later in his career, Kinder and Lee Maynard even embarked on a book tour under the Outlaw Author banner.

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“Only connect”: A conversation with Ryan Claycomb about the WVU Humanities Center

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In March Ryan Claycomb, interim director of WVU’s new humanities center, talked with our director, Derek Krissoff, about university press publishing. Now it’s Ryan’s turn to discuss his work with the center—a vital part of the university’s intellectual landscape and an important press partner.

DK: WVU’s new humanities center arrives at a moment of particular anxiety about the role and future of the humanities. Do you see the center as arising from, or participating in, those debates in the wider world?

RC: I heard a talk by digital humanities and performance scholar Sarah Bay-Cheng recently. She had run a Google Ngram on the terms “crisis in the humanities” and “public humanities” to check their frequency. She noted that while the concept of “public humanities” certainly followed the coining of this apparent crisis, the idea that the humanities are in crisis has been in the air for fifty years. That’s about as long as the National Endowment for the Humanities has been in existence, as a matter of fact: a period that might be called a golden age of humanities scholarship! The peak in mentions of this crisis, furthermore, happened in 1990—before I even started as an undergraduate literature major—so any sense that this is a novel or timely concern isn’t really taking the long view.Read More »

Meredith Sue Willis is a double agent

Meredith Sue Willis teaches novel writing at New York University’s School of Professional Studies. She is the author of twenty-two books, including A Space Apart, Love Palace, Out of the Mountains: Appalachian Stories, and Oradell at Sea (West Virginia University Press). She has received literary fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and has won awards such as the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, the West Virginia Library Association Literary Merit Award, and the Appalachian Heritage Denny C. Plattner Prize for both fiction and nonfiction. Their Houses, her latest novel, is now available to preorder.

Long before I moved to New York City, at my first college in rural Pennsylvania, I became accustomed to a lot of nonsense from otherwise intelligent people who thought it was okay to make hillbilly jokes. To this day, decades later, people will still openly make remarks about Appalachians that they would never openly make about other groups. I think this is probably less about malice and more about deep, appalling ignorance. It is an ignorance, however, that contributes to making West Virginians and others feel marginalized.

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“Because she loved to read”: Notes on a career in publishing from Meagan Szekely, WVU Press’s former graduate assistant

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 8.24.48 AM.pngMeagan Szekely is the marketing manager at Naval Institute Press. Previously, she worked as an editorial assistant at Johns Hopkins University Press and as a graduate assistant at West Virginia University Press. Meagan has a master’s degree in professional writing and editing from West Virginia University. She has worked on books about Appalachian culture, Florida manatees, World War II spies, and Victorian shoes. A native of Huntington, West Virginia, Szekely now lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with her husband and cat. She is passionate about books, Coca-Cola, and West Virginia.

From the very beginning of grad school, I lived by Jeffrey Eugenides’s words from The Marriage Plot: “She’d become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” To which my mother replied, “But what are you going to do with a degree in English?”Read More »

Early summer roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

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In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Maggie Messitt has an essay responding to our edition of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead. She writes: ”The Book of the Dead is documentary poetry . . . at its most effective. The collection builds a narrative that carries through each poem, leading us into a disaster impossible to shake, illustrating the fight for accountability, and exposing the awful truth.”

Nancy Abrams’s The Climb from Salt Lick receives two major pieces of media attention. Booklist calls it “a reverse Hillbilly Elegy, the story of a young woman who flummoxes her family back in St. Louis by settling in remote, rural West Virginia, giving us a glimpse into hardscrabble living, small-town characters, and a slice of history.” And Chicago Reader says the author “paints a vivid picture of what it was like to make her way in an unfamiliar territory during a turbulent time.” Abrams’s photographs, including some from the book, are on exhibit at the Rare Nest Gallery in Chicago.

Marked, Unmarked, Remembered—a book that “seeks to shed light on events that have been left out of the national story, even as these issues continue to define political struggles today”—is also featured in Chicago Reader, in conjunction with the authors’ appearance at the Chicago Humanities Festival.Read More »

Lessons from Welsh women: An excerpt from Tom Hansell’s After Coal

Tom Hansell’s After Coal will be published by WVU Press in November. The book traces a long-term exchange between mining communities in Appalachia and Wales, looking at how resonances between these regions—often depicted as victims of globalization—can be a source of strength. As Hansell puts it: “Taken at face value, international commerce seems to erode community self-determination, but can international connections also support local control?” Read More »

Spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

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Literary Hub features suggested reading to help explain and contextualize the West Virginia teachers’ strike, including Matewan Before the Massacre, Working Class Radicals, and The Book of the Dead, all from WVU Press.

Three WVU Press titles—Monsters in Appalachia, The Industrialist and the Mountaineer, and The Rebel in the Red Jeepwere among the finalists for the Weatherford Award, given by the Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College for best Appalachian book of the year.Read More »

Guilt by omission: A photojournalist recounts an untold story

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Earl Groves, the owner-operator of a steam-driven sawmill in Deep Hollow, West Virginia.

Nancy L. Abrams began her journalism career in Terra Alta, West Virginia, where she was managing editor of The Preston County News, a job she held for a decade. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Nancy trained as a photojournalist. She holds an MFA in creative writing-nonfiction from The New School. Out now, The Climb from Salt Lick: A Memoir of Appalachia recounts her time as a small-town reporter in West Virginia.

I remember my first trip to see Earl Groves. I had been told about his sawmill, powered by a steam engine. A relic from the past located in a place called Deep Hollow. The narrow gravel road curled along a creek colored bright orange by acid mine drainage. Great heaps of coal waste–gob piles–loomed overhead. Sunlight could barely breach the sharp cleft between the hills. The sawmill was a brown skeleton in the ruined landscape.

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The Argument about Things in the 1980s: A Cultural Playlist

Tim Jelfs is assistant professor of American studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the author of The Argument about Things in the 1980s: Goods and Garbage in an Age of Neoliberalism—a contribution to WVU Press’s publishing programs in environmental humanities and studies of US culture. Here he talks about eight cultural moments that inform his book.

Jimmy Carter’s Crisis of Confidence Speech, July 15, 1979

When did the 1980s begin? One of the arguments The Argument about Things in the 1980s makes is that such a simple question is quite hard to answer. If it’s worthwhile—as I think it is—to frame the 1980s as part of a longer “age of neoliberalism,” it’s tricky to pinpoint the exact origins of that era.

But something certainly happened in the 1970s, and Carter’s famous speech is an example of it: the intensification of a centuries-old argument about things in American life, in which Americans debate the proper place of material things in their existence. It’s as old as the Puritans—older, in fact—and Carter’s speech is a great illustration of what one tradition within it can look and sound like.Read More »

Conference preview: American Association of Geographers (AAG), 2018

We’re excited to exhibit books and meet authors at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) in New Orleans April 11-13. Geography is an important and growing scholarly area for WVU Press—one that draws on the strength of the university’s extraordinary geography department and connects to our broader publishing program in areas like Appalachian studies and studies of energy and environment. If you plan to be in New Orleans we hope you’ll visit us in booth 604, which we’re sharing with our colleagues in WVU’s department of geography.Read More »