Editor's note: To highlight our state's vibrant literary scene, this recurring column considers new books from or about North Carolina. Email the INDY's arts editor at email@example.com to submit books for coverage.
I used to think "buddyrow" was just something cute my uncle called me. But then I found it cataloged in TALKIN' TAR HEEL: HOW OUR VOICES TELL THE STORY OF NORTH CAROLINA (UNC Press, April 7), where N.C. State English professors Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser dissect dialects and idioms from Manteo to Murphy—beginning with "from Manteo to Murphy," a phrase North Carolinians use to span the state between its approximately eastern- and westernmost towns.
The linguists color their findings with engaging historical context on how this archipelago of regional, social and ethnic dialects formed. If that still sounds too dry, try Raleigh author N.P. Simpson's debut thriller B.O.Q. (John F. Blair, March 4). For fans of the TV show NCIS, a CBS police procedural about the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, the novel arrives just in time to cover the maritime crime gap between seasons.
Investigating the watery demise of a civilian journalist married to a retired officer at Camp Lejeune—where the author, the ex-wife of a Marine, has lived—NCIS agent Fran Setliff plunges into the more sordid aspects of life behind the "camouflage curtain." The narrative voice is appropriately tough, brisk with military jargon and, on occasion, startlingly vulgar. "Verbal cunnilingus" is one of those things you can never un-read. Simpson reports for duty at Barnes & Noble in Cary at 7 p.m. on April 24.
In 1999, Tim Anderson left Raleigh to teach English in Japan. The result was Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries, a self-published humor travelogue about being a gay, type-1 diabetic at loose ends in a foreign land. But what about growing up gay and diabetic in the '80s and '90s South, a land nearly as foreign from our current vantage?
Anderson doubles back to that Helmsian terrain in new memoir SWEET TOOTH (Amazon's Lake Union Publishing, March 11), which begins when his "hormones and blood sugar both went berserk" at age 15. It's a dishy, self-deprecating spew with a Smiths soundtrack, a Sedaris streak and some familiar locals and locales.
For a different perspective on coming of age, turn to BYRD (Dzanc Books, March 18) by Raleigh lawyer Kim Church, a rural N.C. native who studied English at UNC-Greensboro and law at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her first novel, done up in the cool, spare style of modern literary fiction, comes Jill McCorkle-approved.
Spanning a fictional rural N.C. town in the '70s and Venice Beach decades later, Byrd tracks the dreams and failures of Addie and Roland, sometimes friends, sometimes more. The book is named for the baby Addie gives up for adoption without telling Roland. This missing link, combined with an alert present-tense voice, conveys the quietly pressing urgency of lives left unconnected. Church alights at the Regulator in Durham at 7 p.m. on April 28.
Former UNC-Chapel Hill English Department chair Laurence Avery takes a loftier view of rural life. In his first book of poems, MOUNTAIN GRAVITY (New Atlantic Media, April 1), Avery peers down from the Blue Ridge Mountains and sees, spectrally layered below the "narrow skies of these mountain valleys," his ancestors from Connecticut and those "who grew corn here and hunted deer/long before de Soto trampled through." Other poems tease out observations on language, history or family, all grounded in vivid renderings of the plants, creatures and natural formations that circumscribe the human story.
Though Chapel Hill's Algonquin Books publishes international authors—it added Yoko Ono to its list last year—it doesn't neglect its local roots. Algonquin just released MY ACCIDENTAL JIHAD (April 22), The Sun associate publisher Krista Bremer's unguarded memoir about raising a family with a Muslim in the American South, which we recently tipped at indyweek.com. Fueled by praise from the likes of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), Bremer just launched a national reading tour from Flyleaf Books.
And leading Algonquin's spring fiction lineup was ALL I HAVE IN THIS WORLD (March 18) by Michael Parker, a nationally noted novelist who splits time between Austin, Texas and UNC-Greensboro, where he is an MFA writing professor. Coastal N.C. has often been his turf—2012's The Watery Part of the World is a historical novel set on Nag's Head. But this is his first Texas book.
Two troubled strangers meet in a car lot and impulsively resolve a dispute over an old Buick by buying it together, trying to bind a future with the frayed ends of the past. Tacking through time, Parker explores how people, possessions and places tally up. As always, he carefully inventories the joys and heartbreaks of averagely damaged souls—in prose that, arid setting aside, flows clear and sweet as water. Parker reads at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh at 7:30 on May 1.
On our website, you can read a bit about UNC-Chapel Hill Religious Studies Professor Bart Ehrman's carefully reasoned, inevitably controversial fact-check of the Bible, HOW JESUS BECAME GOD: THE EXALTATION OF A JEWISH PREACHER FROM GALILEE (HarperCollins, March 25). Ehrman, a former evangelical turned respectful doubter, has circled this question for his whole career. He appears at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville on April 26, with a second coming (sorry) at the Sheraton in Raleigh on May 3.
And in an upcoming issue, we'll have a full review of—deep breath—William D. Cohan's prodigiously subtitled doorstop THE PRICE OF SILENCE: THE DUKE LACROSSE SCANDAL, THE POWER OF THE ELITE, AND THE CORRUPTION OF OUR GREAT UNIVERSITIES (Scribner, April 8). The New York Times praised it, the Washington Post groused that it was a data-dump, the News & Observer called it apologia for Mike Nifong. We'll weigh in when we get through its 600-plus dense pages. That's a lot of investigative journalism, buddyrow.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Recent books."