Author Ron Rash opens 26th annual Appalachian Lecture Series

Ron Rash delivered a powerful set of readings to his audience Thursday, Sept. 12, at the kickoff of Maryville College’s 26th annual Appalachian Lecture series.
Rash, a writer from North Carolina, was introduced by Dr. Susan Schneibel, professor of comparative literature at Maryville College. He read excerpts from various poetry collections, as well as from his novel “Serena,” which will be released as a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper later this year.
During the reading, Rash presented his poem, “The Exchange.” It was based on a tale told within his family about the way a pair of his forebears had met during a trip to Virginia.
He then shared a story, “Cherokee,” from his collection “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” The narrative details a trip of a young married couple to the casino in Cherokee, during which they hope to raise enough money to keep their Ford Ranger, a truck that means more to them than just a simple manner of transportation.
Rash establishes a sense of low tension early, which only grows throughout the story, clutching at the readers’ stomachs until the end. The characters, Lisa and Danny, find the way into one’s heart with their lack of pretense and refusal to let go of the smallest sliver of hope, unlikely as it is.
After concluding the story, Rash read an excerpt from “Serena,” and finished up the lecture with a poem called “August 1959, The Morning Service,” which paid tribute to his great-aunt singing a hymn in church.
Rash prefaced the poem with the story behind it. He explained that he attended church for years, but that he had never felt a truly religious experience at that age, but came closest when hearing his aunt sing.
He quoted the poet Robert Penn Warren to explain his feeling at the time: “I did not know what was happening in my heart.”
Afterwards, he took several questions from the audience, which ranged in topics from the accuracy of historical details within his novels, to how Rash was able to keep evil characters in his stories from overpowering the rest of the narrative.

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