The Friends of Hackney Library and Friends of the Wilson County Public Library are pleased to welcome short story writer, novelist, and journalist Michael Parker as guest speaker of a jointly-sponsored dinner/lecture on October 4, 2016, in Hardy Alumni Hall on the campus of Barton College.
The event will begin with a book signing and wine reception at 6:00 pm, followed by dinner at 6:30 pm, and the program immediately afterward. Titled “A Man Came Up From Wilmington Carrying A Bag of Snakes” after one of his essays, Parker’s presentation will address the relationship between his work and his having grown up in Eastern North Carolina.
Michael Parker, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia, is the author of six novels – Hello Down There, Towns Without Rivers, Virginia Lovers, If You Want Me To Stay, The Watery Part of the World, and his latest, All I Have In This World–and two collections of stories, The Geographical Cure and Don’t Make Me Stop Now.
His latest work, All I Have In This World, is “a tender novel about our desire to reconcile past mistakes, and the ways we must learn to forgive others, and perhaps even ourselves, if we are ever to move on,” Parker’s web site explains. The plot centers around two troubled but appealing characters, Marcus and Maria: “Two strangers meet on a windswept car lot in West Texas. Marcus is fleeing the disastrous fallout of chasing a lifelong dream; Maria is returning to the hometown she fled years ago, to make amends. They begin to argue over the car that they both desperately want–a low-slung sky-blue twenty-year-old Buick Electra.” And thus begins an unlikely partnership, not just in their impulsive decision to purchase and share jointly the car Marcus affectionately dubs “Her Lowness,” but also in their mutual struggle toward absolution for their respective life missteps.
The novel has garnered much acclaim. Mark Richard, author of House of Prayer No. 2, characterizes Parker’s latest work in this way: “’Car as crucible’ might be the thesis for Michael Parker’s best novel yet. In front seats and back seats we conjure love and contemplate ruin, as do the wonderful characters in All I Have in This World. Parker again extends his geographical and emotional ranges here in this layered and nuanced story of heartbroken, debt-ridden and atonement-seeking creatures much like many of us. So get in and drive on. Or as they say in North Carolina, ‘Let’s go to ride.’”
A Denver Post critique praises the authenticity of the novel and its characters as expressed through the use of humor: “But what makes ‘All I Have in this World’ memorable is this: While any number of disasters can (and do) take place along the way, and while some are heartbreaking, the watershed moments happen not with sadness or blood or pain, but with cascades of laughter. It’s through moments of unabashed humor, when Marcus and Maria let go and laugh, that his characters finally, and completely, connect. Which feels a lot like real life.”
Parker’s short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various journals including Five Points, the Georgia Review, The Southwest Review, Epoch, the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, Shenandoah, The Black Warrior Review, Trail Runner, Runner’s World and Men’s Journal.
Parker has received fellowships in fiction from the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Hobson Award for Arts and Letters, and the North Carolina Award for Literature. His work has been anthologized in the Pushcart, New Stories from the South and O. Henry Prize Stories anthologies. He is the Vacc Distinguished Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and since 2009 has been on the faculty of the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina and Austin, Texas.
Critics have lavished prodigious praise on the memorable characters and descriptive language in Parker’s entire body of work. The Washington Post characterizes his appeal in this way: “In prose languid and mysterious. . . . Parker writes descriptions as precise as line engravings, more revealing than recordings or photographs.” Frederick Busch of The New York Times Book Review offers his assessment of the allure of Parker’s work: “What makes Mr. Parker so satisfying a writer: his bone-deep affection for his characters; his love of clear, crisp, pungent language. . . his confidence in the possibility of redemption.” And as author Lee K. Abbott puts it in the flyleaf of Parker’s novel If You Want Me to Stay, “Only Michael Parker can tell a story you don’t want to quit about folks you don’t want to leave. . . . He has us all in mind—all of us who are needy and scared and running fast from the past, all of us who believe in magic and miracles, all of us beleaguered and bewitched by love.”
Books by the author will be sold at the event both during the book signing/wine reception prior to the program and following dinner; Parker will be on hand to sign books at those times as well.
Admission to the event is $30 each for Friends of Hackney Library members; for Barton faculty/staff, students, and spouses; and for Friends of the Wilson County Public Library members. For all other guests, admission is $35 each.
For more information about invitations for the dinner, please contact Luann Clark at (252) 399-6329, or email the Friends of Hackney Library at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited, and after invitations have been issued, reservations for the dinner must be received by September 27, 2016.
This event is sponsored in part by BB&T.