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Saturday, June 20, 2015
Four books, four authors--a week at The Regulator
Four Books and Four Authors--next week at The Regulator
I've been having a fine time these last 10 days or so reading books by the authors who are visiting The Regulator in the coming week. Three books of non-fiction, one of fiction. Each as different from the others as can be, but each completely engrossing. How about I tell you something about them?
The first is Lesser Beasts: A Snout to Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig. Mark Essig moved to Asheville in 2006, to teach at nearby Warren Wilson College. His curiosity peaked by a historical marker that said that "livestock drovers" once traversed a road near his home, he tried to find out more. It turned out the livestock in question was pigs, giant herds of them, which were driven from Tennessee to South Carolina and Georgia, where they fed slaves and sharecroppers. Fascinated, Essig set out to learn all about pigs-and he shares the fruits of his labors in his engaging new book. Pigs were so important in early America that in 1845 it was noted that a family "is in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork-barrel." Thus the phrase "scraping the bottom of the barrel" To say nothing of "pork barrel spending."
Incredibly efficient at converting almost any organic matter into nourishing, delectable protein, pigs are nothing short of a gastronomic godsend yet their flesh is banned in many cultures, and the animals themselves are maligned as filthy, lazy brutes. As Essig reveals in "Lesser Beasts," swine have such a bad reputation for precisely the same reasons they are so valuable as a source of food: they are intelligent, self-sufficient, and omnivorous.
Even in some odd corners of the developed world there are folks who still eat a lot of pork. (We'll take a vote Monday night on who has the best barbecue in the Triangle-and hope that no fights break out!). All you "true cue" fanatics out there will enjoy hearing from Mark Essig, Monday night, 7:00, at The Regulator.
Next up is our friend Charlie Thompson, "farmer turned activist and Duke University professor" (at the Center for Documentary Studies). Charlie's new book isBorder Odyssey: Travels Along the U.S. Mexico Divide. Fluent in Spanish, Charlie and his wife Hope traveled the length of the U.S./Mexico border, talking with and taking pictures of folks on both sides. What emerged is a tapestry of stories-some sad, some terrible, some surprising, some heartening. And though Charlie has clearly done his research, he doesn't write like an academic. He engages with people from all walks of life, Mexican and American, and tells their stories. Stories of how the border, the wall, and the policies of both the U.S. ad Mexico have changed their lives. As Thompson says in the book:
"We needed to go to the place where countless innocent people had been kicked, cussed, spit on, arrested, detained, trafficked, and killed. It would become clear that the border, la frontera,was more multifaceted and profound than anything we could have invented about it from afar."
This is a wonderful, clear-sighted book. Your thinking about the border will be changed by reading it. Charles Thompson will read from and discuss his new book Tuesday at 7:00 at the Durham County Main Library, downtown at 300 North Roxboro St.
Wednesday evening brings Joel K. Bourne Jr. with his new book,The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World.I don't often call a book "important," but I feel the need to use that word with this book. Bourne begins The End of Plenty with some pretty scary facts. Thanks to the "Green Revolution" that got underway in the 1960's, world-wide food production between 1960 and 2000 was able to roughly keep pace with a doubling of planetary population during that time, from 3 billion to 6 billion. But since 2000, the world has consumed more grain than it has produced 8 years out of 12, whittling down global stockpiles to less than 70 days of consumption. Going forward, we need to factor in global population growth of nearly 80 million people a year and the disruptive agricultural effects of global warming. Hmm...
Bourne's book though is not all doom and gloom. Much of the book is taken up with stories of people all around the world who are doing things that can be part of the solution to the end of plenty. (And Bourne is clear that there is not one solution, but that many will be needed). Joel Bourne, a contributing writer for National Geographic, has traveled the world researching this book. His travels bring him to The Regulator Wednesday at 7:00. Everyone who likes to eat should consider coming to hear him.
OK, now we're ready for a little fictional break. Thursday night we host Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook, who will read from his new novel, Love May Fail. Kirkus Reviews may have the best summary of this new novel's plot: "When a metal head princess, a reformed junkie, a fast-talking woman of God, and a despondent retired teacher walk into a book, unpredictable chaos ensues." But how could Kirkus leave out the dog named Albert Camus?
Love May Fail follows forty-something Portia Kane and some of her former high school buddies as they try to help their inspiring old high school English teacher, who is now down on his luck. Meanwhile, of course, Portia and her friends all have issues of their own. Portia, for example, has just escaped her ritzy Florida life and her cheating pornographer husband, and is now living with her hoarder mother in southern New Jersey. The movie rights to Love May Fail have already been sold. Come by the bookshop Thursday at 7:00 to hear who Mathew Quick thinks would make a good Portia!