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Powell’s Q&A: Charles Frazier

Describe your latest book.
Nightwoods is a bit of a departure for me, at least in the sense that it is shorter than Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons and takes place mid-20th-century. The main character is Luce, a young woman who has isolated herself as caretaker of an abandoned tourist lodge on the back side of a lake, an hour from the nearest town. She's convinced herself that she's happy living alone, with the natural world as her deepest relationship. But her murdered sister's silent, troubled children arrive, killing chickens and setting fires, needing care. And they're soon followed by Bud, the sister's husband and murderer, who is convinced the children have something that belongs to him. Things progress from there.

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Many. But maybe my favorite was one that my father planned. We went to Poe's dormitory at University of Virginia. This was before the room was made into a shrine, so we knocked on the door and the student who lived there invited us in. Then, on to Baltimore to visit the grave.

Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
The summer after high school, my best friend and I worked a few days for a tourist attraction, long since defunct. It featured a chairlift up a mountain to a western town with saloon girls and gunslingers. There were plenty of jobs working in the stores, operating the lift, picking up litter. But, of course, we applied to be gunslingers. All they had to do was stage a dramatic fight once an hour, and in between just saunter around looking cool in jeans and bandanas and cowboy hats. The job we got, though, was digging out a collapsed mine. Mica, maybe. It was going to become a cave with a hillbilly moonshine still in it. Rocks kept falling from the ceiling, and we didn't even have helmets. The third snake we pulled out, we dropped our shovels and took the chairlift down the mountain, never to return.

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
My grandfather had a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. No plumbing or electricity. He loved to take the grandkids up there and tell ghost stories by the fire at night. In the morning, eggs and sausage and sawmill gravy, cooked on a wood stove in a logging-camp iron skillet as big around as a car wheel.

Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
Aquarium Drunkard, PezCycling News, Captainsdead, The Place Where Jack Pendarvis Has a "Blog."

Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
The obvious answer is The Andy Griffith Show, but I'm going to go with Twin Peaks. It broke down a lot of doors that less weird shows like Lost waltzed through. Plus, all that mighty good pie and coffee and some of the best soundtrack music ever.

On a clear and cold day, do you typically get outside into the sunshine or stay inside where it's warm?
My current cutoff for whether to go for a mountain bike ride or not is 28 degrees (F). And clear is not always a requirement.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Bob Dylan recently wrote: "Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So, I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book." Before the deluge, these five are among my favorites:

Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews edited by Jonathan Cott

Bob Dylan by Greil Marus

Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz

Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina by David Hajdu

Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan

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Charles Frazier's first novel, Cold Mountain, was an international bestseller and won the 1997 National Book Award. His second novel, Thirteen Moons, was a New York Times bestseller and named a best book of the year by several major newspapers. Nightwoods is his third novel.

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One Response to "Powell’s Q&A: Charles Frazier"

    Robin Hankinson October 6th, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Well, I haven't read _Nightwoods_ yet, but the description made me think immediately of Davis Grubbs' _Night of the Hunter_ Must confess I'm intrigued.

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