Ron Rash’s latest novel, “The World Made Straight”, tells the story of small-time drug dealing in Western North Carolina. It’s a rural setting that seems worlds away from New York City. But when a reading at KGB bar brought Rash to Manhattan, one of the New South’s most celebrated writers and poets was pleased that the city lived up to his expectations, right down to the rude waiter. Next month a collection of his short stories, “Chemistry,” arrives in bookstores.
Wake up with an aching back so go for a thirty-minute walk, pausing every ten minutes for a back stretch. This stretch, which involves a slow bowing and straightening of the spine while clasping a metal sign post with both hands, would get me arrested in North Carolina for lewd and lascivious behavior, but in New York no one even bats an eye.
Meet with my editor and publicist for lunch. We discuss the books we love—Moby Dick, Housekeeping, Blood Meridian. One of the great pleasures of being a writer is such an opportunity as this—to find others who love the same books that I love, to speak of that love for literature in an unabashed way.
Do a radio interview. Speaking off the cuff into a microphone is a daunting experience for most people, but more so for writers. There are no opportunities for revision.
Walking along Fifth Avenue, I come upon a man ranting semi-coherent but obviously paranoid non-sequiturs. We do not have such people walking the country roads or thoroughfares of the South. We tend to place such people in our governors’ mansions or send them to Washington as representatives.
I realize that I haven’t loaded my body with the usual amount of caffeine today, but I haven’t noticed its absence. This city’s energy filters into me like a drug. I grew up in a town that had a single stoplight, where true to Southern eccentricity; one of my town’s denizens occasionally unfolded an aluminum recliner and took a nap under this stoplight on Sunday afternoons.
Walking the streets again I muse at how Southern writers are almost inevitably labeled “regional.” Our goal is the same as any novelist or short story writer in New York . Our goal is to use the particular as a gateway to the universal. As Eudora Welty has said, “one place understood helps us to understand all other places better.”
Delicious food at an Indian restaurant. I’m delighted with the condescending rudeness of my waiter. I would feel myself cheated without having had such an experience.