There are many ways to look at Asheville. It’s had a lot of eras and even more monikers. The Paris of the South. The New Age Mecca. A story I was working on recently revealed that our fair city was named “New Freak Capital of the U.S.” (by Rolling Stone) the same year it was deemed the second most “normal” city in America by Places Rated Almanac. Asheville was immortalized in Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel (which residents famously hated at the time) and in Barbara Kingsolver’s 2009 novel, The Lacuna (which won the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Library of Virginia Literary Award and was shortlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award).
But that’s not all. The local team of photographer Michael Oppenheim and essayist Laura Hope-Gill’s Look Up Asheville books I and II explore the city through its architecture. And, even more recently, Hillsborough, N.C.-based Eno Publishers released 27 Views of Asheville, which tells the town’s story (stories) through the voices of its writers.
Like the title suggests, 27 Views is 27 pieces of writing, including fiction, poetry, essays and excerpts. The list of literary luminaries represented is an impressive one: Gail Godwin, Charles Frazier, Robert Morgan and Ron Rash each offer a perspective. Among the poets are Rich Chess, Thomas Rain Crowe, Keith Flynn and Glennis Redmond, though Chess, Crowe and Redmond’s pieces here within are prose. Meanwhile, novelists Morgan and Rash are represented by poetry, so the changing perspective is not just of Asheville but of the writers it raises.
Nan Chase writes about Riverside Cemetery and Holly Iglasias about Chicken Hill — that piece a stout paragraph of a prose poem that reveals as much in what is said as in what’s not said. Historian Bruce Johnson writes about Asheville’s Arts & Crafts heritage and Burton Street Community Association president DeWayne Barton writes (in verse) about how his community is trying to maintain its toehold. “Future greenway at Smith Mill Creek where my grandfather once raised hogs and chickens,” he writes, capturing Asheville’s enticing balance of past and present, hopes and realities, seen and unseen.
Learn more and purchase the book at the Eno Publishers website.