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8:32 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Literary Southwest Series: Writer, poet 'masters' kick off third season

The Literary Southwest series begins its third season at Yavapai College with readings featuring two of America's acknowledged literary masters - fiction writer Ron Carlson and poet B.H. Fairchild.

The program is at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, in the college library's Susan N. Webb Community Room (building 19, room 147) on the Prescott campus. All Literary Southwest programs and companion events are free and open to the public.

Carlson and Fairchild "are masters of their respective genres," said Jim Natal, director of the series. "Ron is already considered one of America's finest short fiction writers. His last two books, however, have been well received novels that, I think, capture the essence of living in the modern West."

Carlson is the author of 10 books, most recently the novel, "The Signal." His novel, "Five Skies," was selected as one of the best books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times and as the One Book Rhode Island choice for 2009.

A passage from "Five Skies" illustrates Natal's description of Carlson's writing:

"The sound wasn't a generator and it wasn't people talking. When he stood, he knew it was at some distance a river, and as he walked toward it and saw clearly the mortifying fissure through which such a vast river ran, the geology of the entire plateau settled in his mind as an entity, a huge primitive place that few men had seen. He went to the edge of the sandstone gorge and looked down. In the deep gloom he could see the electric white gashes where the water boiled over the boulders. Here the sound was terrific, magnified, real. It sucked the air away and drew you toward it ..."

"His landscape descriptions have a vastness to them that transcends the page and his characters are dead-on," Natal said of Carlson's work. "You know these people - or have seen them walking the streets of Prescott."

Of Fairchild, Natal says, he "is an exceptional poet, but his work is quite narrative in nature. His poems have the intense imagery, lovely language, and music of the best poetry, but there are stories there, too, often dealing with his youth in rural Kansas and Oklahoma and his experiences working in his father's machine shop."

Indicative of Fairchild's insights from his youth are words from his "The Gray Man" in the collection, "Usher":

"We are cutting weeds and sunflowers on the shoulder, the gray man and I, red dust coiling up around us, muddying our sweat-smeared mugs, clogging our hair, the iron heel of an August Kansas sun pushing down on the scythes we raise against it and swing down in an almost homicidal rage and drunken weariness. And I keep my distance. He's a new hire just off the highway, a hitchhiker sick to death of hunger, the cruelties of the road, and our boss hates poverty just enough to hire it, even this old man ..."

Fairchild, a former college professor, has won numerous awards and fellowships for his work. His fifth poetry collection, "The Art of the Lathe," won the 1997 Beatrice Hawley Award. "His latest collection, 'Usher,' is a stunner and his two previous books won just about every poetry prize books can win," Natal said.

"Carlson's fiction and Fairchild's poetry share many traits and themes, which we'll explore in the open conversations following their readings," Natal said. "And both are wonderful readers and presenters, not to mention both have wicked senses of humor."

Over the past two years, the Southwest Literary series has established itself as a venue for outstanding Southwestern writers and poets to read and discuss their work, Natal said.

"Literary Southwest events are not academic or stuffy, and the work presented is generally entertaining and accessible," he said. "First-timers always tell me it wasn't what they expected at all."

For more information about Literary Southwest, visit www.yc.edu/HASSAYAMPA/, call Natal through the college's communication division at 776-2276 or e-mail james.natal@yc.edu.