of stories set in mountain state
makes for a good read
by Norman Julian
article appeared in the Dominion Post Newspaper on
June 2, 2002.)
when I really want to be nice to myself, I put aside
other concerns to
sit on the porch and read a good book. And so it was with pleasant
that I picked up Belinda Anderson's book of memorable
short stories set
in West Virginia.
Well ain't Dry Yet" is an issue of Mountain State Press.
I sought out the book after reading
account of how it came into being. Her narration
appeared in the winter
edition of Artworks,
tabloid newspaper for artists from the Division of
Culture and History
and the West Virginia Commission of the Arts.
"It was every writer's dream -- a
publisher wanted a
collection of my short stories," says Anderson. Then,
thousand "how-to" words, she narrates the story of how
her book was
born and nurtured. Birth and death and the intervening
the journey might be seen as themes in her fiction, too.
I especially liked the story "Hauling
addresses a dilemma not only in Appalachia but in
The tale is about a single mother on
hard times who
hauls around in her car the ashes of her deceased sister
undecided on what to do with them.
"I wish everybody would quit hassling
living sister says. "... My great Aunt Wanda says it's
haul Evelyn around in a bucket in the trunk of my car.
It's not a
bucket. It's a black plastic container, like heavy-duty
I've started locking the Impala, because I wouldn't put
it past Wanda
to try to swipe Evelyn."
Like so many of her stories, this one
characters into conflict both personal and cultural. How do we deal with the
costs of the
dearly departed when juxtaposed against the needs of
those who are
alive, like the single mom's children?
Anderson's characters work it out in a way that is
believable and satisfying.
As is the case with "Junior." This
story is about a
boy who is not wanted by the mother he lives with. The
"Mommy's painting her fingernails. That means we're
going to visit an
accurately are boyfriends, or clients, or whatever.
exactly spell that out. She does write in justice for
when his mommy dumps him with his real father, a
alcoholic down on his luck.
life's lament is an injury kept him from pursuing a
baseball career in
He does well by his son in the end,
though. In the
final paragraph, the boys beams of his new life with his
grandma, "They want me."
It is said that West Virginia spawns
because there is more tragedy here than in most locales
in the country
where the American Dream is more readily accessible.
Anderson does not so
celebrate the common fate as see the dignity and
characters shaped by a society and environment that is
In the tapestry she weaves, the
threads of suffering
and triumph often blend in a way that satisfies.
These stories form a microcosm of
Reading them, I visualized several could be made into
Are there larger tapestries in the