Staff Book Review: Nothing Gold Can Stay

Thanks to Adult Services Librarian Lisa Krekelberg for sharing her thoughts on Ron Rash’s Nothing Gold Can Stay and why she chose it for Tales & Talk, one of your Library’s book discussion groups for adults.

When I select titles for the Library’s book discussion groups, I look for forms beyond the standard novel. Last year, we read Shakespeare’s Othello. This past spring, we had a wonderful discussion about Jane Hirshfield’s essay collection on poetry, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. This fall, I chose Nothing Gold Can Stay: Stories, a collection of short stories by the contemporary Appalachian writer Ron Rash.

Most discussion group members were unfamiliar with Rash’s body of work and with short stories in general, and by the end of our conversation many expressed interest in reading more of this often-overlooked literary form. The bite-sized nature of short stories make them ideal for leaping and lingering. If one story isn’t to your taste, there are plenty of other flavors in the box to savor.

While each member of the group mentioned a different story they found beautiful or challenging, there were two stories that seemed to stay with all of us. One, “A Sort of Miracle,” is a tale about two foolish brothers Baroque and Marlborough and their woebegone brother-in-law Denton. The dark irony frosts this story as the three men embark on an illegal winter bear hunt. Our group was divided over whether the ending of the story indicated a fatal or hopeful conclusion. We discussed how the short story form lends itself well to unique interpretations and imaginings of what came before and what happens after the text ends. In this way, the reader has a role in co-creating the storyline and its ultimate meaning.

The other story our group enjoyed was “3 A.M. and the Stars Were Out.” Retired vet (with both meanings of the word as a doctor of animals and as a former soldier) Carson visits his comrade-at-arms Darnell Coe’s farm for a late-night call to deal with a breeched calf. This story of old friends is probably Rash’s most hope-filled, and it positively sings itself off the page: “He’d climb up in the loft and lean back against a hay bale, then watch the sunlight begin to lean through the loft window, brightening the spilled straw. When the light was at its apex, the loft shimmered as though coated with a gold foil. Dust motes speckled the air like midges.”

Some group members struggled with the darkness and brutality that frequently characterizes Rash’s depictions of the unique hardships of life in the South. However, we all appreciated the tension and poetry that make Rash’s writing so captivating.

Along with Tales & Talk, your Library also offers Rebellious Reads, a book discussion group that meets at the Willow Tree Coffeehouse. The next Rebellious Reads meets on Tuesday, November 12 at 6 p.m. and will discuss Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. You can learn more about our book discussion groups by calling Adult Services at (423) 434-4454.

If you’re a member of a book group or would like to start one, your Library also checks out Traveling Tales book discussion kits. Call (423) 434-4472 for help.

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