We are beyond excited to be hosting our second annual North Carolina Book Festival Sunday Sendoff at Kings, with music by Jake Xerxes Fussell and readings by JP Gritton, Mesha Maren, M. Randal O’Wain and Daniel Wallace.
Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist Jake Xerxes Fussell (yes, that’s his real middle name, after Georgia potter D.X. Gordy) grew up in Columbus, Georgia, son of Fred C. Fussell, a folklorist, curator, and photographer who hails from across the river in Phenix City, Alabama (once known as “The Wickedest City in America” for its rampant vice, corruption, and crime.) Fred’s fieldwork took him, often with young Jake in tow, across the Southeast documenting traditional vernacular culture, which included recording blues and old-time musicians with fellow folklorists and recordists George Mitchell and Art Rosenbaum (which led Jake to music) and collaborating with American Indian artists (which led Jake eventually to his graduate research on Choctaw fiddlers.)
On Out of Sight, his third and most finely wrought album yet, guitarist, singer, and master interpreter Fussell is joined for the first time by a full band featuring Nathan Bowles (drums), Casey Toll (bass), Nathan Golub (pedal steel), Libby Rodenbough (violin, vocals), and James Anthony Wallace (piano, organ). An utterly transporting selection of traditional narrative folksongs addressing the troubles and delights of love, work, and wine (i.e., the things that matter), collected from a myriad of obscure sources and deftly metamorphosed, Out of Sightcontains, among other moving curiosities, a fishmonger’s cry that sounds like an astral lament (“The River St. Johns”); a cotton mill tune that humorously explores the unknown terrain of death and memory (“Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues”); and a fishermen’s shanty/gospel song equally concerned with terrestrial boozing and heavenly transcendence (“Drinking of the Wine”).
JP Gritton’s novel Wyoming, a Kirkus best book of 2019, is out with Tin House.
His awards include a Cynthia Woods Mitchell fellowship, a DisQuiet fellowship and the Inprint Donald Barthelme prize in fiction. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. His translations of the work of Brazilian writer Cidinha da Silva have appeared in InTranslation. He is an assistant professor of the practice in the department of English at Duke University.
Mesha Maren is the author of the novel Sugar Run (Algonquin Books). Her short stories and essays can be read in Tin House, The Oxford American, The Guardian, Crazyhorse, Triquarterly, The Southern Review, Ecotone, Sou’wester, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She was the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Duke University and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.
Randal O’Wain holds an MFA from Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. He is the author of Meander Belt: family, loss, and coming of age in the working class south (American Lives Series, 2019) and Hallelujah Station and other stories (Autumn House Press, 2020) His essays and short stories have appeared in Oxford American, Guernica, The Pinch, Booth, Hotel Amerika, storySouth, among others.
Daniel Wallace is author of six novels, including Big Fish (1998), Ray in Reverse (2000), The Watermelon King (2003), Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician (2007), The Kings and Queens of Roam (2013), and most recently Extraordinary Adventures (May 2017). His children’s book, published in 2014, and for which he did both the words and the pictures, is called The Cat’s Pajamas, and it is adorable. In 2003 Big Fish was adapted and released as a movie and then in 2013 the book and the movie were mish-mashed together and became a Broadway musical. His novels have been translated into over three-dozen languages. He is also the author of a coloring book, Roadside Attractions, co-authored by his esteemed friend Emily Wallace.
His essays and interviews have been published in The Bitter Southerner, Garden & Gun and Our State magazine, where he was, for a short time, the barbecue critic. His short stories have appeared in over fifty magazines and periodicals, including Tin House, One Story, Glimmer Train, and The Georgia Review. His stories have been recognized in Best American Short Stories, Best Stories from the South, and read by Levar Burton on his podcast, Levar Burton Reads. His fourth novel, Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, won the Sir Walter Raleigh Prize for best fiction published in North Carolina in 2009. Extraordinary Adventures was chosen as the best fiction published by a native Alabamian in 2018. In 2019 he won the Harper Lee Award. The award is given to a living, nationally recognized Alabama writer who has made a significant lifelong contribution to Alabama letters.
Daniel Wallace is one of two writers to appear at every North Carolina Book Festival.