What’s happening at the Library: The commonwealth’s literary heritage

Published 12:30 pm Monday, October 16, 2023

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By James Gardner

Clark County Public Library

Mention Kentucky, and whoever’s listening will conjure various images and associations. Geography buffs will rattle off various facts about the state. According to Infoplease.com, Kentucky became a state in 1792 (making it the 15th state to join the U.S.), its state bird is the cardinal, and its state flower is the goldenrod.

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Music fans might think of Bluegrass music or even country singers like Loretta Lynn and Tom T. Hall (from my hometown of Olive Hill).

Some might begin pondering a trip to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail for a one-of-a-kind Kentucky bourbon or to Louisville, the birthplace of the Hot Brown sandwich.

Most of my family are all about University of Kentucky basketball.

On account of National Kentucky Day being Oct. 19, I am reminded of what I think of Kentucky: its literary heritage.

Many writers have called Kentucky home, and Kentucky has, in turn, influenced the worlds they create with words.

Wendell Berry is an author whose name is practically synonymous with Kentucky life. A love of Kentucky, the land and its people, permeates his work, from his fiction like Hannah Coulter (F Berr) to essay collections like “The Gift of Good Land” (814.54 Berr).

Writer Chris Offutt has written in multiple genres, from short stories to television scripts. Offut grew up in Rowan County, Kentucky, and has produced soul-stirring memoirs like “The Same River Twice” (KB Offu) and Appalachian noir like “Country Dark” (F Offu).

Kentucky writers are in multiple genres.

Mystery lovers might like Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series, which is found in the library’s Mystery section under Mystery F Graf.

Those looking for some scares this Halloween might try Laurel Hightower’s short story collection “Every Woman Knows This” (Fantastic F High) or Todd Keisling’s backwoods cult horror “Devil’s Creek” (Fantastic F Keis).

If you love poetry, Kentucky has grown plenty, like Jesse Stuart, whose book “Dawn of Remembered Spring” is located in K 813.52 Stua, and Frank X. Walker, whose book “Affrilachia” is located in K 811.6 Walk.

Kentucky has a lot of things that help it stand out. It’s a land full of rolling hills, beautiful horse farms, and deep valleys. Its people understand that they lived and worked, raised families and buried loved ones, on land that both cradles and contains.

Kentucky’s story is constantly being written by those who call it home, and the library gives Kentuckians a chance to experience it.

And here’s some programs you can experience this week:

• The library’s writing group Write Out There! will be meeting on Oct. 17 at 6 pm Come talk about writing in general or what you’re currently writing. Bring anything you’re working on, or just bring paper, pencil or a laptop to do some writing and have some fun. Email James Gardner at Jgardner@clarkbooks.org for more details.

• On Oct. 18 at 2 pm, the Kentucky Picture Show presents a movie starring Ben Kingsley. Milton (Kingsley) lives a quiet life of routine in a small western Pennsylvania town but finds his day upended when a UFO and its extra-terrestrial passenger crash land in his backyard. The film is rated PG-13. Popcorn and snacks will be provided.

• On Oct. 21 at 10 am, Book Brunch from Beyond gets a little more haunted as we read “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James. Follow a young governess who is responsible for two young orphans. She soon starts seeing ghosts that she fears have nefarious designs on her charges. It has one of the most talked about endings in fiction, but our discussions always begin and end with donuts! Be sure to get a copy of the story (either ebook or audiobook) from Hoopla.