Lee Smith to speak at FOL meeting

Apr 30, 2014

Lee Smith, will be the speaker at the Friends of the Library annual meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville. A dessert buffet will be served by Kanini's. Books will be available for purchase on site from Blue Ridge Books. Tickets must purchased in advanced and are available at all branches of the Haywood County Public Library, Blue Ridge Books and Gallery 86. Tickets cost $10. Plan to purchase tickets by Friday, May 2.

Smith is the author of 13 novels and four collections of short stories. She is a recipient of the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Literature, the North Carolina Award for Literature and a Southern Book Critic Circle Award.

Smith's newest novel, "Guests on Earth," published in October 2013  by Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, is set in 1913 at Highlands Mental Hospital, Asheville. Smith says that she knew for years that she would write this book. She had a personal experience with members of her family at Highland Hospital.  Other books by Lee Smith include "Fair and Tender Ladies," "On Agate Hill" and "The Last Girls."

"Guests on Earth" is set at Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville during the years 1936-1948, the year of the fire in which Zelda Fitzgerald perished along with eight other women patients in a locked ward on the top floor. Her body was identified only by her charred ballet slipper — for Zelda was still a talented dancer and choreographer as well as a writer and a visual artist.

"In this novel, I offer a solution for the unsolved mystery of that fire, along with a group of characters both imagined and real, and a series of events leading up to the tragedy," said Smith. "My narrator is a younger patient named Evalina Toussaint, daughter of a New Orleans exotic dancer. Evalina is a talented pianist who connects to Zelda on many levels as she plays accompaniment for the many concerts, theatricals and dances constantly being held at Highland Hospital."

As Evalina tells readers at the beginning of this novel, "I bring a certain insight and new information to that horrific event which changed all our lives forever, those of us living there upon that mountain at that time. This is not my story, then, in the sense that Mr. Fitzgerald’s "The Great Gatsby" was not Nick Carraway’s story, either — yet Nick Carraway is the narrator, is he not? And is any story not always the narrator’s story, in the end?"