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TanneryWhistle Folk Stories & Plays: Books, Film and Audio Recordings
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Folk Tale in a Mason Jar


Appalachian myth and legend

 

--Books: (Click for: film | audio recordings)

Folk Tale Folk Story Storytelling Book

Riding the Flood:
A review of Gary Carden's:

Mason Jars in the Flood and Other Stories

March 2000 Parkway Publishers Boone, NC 28607
210 pages

Review by Kay Byer for the Asheville Citizen

 

To purchase,
send check
or money order
for $20.00
plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779

 


Mason Jars in the Flood and Other Stories

Lee Smith once called Gary Carden the best unpublished writer she'd ever met. That was before MASON JARS IN THE FLOOD & OTHER STORIES came along to show the rest of the world what Smith and others who have admired Carden's work over the years have always known: Gary Carden is a master storyteller. And now, it's fair to say, he is no longer one of our best unpublished writers. He is one of our best, period.

Carden has been writing and telling stories for many years. A native of Sylva, he has made a fine regional reputation for himself, thanks not only to his story-making skills but also to his efforts as a playwright. His drama credits include THE RAINDROP WALTZ, LAND'S END, THE UKTENA AND THE NUNNEHI, as well as a collection of one-act plays. Add to that his collaborations with Collin Wilcox Paxton in PAPA'S ANGELS and with Nina Anderson in BELLED BUZZARDS, HUCKSTERS & GRIEVING SPECTERS:APPALACHIAN TALES STRANGE, TRUE, & LEGENDARY, and one can see that Carden has consistently worked hard at his craft.

All the more reason, then, to celebrate this gathering of stories, some of which go back twenty years or more, by my reckoning. Carden begins his collection with an introduction describing his beginnings as a storyteller: standing in the chicken coop, entertain 150 white leghorns when he was six years old. But there are differences between telling and writing stories. In writing, Carden says, "I can be more thoughtful and the images can be more descriptive. I can think, revise, expand, and polish." Having watched some of these stories change and grow over the years, I can testify to the steady advance in Carden's narrative art since I first read the unforgettable "Jedro Tolley," revised and expanded into MASON JAR'S "Shazam!"

The title story, also the first in the collection, sets up the theme of the collection, story as a means of reaching out, of survival, even. The young Harley Teester knows this, as he scribbles his messages, rolls them into little scrolls and seals them into Mason jars, throwing them one by one into the flooded creek. Harley's message? "School is out and I don't have anybody to play with. Why don't you come and see me?" Harley waits and waits, but no one comes. The story ends with the grown-up Harley telling us that he still dreams of the jars and a traveler arriving at his doorstep, saying, "It has taken a long time to find you, Harley. Do you still want to play?"

Having issued this invitation to his readers, Carden proceeds to treat them to a lively and varied array of voices, all unashamedly caught up in their passion for spinning language out of every conceivable human emotion. The book's four sections are arranged more less by voice, the longest being the first, "The Harley Stories," where one finds Carden's alter ego at work, shaping the elegiac remembrance of "When the Music Stopped," an autobiographical story of losing his father, or the mock irony and school-boyish humor of "A Stone, A Leaf, a Door." The irresistible "Sirens of Moony Creek," introduces Harley to the deliciously disturbing sight of Katie Sue Carnes and Jackie Dehart skinny-dipping in the creek: "When Katie Sue climbed up the trunk of an ancient oak that had fallen across the stream, vertigo seized Harley and he fell to the floor of the old bridge. Rolling over on his back, he stared at a blue summer sky and tried to understand."

Harley's voice dances an entertaining pas de deux with Granny in "The Granny Stories," but don't expect your typical Grandma to show up in this section. This Granny is, as the author warns, a little wicked. All of her stories have roots in folklore, some from Ireland, some from Chaucer and the Decameron, and the thing she likes best is the rapt attention of her grandson. These pieces remind me of Fred Chappell's great storytelling poems, "My Mother Shoots the Breeze" and "My Grandmother Washes her Vessels," for example. Not to mention Lee Smiths' Granny Younger in ORAL HISTORY. Carden shares with Chappell and Smith an unfailing ear for dialect and narrative pacing. His Granny could hold her own with Smith's Granny Younger any day.

The haunting "Blind Hodur," drawn from a Japanese folk tale, has a section all to itself, which is fitting, for this is one of the strongest works in the book. Who could resist its opening lines?

"His earliest memories were of his mother's voice. In that still, dark world where he would always live, he lifted his child's fingers to her face and lightly traced the shape of her moving mouth. She said, Listen, child, and I'll tell you a story."

Of course Hodur begins to tell stories, and those stories begin to lead him into the mysterious twists and turns of his own life's story.

The book's concluding story, "The Man Who Wouldn't Listen," is the most personal of the collection, dealing with the author's hearing loss. Roger, the well-nigh deaf narrator, also tells stories, but this gift is not enough. "Little by little a shadow came over him, and he felt alone, even in the midst of crowds. For although he could perform, he couldn't listen. 'No one wants to talk to me,' he lamented. 'Not even God.' "

God protests, and thus ensues a dialogue that ends with God suggesting that Roger take up writing. "Why didn't you tell me this thirty years ago?" rails Roger. "You didn't have anything to say then," God retorts. "Now you do." And so Roger writes, describing the sound of rain, wind, his grandmother's singing, and by the end of the story, God and Roger finally agree on something. This writing of stories is a pretty good deal.

The reader of MASON JARS IN THE FLOOD won't disagree with that conclusion. Carden has woven together a celebration of the Appalachian storytelling spirit, and he has done so in a collection that often reaches far beyond the region's coves and summits toward the voices of other times and cultures, bringing them back home to Jackson County, North Carolina, and transforming them into the mountain voices he knows so well how to speak.

Ghost Story Folk Tales

Belled Buzzards, Hucksters and Grieving Specters Appalachian Tales: Strange, True & Legendary


Belled Buzzards, Hucksters and Grieving Specters
Appalachian Tales: Strange, True & Legendary

Copyright 1994 by Nina Anderson, Gary Carden

The Southern Appalachian Mountains have forever been a region of mystery, wonder and legend. And in their isolation, it was only natural that people who inhabited this rugged and beautiful land would treasure story telling. Collected here are stories that mountain people have told and retold for generations - stories of ghosts and belled buzzards that foretell death; stories of murders and hangings, of strange happenings and humorous events; stories, too, of some of the remarkable people these mountains have produced. Most of these stories are true; some are legendary - but all are enthralling.

Down Home Press - PO Box 4126 - Asheboro, NC 27204

To purchase
click here



Papa's Angels

Papa's Angels

Collin Wilcox Paxton & Gary Carden

 

Magic and Myth, Hope and Truth.

 

Words that burrow into the soul and sing for joy.

 

To purchase
click here




The Raindrop Waltz and other Plays

by Gary Carden

 

To purchase, send check or money order for
$20.00 plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779

 

 

--Film: (Click for: books | audio recordings)
"The Prince of Dark Corners"



NOW AVAILABLE
ON DVD


A
t the time of his capture in 1881, the outlaw, Lewis Redmond was described as "the most famous man in South Carolina." Redmond was equally well-known in western North Carolina and north Georgia where local newspapers begged the court to "forget his faults in admiration of his undaunted courage and unmistakable dash." Due to rumors of a dramatic rescue, Redmond's trial in Asheville was canceled and he was transferred to Greenville, SC People visiting the jail while he was awaiting trial in both locations gave him food, whiskey and cigars. Redmond acquired quite a collection of perfumed notes from women.

Many of the events described in this play are controversial. The details of Redmond's career are distorted by folklore, bias and conjecture. As a playwright, I have omitted many events because they are too outrageous to warrant belief (even though there is considerable evidence that they are true). In addition, they are too numerous to be recounted in this single work. In a few instances, I have simply lied in the interest of dramatic form. I doubt anyone will notice.

--Gary Carden

To purchase, send check or money order for
$20.00
plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779


Mountain Talk


Mountain Talk is a unique portrait of the language and life of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, where individuality and diversity still reign. The true story of Appalachia is told through hundreds of candid interviews and performances.

Narrated by award-winning storyteller Gary Carden.

 

60 minutes / VHS or DVD

Produced by the North Carolina Language and Life Project and NC State Humanities Extension

Publications 2003

TWhistle Film

Blow the
Tannery Whistle


W
hen I was a child, my hometown, Sylva, North Carolina, had a tannery with a mournful whistle that regulated work hours. People often commented on the organ-like tone of the whistle, and on several occasions, our town fathers attempted to talk the tannery owners into blowing the whistle as a celebration device. Why not blow it on July 4th? How about New Year's Day? Better yet, how about when Sylva won a football game? "Absolutely not," said the tannery owners. "That would merely confuse the work force and they wouldn't know if they should come to work or not." However, the owners finally compromised. They agreed to blow the whistle if something "important" happened. It didn't get tooted a lot. There was Pearl Harbor and then they blew it when the war was over. They blew it once when a northern lights display frightened the local populace into thinking the millennium was at hand, but that was only three times in 35 years. The owner's rigid requirements for blowing the whistle gave birth to a commonly-used expression in Jackson County. If a listener was shocked or amazed by a bit of information supplied by a local citizen, he would say, "Well, blow the tannery whistle!" I guess the exclamation suggested that the information that he had heard was so astonishing, even the tannery owner would endorse it and blow the whistle.


Willa Film

Willa - An American Snow White
Davenport Films
--Audio: (Click for: books | film)



Blow the
Tannery Whistle


Blow the
Tannery Whistle

Audio Cassette

To purchase, send check or money order for
$10.00
plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779




Mason Jars
in the Flood


Mason Jars in the Flood

Audio CD or Cassette

To purchase, send check or money order for
$10.00 (cassette) or $20.00 (CD)
plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779




Shazam!

Shazam!

To purchase, send check or money order for
$10.00 (cassette)
plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779




Cherokee Stories

Cherokee Stories

To purchase, send check or money order for
$10.00 (cassette)
plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779




An Unclouded Day

An Unclouded Day

To purchase, send check or money order for
$20.00 (CD)
plus $2.00 shipping to:

Gary Carden
236 Cherry Street
Sylva, N. C. 28779

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