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Understanding Ron Rash

John Lang

Publication Year: 2014

In this first book-length analysis of Ron Rash's fiction and poetry, John Lang covers all of Rash’s books published through 2013 and offers key insights about his aims, themes, literary techniques and allusions, and major literary influences. Understanding Ron Rash introduces readers to the major themes and literary techniques in Ron Rash's poetry and fiction in the fourteen books he has published through 2013. After a brief survey of Rash's life and career, five subsequent chapters examine his work by genre, following the chronology of his books' publication. Lang begins with Rash’s first three collections of short fiction, examining their themes and style and interconnections. In an analysis of Rash's four volumes of poetry, Lang emphasizes both their grounding in Appalachia and their universal appeal. Then an examination of his first three novels considers Rash’s historical and ecological and religious concerns as well as his desire to preserve what is rapidly vanishing, including the region's vernacular language. Rash's best-known and most accomplished novel, Serena, with its vivid characters, is examined for its striking use of dramatic techniques, and varied literary allusions. After a study of his most recent novel, The Cove, Lang’s critical study's returns to Rash's recent work in short fiction: his Frank O'Connor Award-winning Burning Bright and Nothing Gold Can Stay, both of which demonstrate his wide-ranging subject matter and characters as well as his incisive portrait of contemporary life in Appalachia and beyond. An extensive bibliography of primary and secondary materials by and about Rash concludes the book, making it especially useful to students and teachers who want to learn more about Rash's work.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Understanding Contemporary American Literature


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Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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Series Editor’s Preface

Linda Wagner-Martin

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pp. ix-x

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to...

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pp. xi-xii

The initial research for this book was undertaken with the assistance of funding and released time provided by Emory & Henry College through the Henry Carter Stuart Chair in its English Department. I am grateful for that institution’s support and encouragement over the twenty-nine years (1983–2012) I taught there. I would also like to thank Jane Caldwell and Patty Greany of...

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1. Understanding Ron Rash

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pp. 1-6

In a brief essay, “The Importance of Place,” Ron Rash states, “one of the most interesting aspects of literature is how the most intensely regional literature is often the most universal,” and he goes on to cite the examples of William Faulkner’s Mississippi, Alice Munro’s Ontario, Gabriel García Márquez’s Colombia, and James Joyce’s...

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2. The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth, Casualties, and Chemistry

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pp. 7-28

To readers most familiar with Ron Rash the novelist or poet, his extensive work in short fiction over the course of his career may come as a surprise. In fact two of Rash’s initial four books, including his first, The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth (1994), and Casualties (2000), were collections of stories. Moreover his third such...

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3. Eureka Mill, Among the Believers, Raising the Dead, and Waking

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pp. 29-55

Early in his career, Rash received wider recognition as a poet than as a fiction writer. By the time his first novel appeared in 2002, he had already published three books of poems: Eureka Mill (1998), Among the Believers (2000), and Raising the Dead (2002), each of them given several laudatory reviews, the second with an introduction by poet Anthony Hecht praising the collection...

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4. One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight

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pp. 56-81

Despite the positive reviews Rash’s first five books of short stories and poetry received, it was not until his first novel, One Foot in Eden, appeared that he began to garner wider national recognition. Published in 2002, this novel was a “breakout book” for Rash. As he told interviewer Robert Birnbaum, “It got reviewed in places I had never been reviewed,” including the...

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5. Serena and The Cove

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pp. 82-103

Rash’s literary reputation reached new heights with the publication of Serena (2008), a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and widely recognized as his finest novel to date. Reviewing the book for the New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote of its “many wonders” and its “haunting power,” while suggesting that it would “prompt instant interest” in Rash’s earlier...

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6. Burning Bright and Nothing Gold Can Stay

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pp. 104-128

Between 2010 and 2013, Rash published four books, two of them collections of short stories: Burning Bright (2010), which won the international Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, and Nothing Gold Can Stay (2013), which Janet Maslin in her review for the New York Times called Rash’s “best book since his 2008 Serena.”1 Like Chemistry and Other Stories, both of these...


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pp. 129-134


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pp. 135-142


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pp. 143-147

E-ISBN-13: 9781611174120
E-ISBN-10: 1611174120
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611174113

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Understanding Contemporary American Literature
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OCLC Number: 886638306
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Understanding Ron Rash

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Subject Headings

  • Rash, Ron, 1953- -- Criticism and interpretation.
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