Jasper's Nightstand -- Don't call it a book club, call it a book trust

By now, it should be news to no one that Columbia, SC is a readers' city. I need more fingers than the ones I have on my hands to count the number of book clubs I know about that I don't even belong to.

Some may attribute our propensity for reading to the number of institutions of higher education we have in and around town. Universities and colleges tend to attract not only students and faculty but also literate individuals who are drawn to progressive thought and intellectual engagement, whether they go to school or not. Others may posit that the lack of hard hitting cerebral stimulation from our public education system forces us, at an early age, to seek out our own intellectual adventures in books and, ultimately, establish a life-long love of losing ourselves in literature (and, for some of us clearly, loving the lilt of alliteration).

For whatever reason, last June, Columbia was named by Amazon as one of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities in the country.

In fact, we're #16.

You may have heard What Jasper Said yesterday about the new One Book, One Columbia selection of Ron Rash's Saints at the River as our book selection for 2012. Given that, we at Jasper are delighted to announce our new bi-monthly reading group, Jasper's Nightstand and, in keeping with our close association with the One Book, One Columbia Project (Mike and Cindi are both on the selection committee), we are even more thrilled to announce that Saints at the River will be the first book we'll be discussing.

What's on Jasper's Nightstand?

Saints at the River by Ron Rash

Thursday, February 23rd at 7 PM

Wine Down on Main at 1520 Main Street

RSVP here

Jasper's Nightstand is a book club for artists, people who love arts and artists, and people who appreciate the unique insights that artists and arts lovers bring to the complexities of life.


Saints at the River by Ron Rash = Columbia's 2012 One Book, One Columbia selection

It's official. Saints at the River, a novel by South Carolina author Ron Rash, is the One Book, One Columbia selection for 2012.

Jasper couldn't be more pleased!

We've loved all of Rash's novels -- Serena, One Foot in Eden, The World Made Straight (our all-time favorite!) -- not to mention his poetry, which flows with hot honeyed truth, or his short stories that stay on the brain for years after the reading. Saints at the River is the story of two characters who live in Columbia -- one of whom hails from the upstate and is drawn back into the area where she was raised by an environmental conflict. It touches on family, nature, loss, and learning.

The reading period will kick off on January 17th -- but you don't have to wait until then to get started. We'll be scheduling events from the 17th throughout the month of February -- including a two day visit from Rash on February 1st and 2nd -- stay tuned for more about this.

For more information, keep your eyes posted on the One Book, One Columbia official website as well as our One Book Facebook page.

And be sure to pick up a copy of Jasper Magazine at our #3 release event on January 12th at the Arcade Mall on Main Street to read an article about our interview with Ron Rash himself.

Exciting announcement & One Book, One Columbia clues!

Here, at Jasper, we're so giddy about an announcement being made at 5 pm on Tuesday, December 13th -- that's today! -- that you might think that Santa was making the announcement himself.

No, it's not Santa who has something to say, but it is City Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, and she'll be sharing with Columbia the book we'll all be reading together during January and February 2012 as book #2 in our One Book, One Columbia project!

Here's the twist -- two of our staff members serve on the One Book, One Columbia selection committee, so (ahem) we already know what the book is, but just like anxiously awaiting the opening of Christmas presents you've meticulously selected for your family and friends -- we can't wait to see how you like your selection!

Need some clues?

  • Well, the book was written by a SC author.
  • It is set in contemporary SC.
  • It involves subject matter of vital interest to many Southerners.
  • It is fiction.
  • And, the protagonist of the story is the opposite sex from the author of the book.

Got any ideas?

See if you're inclinations are correct by attending the One Book, One Columbia 2012 Kick-Off Reception this afternoon at Richland County Public Library on Assembly Street for a special wine-and-cheese gathering. We'll announce the new book as well as other exciting events lined up for your reading pleasure. All 2011 "Reading Advocates" are invited, friends of Reading Advocates, and anyone who would like to be a Reading Advocate for the 2012 program.

Then, watch this space tomorrow for a special announcement about how Jasper will be celebrating and participating in the One Book, One Columbia program.

We can't wait to see what you think!




Thanks to Dan Cook & the Free Times for giving One Book, One Columbia a nice welcome for 2012

With much appreciation to Free Times editor, Dan Cook, Jasper is re-posting his Arts Beat blog from Friday November 11th, which is an excellent example of how to whip up enthusiasm about something of which Columbians have a right to be proud -- reading and the second year of our One Book, One Columbia program.  Read below for more info via Dan.
by Dan Cook, November 11th 02:57pm

Spearheaded by City Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, the One Book One Columbia program was launched in April with the goal of promoting not only literacy, but also community dialogue. The idea was simple: Get as many people in the city as possible to read the same book at the same time, and then get them talking about it.

The book that launched the program, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, served as a starting point for conversations about history, family, race, religion, education and much more. (See the Free Times story "Can a Book Get Columbians Talking?" for more background on the program.)

Now it's time for the launch of the 2012 One Book program. On Dec. 13 at 5 p.m., the Richland County Public Library will host an orientation for reading advocates; advocates are volunteers who agree to read the book and promote the program within their own ciricles of friends, acquaintances and co-workers.

Interested in being a reading advocate for the One Book program? Contact Gergel at bfgergel@columbiasc.net by Dec. 5.

As for what book has been chosen for the 2012 One Book program, you'll just have to wait ... the title will be announced at the Dec. 13 event.


Jasper has a thing for the work of Ron Rash

Jasper is not afraid to admit that he has a bit of an addictive personality. He gets a little taste of something and has trouble letting go. Sometimes it's a yummy bourbon -- Woodford Reserve has his attention these days -- and other times it's a great choreographer or director. (Case in point -- our recent post on David Mamet.) Lately we've been almost overcome by our hunger for the writing of Mr. Ron Rash. One of our own, Rash was born in Chester, SC and raised in Boiling Springs, NC. He Went to Gardner-Webb University and then to Clemson, and now he serves as the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.

Although we had read many of Mr. Rash's short stories in the past -- actually, one of our short stories was included alongside one of Mr. Rash's in a 2001 anthology  (Inheritance, edited by Janette Turner Hospital and published by Hub City Press) -- we hadn't picked up any of his novels until this summer. Serena changed all that.

Set in the North Carolina mountains of 1929, Serena is the story of a badass female protagonist, as malicious as Simon Legree and more capable than most men then or now. Although decidedly sexual, Serena does not use her sexuality to bestow her brand of evil on the people and land she exploits -- Rash has too much respect for her as a villain to make her formulaic. And though he affords us glimpses into her history, he doesn't invite the reader to justify her immorality by casting her as a victim. She's just bad -- and from an odd angle of feminism, that makes us happy.

Our next foray into Rash's novels was Saints at the River, a book Jasper is campaigning for as the next One Book, One Columbia selection. The story is set in the upstate but the main characters are a writer and a photographer from Columbia, who often return to our neck of the woods when not actively investigating an environmental conflict in the upcountry. We won't give much more away here lest we step on our other committee members' toes or let the cat out of the bag or some other cliché. Suffice it to say that we are confident enough to recommend Saints at the River to several thousand of our closest friends.

Third on our list of Rash books was The World Made Straight, which may be our favorite thus far. It's a story of a boy and a field of weed and an unlikely mentor, but most of all it's a story of guilt and how we can inherit it just by being born. One of us at Muddy Ford wasn't even able to finish this book before her fellow traveler started reading it himself.

Luckily, One Foot in Eden, another of Rash's novels is already waiting on the nightstand upstairs. After we're through with it, we may have some problems though -- we'll let you know. In the meantime, here's a Ron Rash essay we nabbed from Amazon. Enjoy.


The Gift of Silence: An Essay by Ron Rash

When readers ask how I came to be a writer, I usually mention several influences: my parents’ teaching by example the importance of reading; a grandfather who, though illiterate, was a wonderful storyteller; and, as I grew older, an awareness that my region had produced an inordinate number of excellent writers and that I might find a place in that tradition. Nevertheless, I believe what most made me a writer was my early difficulty with language.

My mother tells me that certain words were impossible for me to pronounce, especially those with j’s and g’s. Those hard consonants were like tripwires in my mouth, causing me to stumble over words such as “jungle” and “generous.” My parents hoped I would grow out of this problem, but by the time I was five, I’d made no improvement. There was no speech therapist in the county, but one did drive in from the closest city once a week.

That once a week was a Saturday morning at the local high school. For an hour the therapist worked with me. I don’t remember much of what we did in those sessions, except that several times she held my hands to her face as she pronounced a word. I do remember how large and empty the classroom seemed with just the two of us in it, and how small I felt sitting in a desk made for teenagers.

I improved, enough so that by summer’s end the therapist said I needed no further sessions. I still had trouble with certain words (one that bedevils me even today is “gesture”), but not enough that when I entered first grade my classmates and teacher appeared to notice. Nevertheless, certain habits of silence had taken hold. It was not just self-consciousness. Even before my sessions with the speech therapist, I had convinced myself that if I listened attentively enough to others my own tongue would be able to mimic their words. So I listened more than I spoke. I became comfortable with silence, and, not surprisingly, spent a lot of time alone wandering nearby woods and creeks. I entertained myself with stories I made up, transporting myself into different places, different selves. I was in training to be a writer, though of course at that time I had yet to write more than my name.

Yet my most vivid memory of that summer is not the Saturday morning sessions at the high school but one night at my grandmother’s farmhouse. After dinner, my parents, grandmother and several other older relatives gathered on the front porch. I sat on the steps as the night slowly enveloped us, listening intently as their tongues set free words I could not master. Then it appeared. A bright-green moth big as an adult’s hand fluttered over my head and onto the porch, drawn by the light filtering through the screen door. The grown-ups quit talking as it brushed against the screen, circled overhead, and disappeared back into the night. It was a luna moth, I learned later, but in my mind that night it became indelibly connected to the way I viewed language--something magical that I grasped at but that was just out of reach.

In first grade, I began learning that loops and lines made from lead and ink could be as communicative as sound. Now, almost five decades later, language, spoken or written, is no longer out of reach, but it remains just as magical as that bright-green moth. What writer would wish it otherwise.


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