In his collection of op-eds and poems Eggtown and Other Stories, Zack Clark Allen gently reminds his readers of what ought not to be forgotten. He even writes of himself and his role within the family, “Looking back was a job that fell to me…” Look back he does.
Allen’s pieces, written when he was a thirtysomething, and the short introductions to them, written thirty years after that, are a remembrance wrapped in a reflection. He explores his own childhood, the stories of his grandparents, the mountains of Western North Carolina, Asheville, and its many citizens, both living and passed on, who he encountered in his years working at the Asheville Citizen-Times. Also, because he cannot help being an editor, he comments on his earlier writing style and gives contextual background for the many stories.
He freely admits what he writes is nostalgic, yet he deftly wields his clear images and poignant, everyday dialog so that he does not stray into the sentimental. The bad, along with the good, bear remembering and he includes both. Allen observes like a poet, seeing the connections, philosophies, symbols, and details in life—and plays with the best words to re-present them to his readers. Yet he pursues story like a newspaperman. Both qualities are evident in his writing: vivid brevity with a depth of emotion and meaning.
In the temporary newspaper world, much of what he had written might have become lost and forgotten but for this collection of his finest work. It puts one in the mind of Shakespeare’s words:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
By the time readers reach the final words of Allen’s last poem, they will be ready to take up his charge—or at least lend the book to a friend.
Now I pass it on to you;
Hold it, and its story
in trust for all of us.
Zack and I will read together on Thursday, November 11 @ 7pm in the Library Annex in Burnsville, NC. You are invited.
I would also like to make a recommendation as to how to read Zack's book. I read it straight through so that I could write the review, but I don't know that I'd recommend this as a one-sitting read. Spread it out, reading a chapter or two at a time, so that you have the chance to absorb and reflect on the stories. Additionally, it might not hurt to have a box of tissues close for some of them.