Rash wins Wolfe Award for short story collection ‘Chemistry’

Ron Rash, the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture at Western Carolina University, has been named recipient of the 2008 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award for his compilation of short stories, “Chemistry and Other Stories.”

The honor was announced Tuesday, Oct. 21, at the annual meeting of the Western North Carolina Historical Association. The prize for outstanding literary achievement is presented annually by the association and Asheville resident JoAnn Lipinsky Edwinn.

Gwin Jones of Asheville, chairwoman of the association’s Wolfe Award committee, said the stories in Rash’s book “have the power of ancient myths,” adding that the committee recognized the collection “as a worthy recipient of an award named for Thomas Wolfe.”

The Wolfe Award has been presented since 1955 to honor authors of printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina. The first recipient, Wilma Dykeman, received the award for her nonfiction book, “The French Broad.” Other winners have included John Parris, Gail Godwin, John Ehle, Charles Frazier, Robert Brunk and Lee Smith.

Earlier this year, “Chemistry and Other Stories” earned Rash a nomination as one of four finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the largest peer-juried prize for fiction in the United States. Published in 2007 by Picador, the collection also was named one of 15 “notable books” of 2007 by The Story Prize committee.

While his short stories have been drawing accolades, Rash’s fourth novel, “Serena,” published by Harper-Collins Press in September, has been garnering glowing reviews in the national media. In the New York Times, reviewer Janet Maslin wrote that “for those unfamiliar with the elegantly fine-tuned voice of this Appalachian poet and storyteller, a writer whose reputation has been largely regional despite an O. Henry Prize and other honors, (“Serena”) will prompt instant interest in his first, second and third” novels.

Another Rash novel, “The World Made Straight,” earned him the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for 2006 and was named one of the nation’s top 10 books for teenage readers by the Young Adult Library Services Association. His other prize-winning novels include “Saints at the River” and “One Foot in Eden.”