Ron Rash short story collection called a ‘must-read’

A collection of short stories by Ron Rash, the Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture at Western Carolina University, has made a list published recently by Entertainment Weekly of “must reads” from 2010.

“Burning  Bright,” the third compilation by Rash, was included among the top five books of the year in a list submitted by mystery and crime fiction author Michael Koryta, who called the book “…a bleak and beautiful collection of short stories set in the Appalachian Mountains, written with compassion for the characters and language alike.”

Kortya was one of six writers asked by the editors of Entertainment Weekly to name the favorite books they had read in 2010. The article, titled “You’ve Gotta Read This,” appears in the Jan. 7 edition of the national magazine of pop culture and entertainment.

A collection of 12 short stories, “Burning Bright” was released by HarperCollins Publishers in early March. As with Rash’s other works, which include seven books of fiction and three books of poetry, the stories in “Burning Bright” are set in Appalachia. The time frame of the stories spans from the Civil War era to present day.

New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin raved about Rash’s “elegantly sophisticated work” as revealed in “Burning Bright” and his other works, adding that “Mr. Rash certainly knows how to rivet attention.”

Another reviewer, Sue Russell, wrote in Library Journal that the stories in Rash’s new collection “burn themselves on the memory in much the same way as the photographs Walker Evans took of Southern sharecroppers in the 1930s.” Russell calls Rash “a master craftsman who pares down language to its essential elements in these starkly beautiful stories.”

Rash captured the world’s richest prize for the short story literary form, the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, for “Burning Bright” last September. He received the award – equivalent to $45,300 – during a ceremony held in Cork, Ireland. The award was presented to Rash by Liadin O’Donovan, daughter of the late Irish short story writer for whom the award is named.

Rash learned last February that the short story “Burning Bright” from the collection had landed him on the 20-writer “long list” for the EFG Private Bank Short Story Award of the London Times newspaper in England. More than 1,100 published authors from around the world submitted short stories for the first edition of the new literary contest.

A native of Boiling Springs who was raised there and in Chester, S.C., Rash teaches Appalachian literature and creative writing at WCU.