There’s an open secret hidden in plain sight on the lawn of the Blount County Public Library, but an upcoming literary festival will spotlight it — and the renowned author who created it.
The inaugural Cormac McCarthy Literary Festival celebrates not only the work of McCarthy, who grew up in East Tennessee, but of Southern Appalachian arts and culture more broadly. Featured authors include writers Ron Rash, Amy Greene, Sharyn McCrumb, Frank X. Walker and Lin Stepp, and McCarthy scholar Stacy Peebles, with music by Wild Blue Yonder and a host of other activities.
The festival takes place Friday, Nov. 1, through Sunday, Nov. 3, in and around the library.
“The goal is to celebrate authors preserving culture, sparking conversation and weaving tales in Southern Appalachia,” said Ari Baker, the library’s Education Services Manager, who is coordinating the festival.
The inspiration for the festival came from that once-neglected spot in the library’s lawn: A seven-ton concrete mosaic that McCarthy co-created with Bill Kidwell when he lived in Blount County in 1971. It was moved to the current library’s grounds in 2000, after the renovation of Broadway’s “Nowtown” business district threatened to turn it to rubble.
“A lot of people, even life-long residents of Blount County, don’t realize it’s there,” said Jennifer Spirko, Youth Services Manager at the library. “We thought that since we have this interesting literary landmark right here on our grounds, we should use it as the inspiration for a bigger event.”
Since 2019 marks the library’s centennial, it seemed like the perfect occasion to celebrate both the author and his creation in a way that also honors local history. To that end, the library is featuring historical displays of the library’s past, and has created history walking tours of the downtown area, which will be led during the Festival.
The Cormac McCarthy Society will lead two panel discussions of his work, which includes the acclaimed novels “The Road,” “Suttree” (set in Knoxville), “All the Pretty Horses,” “No Country for Old Men” and “Blood Meridian.”
But the Festival’s focus reaches far beyond McCarthy, and far beyond any one genre or style of writing. “This is not just a celebration for fans of McCarthy’s work,” Baker said. “We want to give voice to the diverse voices and complicated culture of the region.” This perspective meshes with the library’s popular Southern Appalachian Studies programs.
Knox County-based Sundress Academy for the Arts will present a workshop, “Writing from Marginalized Voices in Appalachia.” The workshop will center on telling these stories through poetry or nonfiction, focusing on the belief that the personal is political.
The Festival also includes a fiction writing workshop led by author and book publicist Susan Zurenda; a Local Author Fair coordinated by the library’s Writer-in-Residence Jim Stovall; crafts demonstrations and hands-on projects; children’s crafts and games; an exhibit of McCarthy’s letters and a display of personal scrapbooks from McCarthy’s time in Blount County; a dulcimer concert; and a dedication of a new plaque for the mosaic.
There is no charge for any of the activities.
The invited authors will speak and read from their work, and a limited number of their books will be available for purchase.
For more information about the Cormac McCarthy Literary Festival and a complete schedule of the weekend’s activities, see the library’s website: https://www.blounttn.org/1457/Cormac-McCarthy-Literary-Festival
The Cormac McCarthy Literary Festival is funded in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and with the generous support of the Blount County Friends of the Library. The Friends will hold a “pop-up” used book sale on Friday, centering on works by the guest authors and other regionally relevant items. Titles will also be available through Southland Books during the event.
Open to the public, this program is hosted by the Blount County Public Library, located at 508 N. Cusick Street, Maryville, where services are an example of your tax dollars at work for you.
For further information about library programs or services, call the library at (865) 982-0981 or visit the Web site at www.blountlibrary.org . To sign up to receive a monthly calendar by email, go to the library’s Home Page and go to What’s Happening? on the Menu Bar. Then under News and Events click on Join Calendar Email List. Also check out Facebook at “Blount County Public Library,” Twitter at “Blount_Library,” and Instagram at “bcplibrary.”