Ron Rash: One Foot in Eden

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Editor: Jennifer Stock
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 7,909 words

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[(essay date 2010) In the following essay, Bjerre reads One Foot in Eden as “a powerful story with Old Testament allusions, echoes of Shakespearean tragedy, and crime novel aspirations, all written in a wonderful language that is both poetic and dead-on colloquial.”]

A Biographical Sketch

South Carolina poet, short-story writer, and novelist Ron Rash (born 1953) is one of the new southern writers whose work is firmly situated in the southern tradition. Rash’s rural Appalachia characters represent a marginal South in the twenty-first century, and their deep attachment to the land suggests a feeling of belonging that is lost in the New South. Rash hails from the southern Appalachian Mountains, where his family settled in the mid-1700s. Born in Chester, South Carolina, and raised in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, Rash published his first book in 1994. It is a collection of linked short stories titled The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth [The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth and Other Stories from Cliffside, North Carolina] in which he established his own voice while tapping into the solid tradition of southern literature. Eureka Mill, his 1998 poetry collection, gives a poignant and unflinching portrait of North Carolina’s cotton mill workers in the early 1900s. Two publications appeared in the year 2000: the short-story collection Casualties and Among the Believers, a book of poems.

In 2002 Rash published his third poetry collection, Raising the Dead, which deals with loss and displacement as a result of the flooding of Jocassee Valley, South Carolina. That same year Rash made his debut as a novelist with One Foot in Eden, a novel that fleshes out the characters and themes of the poems in Raising the Dead. Disguised as a murder mystery and imbued with Rash’s poetic language, the novel is a powerful tale of a community displaced. One Foot in Eden was awarded ForeWord magazine’s Gold Medal in Literary Fiction and named Appalachian Book of the Year. In 2004 Rash published his second novel, Saints at the River, about a South Carolina community torn over the issue of environmentalism. The novel was named Fiction Book of the Year by both the Southern Book Critics Circle and the Southeastern Booksellers Association, and it was awarded the Weatherford Award for Best Novel of 2004. In 2005 Rash’s short story “Speckled Trout” received the O. Henry Award, and that story formed the first chapter of his third novel, The World Made Straight, published in 2006. It is both a coming-of-age story set in 1970s Appalachia and a meditation on the role of the past in the present in the shape of a Civil War massacre that has divided Madison County, North Carolina, ever since. In 2007 Rash published the collection Chemistry and Other Stories, with thirteen stories, eight previously published in Casualties. The new collection was a finalist for the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Rash’s latest novel, Serena (2008), takes place in the North Carolina mountains in the 1930s and is an Appalachian...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100126846