BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University welcomes creative nonfiction author Dennis Covington, who will deliver a reading and craft talk as part of the spring 2018 Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series.
Covington is the author of two novels and four nonfiction books. His subject matter includes spirituality, the environment and the U.S. South.
His book “Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Salvation in Southern Appalachia” (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1995) was a 1995 National Book Award finalist, and his articles have been published in The New York Times, Vogue and Redbook.
Covington, who was born in 1948 in Birmingham, Alabama, studied fiction writing and earned a B.A. degree from the University of Virginia. He then served in the U.S. Army and later earned an M.F.A. in the early 1970s from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, studying under short story author and poet Raymond Carver. After receiving his M.F.A., Covington taught English at the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio.
He married his second wife, writer Vicki Covington, in 1977. The couple returned to Birmingham the following year, and he began teaching at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Dennis Covington traveled to El Salvador in 1983 to work as a freelance journalist. In 2003, he became professor of creative writing at Texas Tech University, and in 2005, he was a judge for the National Book Foundation’s National Book Awards.
Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series
April 19, 2018
201B Plemmons Student Union (Table Rock)
Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series Reading
April 19, 2018
201B Plemmons Student Union (Table Rock)
He is the author of “Lizard” (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1991) and “Lasso the Moon” (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 1995), both young adult novels, as well as “Redneck Riviera: Armadillos, Outlaws, and the Demise of an American Dream” (Counterpoint Press, 2004). He and his wife co-authored “Cleaving: The Story of a Marriage” (North Point Press, 1999).
His most recent book, “Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World” (Little, Brown and Company, 2016), chronicles his travels in Syria during the ongoing civil war.
Of “Revelation,” Ron Rash, author of “Above the Waterfall,” said, “In his newest book, Dennis Covington addresses questions of doubt, faith and belief with the same uncondescending and unflinching manner as in ‘Salvation on Sand Mountain,’ but his scope is larger now, venturing into some of the world’s most brutal places in a search for faith, and hope. ‘Revelation’ is a marvel.”
Lee K. Abbott, author of “All Things, All at Once,” has also offered commentary on Dennis Covington’s latest book: “My claim, as brassy as it is meet, is that ‘Revelation’ by Dennis Covington is both the perfect complement to and the necessary antidote for Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’ While the latter asks us to acknowledge the horror in and around us, the former invites us, even in the midst of the morally horrifying, to embrace the ‘substance of things hoped for’ (Hebrews 11:1).”
The faculty host for Dennis Covington’s visit is Mark Powell, assistant professor of creative writing at Appalachian.
Powell said, “To my mind, no writer is exploring issues of faith and doubt in our violent world with greater empathy and courage than Dennis Covington. He has written two American classics, ‘Salvation on Sand Mountain’ and ‘Revelation.’ He has seen the worst the world has to offer, and yet somehow continues to write with a hopefulness that is as honest as it is needed.”
Copies of Dennis Covington’s books will be available for purchase at the reading and craft talk. The author will also be available for book signing following each event.
For additional information about the spring 2018 series, visit https://visitingwriters.appstate.edu or contact Susan Weinberg, the series’ coordinator, at email@example.com.
For New York Times reporter Dennis Covington, what began as a journalistic assignment — covering the trial of an Alabama pastor convicted of attempting to murder his wife with poisonous snakes — would evolve into a headlong plunge into a bizarre, mysterious, and ultimately irresistible world of unshakable faith: the world of holiness snake handling.
Set in the heart of Appalachia, Salvation on Sand Mountain is Covington's unsurpassed and chillingly captivating exploration of the nature, power, and extremity of faith — an exploration that gradually turns inward, until Covington finds himself taking up the snakes.
From the author of the National Book Award finalist Salvation on Sand Mountain, a quixotic, comic account of one man’s quest for a small piece of the American Dream. Every year, Dennis Covington’s father brought his family to the Gulf Coast of the Florida Panhandle, the “Redneck Riviera,” and it seemed there was no place he was happier. Florida was an intoxicant to him. In 1965 he made the only investment of his life — two and a half acres of an inland Florida development called River Ranch Acres. Years after his death, the development went bankrupt, setting the stage for a classic, often violent, confrontation over land use and property rights. Deed in hand, Dennis Covington journeys into the Wild West of the Redneck Riviera to claim his only inheritance. His quest charts a dangerous course: his life is threatened, his truck torched, and his small plot shot up and vandalized as his father’s passion to possess the land becomes his own. Redneck Riviera is a personal journey as well as a brilliant look at the clash of values that is tearing apart much of rural America in a place beyond the law.
By Dennis and Vicki Covington
"Marriage is like a rain forest," Vicki Covington writes in Cleaving. "The story of a marriage contains all that grows in the canopy, all that is visible from an aerial, or public, view. The understory of a marriage is the place where . . . we struggle, fight, and conceive. It's the place where compost is made, where anything can grow, including forgiveness." Told in the authors' alternating voices, Cleaving is both the story and the understory of a marriage.
Childhood acquaintances, Vicki and Dennis meet again in their twenties and wed. They "promise each other nothing" and get more than they'd bargained for: alcoholism, infidelity, infertility, uncertainty. Tumult gives way to sobriety, parenthood, and meaningful work, but a yearning remains. In a quest to root themselves in the larger world, they embark on a mission to dig water wells in Central America, assuaging a spiritual thirst by addressing a practical need. Yet even this is part of the story — the visible, overarching canopy — of the marriage. The understory — and the triumph of this haunting book, which is neither sentimental nor cynical — is its portrayal of the eddying of passion through the institution that enshrines but cannot contain it.
A soulful and unsparing portrait of the forces that threaten — and sustain — a relationship over time.
Acclaimed journalist Dennis Covington examines how faith and violence shape our world.
In war zones witnessing widespread conflict, what makes life at all worth living? When chaos becomes a way of life in places where religion and violence intersect, what do people hold on to? If religious belief is, as Christopher Hitchens argues, the cause of wars and genocide, then is faith the cure?
Dennis Covington pursued answers to these questions for years, traveling deep into places like Syria, Mexico, and the American South. Looking not for rigid doctrines, creeds, or beliefs — which, he says, can be contradictory, even dangerous — he sought something bigger and more fundamental: faith. It’s faith in goodness, kindness, and the humanity of the smallest moments that makes the most difficult times bearable.
The young bomb victim who offers a smile from his hospital bed, the grieving parent who shares a photograph, the joined hands of men who were previously mortal enemies, and Covington’s own family turmoil. These are some of the moments that leave him touching the beating heart of what it truly is to live.
Like Covington’s widely celebrated Salvation on Sand Mountain, Revelation is an intensely personal journey that goes to the edges of a world filled with violence and religious strife to find the enduring worth of living.
Covington’s blog, “Deep in the Heart,” is featured in The American Scholar, a quarterly magazine of public affairs, literature, science, history and culture published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society since 1932.
July 7, 2015
In an interview in the art and literary journal Image, Covington discusses his relationship with both religion and faith — key elements at work in his nonfiction book “Salvation on Sand Mountain.” The interview appeared in Issue 77 of the journal.
Jan. 30, 2016
In this Q&A, which appeared in The Clarion-Ledger in January 2016, Covington answers questions regarding his latest book, “Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World."
The Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series, named in honor of alumna Hughlene Bostian Frank ’68, brings distinguished and up-and-coming creative writers to the Appalachian State University campus throughout the year to present lectures and discuss their works. Frank is a 2013 Appalachian Alumni Association Outstanding Service award recipient, past member of Appalachian’s Board of Trustees, current board member of the Appalachian State University Foundation Inc. and generous supporter of Appalachian.
The spring 2018 Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series is supported by the Appalachian State University Foundation Inc., Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English, the Office of Multicultural Student Development, Appalachian’s University Bookstore, Belk Library and Information Commons and the Appalachian Journal: A Regional Studies Review. Business sponsors are The Gideon Ridge Inn, The Red Onion Restaurant and The New Public House & Hotel. Community sponsors include John and the late Margie Idol, Paul and Judy Tobin, Alice Naylor and Thomas McLaughlin.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.