Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | August 30, 2010

Events: Belle Boggs at Book People

For several months I’ve heard rave reviews of Belle Bogg’s Mattaponi Queen bouncing around Richmond – at the Library of Virginia, Chop Suey Books, Fountain Bookstore – and Saturday evening at Book People, I finally had the opportunity to hear what the talk was about.  I knew the collection of short stories would be good.   You don’t get published in the Paris Review, Glimmer Train, the Oxford American, and win the 2009 Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize for fiction without being good.  I just hadn’t expected how good or how real the voice would be.

It wasn’t his car or his house or his clothes that told you Ronnie’s father had made it, but the way he treated his dogs.  Walking through the tiny airport’s automatic doors into April sunshine, Ronnie spotted him pacing before the muddy green Subaru, cell phone to his ear, Tiparillo cigar in his mouth, and knew the dogs were why he hadn’t met her at baggage claim.  He liked to keep the engine idling, to power the specially installed, oscillating fan that cooled the two fat mutts, Brooks and Dunn, passed out in the sun-hot backseat.

From “Good News for a Hard Time”

Belle grew up in King William County, Virginia, and the realness comes from the way she wove the people surrounding her youth into the stories.  Family friends like Jumbo Wilde, to whom the book is dedicated, influence her characterization, but she’s quick to point out it’s their best traits we see in her characters and the flaws are works of imagination.  Jumbo, she said, “really roots for

young people,” a trait she included in Skinny, who all the readers at Book People confessed was their favorite.

Mattaponi Queen is a collection of short stories focused on the lives of people in and around the Mattaponi Indian reservation.  “The Mattaponi are an important cultural resource in the county,” Belle said, “and you cannot write about the river without talking about the Mattaponi.”

Expect to see Belle around Richmond more in the coming months.  River City Reads, an all Richmond book club, selected Mattaponi Queen as their read for August and September.  You can participate in discussions on their online forum, and come out to Gallery 5 on September 26 for a reading and discussion with Belle.  Virginia Arts and Letters Live, an evening of short stories by Virginia writers read by Virginia actors and accompanied by Virginia musicians, will feature the story “Jonas” from Mattaponi Queen on October 15.  (I dare you to use Virginia more times in a sentence.)

It came as almost a relief when Melinda’s husband told her that he wanted the operation.  At first, all she could think of was the thing itself—as pink and ugly and tender as a face crumpled from crying—and how she would never have to see it again.  She thought not of what would replace it but only of its absence, a black space, missingness, like the infinite and mysterious black hole space she had seen on NOVA.

From “Jonas”

Look for a Q&A with Belle here on River City Fiction in September.

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