by Randall Wilhelm, Zachary Vernon
Since his dramatic appearance on the southern literary stage with his debut novel, One Foot in Eden, Ron Rash has continued a prolific outpouring of award-winning poetry and fiction. His status as a regular on the New York Times Best Sellers list, coupled with his impressive critical acclaim—including two O. Henry Awards and the Frank O’Connor Award for Best International Short Fiction—attests to both his wide readership and his brilliance as a literary craftsman.
In Summoning the Dead, editors Randall Wilhelm and Zackary Vernon have assembled the first book-length collection of scholarship on Ron Rash. The volume features the work of respected scholars in southern and Appalachian studies, providing a disparate but related constellation of interdisciplinary approaches to Rash’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
The editors contend that Rash’s work is increasingly relevant and important on regional, national, and global levels in part because of its popular and scholarly appeal and also its invaluable social critiques and celebrations, thus warranting academic attention. Wilhelm and Vernon argue that studying Rash is important because he encourages readers and critics alike to understand Appalachia in all its complexity and he consistently provides portrayals of the region that reveal both the beauty of its cultures and landscapes as well as the social and environmental pathologies that it continues to face.
The landscapes, peoples, and cultures that emerge in Rash’s work represent and respond to not only Appalachia or the South, but also to national and global cultures. Firmly rooted in the mountain South, Rash’s artistic vision weaves the truths of the human condition and the perils of the human heart in a poetic language that speaks deeply to us all.