By Vicky Dickson
Chapel Hillâ€™s Nic Brown might be the only writer around who sees the sale of his first book, Floodmarkers, as â€œthe second-best thing that happened to me that day.â€ Given that Brown had also just completed the first draft of his second book (Doubles), he felt like one lucky guy on the day his first child, a daughter, arrived.
That kind of luck, though, comes only on the heels of hard work. Years of it. The stories in Floodmarkers had their genesis in Brownâ€™s time at the Iowa Writerâ€™s Workshop, which he entered after graduating from Columbia in 2003. A hybrid of a short-story collection and a novel, Floodmarkers tells what happens to the residents of Lystra, a fictional North Carolina town, over the course of a single day â€“ a day when Hurricane Hugo has been predicted to hit town.
The collection originated with Brownâ€™s idea of a set of stories linked both by the imminent arrival of a major storm and by a wandering white dog. Its many characters include a funeral-haunting widow, an aspiring actor (who sculpts his 6-inch Mohawk with cherry Jell-O), a teenager whose initiation into the mysteries of sex comes from his female cousin, a child-molesting veterinarian and a gospel-singing school bus driver with a pregnant girlfriend.
Though these folks may sound like the eccentrics who commonly populate stories about small-town Southern life, readers should know that Brown doesnâ€™t deal in caricatures. His characters are complex, and they donâ€™t behave predictably. The actionâ€™s always a bit surprising, and even the storm doesnâ€™t play out the way itâ€™s expected to.
The writing in Floodmarkers is tight and spare, in part because of Brownâ€™s conviction that his readers are intelligent and will get what heâ€™s trying to say without a lot of explanation. Itâ€™s also carefully crafted, much as he crafted musical arrangements in his years as a professional drummer. Brownâ€™s evident compassion for all his characters makes us like them, too, and care what happens to them which all combines to make Floodmarkers a most compelling read.
Floodmarkers will make its literary debut on July 7.
You can get a preview, though, at The Cave in Chapel Hill on July 3 at 10 p.m., when Brownâ€™s reading will be accompanied by music from his friend Snuzz. And if 10