The occasion might be a holiday or a wedding, a christening or a funeral, and a family is gathered on the eve to eat, drink, talk, and cast eyes upon each other. Like all relations, the extended family in Fred Chappell’s Family Gathering has its foibles and strengths, oddballs and know-it-alls, hussies and historians, sparring spouses and model marriages. More than anything, this family loves gossip. Chappell portrays its members one and all in a series of sharply limned character sketches. In this crowd of strangers we may find personalities familiar, maybe too familiar. Perhaps we may even find a glimpse or two of ourselves.
With results like those of the Polaroids taken by the family photographer, Chappell “makes us look as scary / As old woodcuts in a bestiary— / But maybe, after all, that’s us.”
Varied, humorous, and, above all, true, Family Gathering is pure mean fun.
Fred Chappell is the author of twenty-six books of poetry, fiction, and critical commentary. His most recent collection was Shadow Box. A native of Canton in the mountains of western North Carolina, he taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 1964 to 2004 and was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997 to 2002. He and his wife, Susan, live in Greensboro.
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