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Dimestore: A Writer's Life by Lee Smith

Dimestore: A Writer's Life

by Lee Smith

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Have read a couple of books by Smith and really enjoyed them. For some reason (probably I did not read the description very carefully when choosing this book) I was not aware that it was a memoir instead of fiction, but I liked it just as much as the others of hers that I've read. It is a collection of pieces about her life, some referencing episodes or facts from other earlier chapters, but not in a tiresome repetitive way. She has had a tragic life in some respects - and it kind of came as a surprise as she went along. She could have been whiney and self-pitying (and no one could blame her), but she comes across as very pulled together and determined not to let the awful things that have happened break her spirit. I liked "Dimestore'' (about her hometown of Grundy, VA), "Recipe Box" (about her mother), "Kindly Nervous" (about her parents' mental illnesses) and "Good Bye to the Sunset Man" (about her son, Josh) the best.

Quite enjoyable - even the oh so sad bits. Giving it 3.5 stars. ( )
  Fourpawz2 | Jan 24, 2017 |
This is a collection of essays is gathered as memoir of author Lee Smith's life and the role her writing has played in that life. The essays begin with her childhood in Grundy, Va., a small mining town on a river surrounded by mountains. Their are stories of family, being an adolescent in the 50's, a young adult in the 60's, and her adult life including the loss of a child.

I've read several of Lee Smith's books, my favorite being Fair and Tender Ladies. Her writing style shines through and her thoughts about life as a writer are illuminating. ( )
  tangledthread | Dec 7, 2016 |
I have never read any of Lee Smith’s novels, but I have a read a few minor things written by her. I am not sure why this is, but when I received an advanced readers copy of her memoir, Dimestore, -- her first work of non-fiction -- I decided to discover what I was missing. And I was missing a lot! She is a clever, smooth, and interesting writer, and this memoir became so much more than a story of her growing up and becoming a writer. The first part of the book covers that, but the later chapters examine the writer in herself and how a reader can apply that to her daily writings.

According to the dust jacket, Lee – who lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina -- began to write stories at the age of nine and sold them for a nickel each. As an adult she has 17 works of fiction and has won numerous awards, including “an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her novel The Last Girls was a New York Times best seller and won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She talked a lot about this book, and I think I will get a copy of that novel next.

Lee talks about her early desire to be a writer, and the autobiographical nature of one of her characters. She writes, “Although I Don’t usually write autobiographical fiction, the main character in one of my short stories sounds suspiciously like the girl I used to be: ‘More than anything else in the world, I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t want to learn to write, of course. I just wanted to be a writer, and I often picture myself poised at the foggy edge of a cliff someplace in the south of France, wearing a cape, drawing furiously on a long cigarette, hollow-cheeked and haunted. I had been romantically dedicated to the grand idea of “being a writer” ever since I could remember” (63). Lee was lucky to have discovered her passion so early and had the grit and the talent to carry through to success.

Lee tells a story about meeting an elderly woman who loved to write, and, as Smith found out, she had stumbled on a truly talented writer. One day, they went for a walk in rural Virginia. She writes, “‘Here honey,’ she said, leaning over to pick up a buck eye as we walked back beneath the sunset sky. ‘Put this in your pocket. It’s good luck. And get your head out of them clouds, honey. Pay attention.’ We went back to sit on her porch, talking to everybody that came by. We had potato chips and Moon Pies for dinner. // I’ve been trying to pay attention ever since, realizing that writing is not about fame, or even publication. It is not about exalted language, abstract themes, or the escapades of glamorous people. It is about our own real world and our own real lives and understanding what happens to us day by day, it is about playing with children and listening to old people” (91).

This pleasant memoir is as enjoyable as a memoir can be. If you are interested in all the ins and outs for the art and craft of writing, Lee Smith’s Dimestore, is a great place to begin your own journey. We all have stories we share all the time. Get yourself a pencil or a pen or a computer, sit down, and write. 5 stars

--Jim, 8/1/16 ( )
  rmckeown | Sep 11, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Thoroughly enjoyable memoir of growing up in Appalachian Virginia, with parents who were "kindly nervous" and Smith's development of herself as an author. Although I grew up in the "urban" rather than rural South, Smith really captured some truths about my own experience as a Southerner. ( )
  cransell | Sep 1, 2016 |
Lee Smith grew up in a small Virginia town in the mountains of Appalachia. Her mother was a former school teacher and her dad was the owner of the town dimestore. Lee loved Grundy and all the people who lived there, but she was "raised to leave" and didn't live in Grundy beyond her high school years.

This is not a sentimental account but rather a collection of essays that show how a small town upbringing and Southern culture created a writer. Now in her seventies, Lee has written an unflinching account of a life that always had writing (and reading) at it's core. ( )
  clue | Aug 25, 2016 |
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For my grandchildren, Lucy, Spencer, Ellery, and Baker
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I was born in a rugged ring of mountains in southwest Virginia - mountains so high, so straight up and down, that the sun didn't even hit our yard until about eleven o'clock.
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