News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

Author to discuss rural vs. modern society

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

Huntsville author Carter Martin will talk about his book “Kelbrn” on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Decatur Public Library.

This free program, one of several featuring authors this year, will be held in the library’s community room. Martin will be available after the discussion to autograph copies of his fictional book, which was published this year by Xlibris of Philadelphia.

“Kelbrn” is the story of one man’s moral and psychological growth as he journeys through life. It is set in the early part of the 20th century and goes through the Depression era up to World War II, Martin said.

“This is an agrarian book about a man who migrates from the North to the South, from Wisconsin to Mecklenburg County near Charlotte, N.C.,” Martin said. “He has to confront the Ku Klux Klan at one point. But the industrialism of North Carolina at that time, with cotton mills and so forth, figures into it.”

Martin said he wove into his story “the continuing issue of rural mindset and rural economy versus a modern industrial society and its encroachment upon what was really a very pastoral farming community.”

Looking for the past

His main character, Miles Kelley, “is looking for what he experienced as a child in Wisconsin, before it was jerked away.”

To his dismay, his alcoholic father sells the farm and moves the family to Madison so the children can attend the university. Kelley joined the submarine corps when America entered World War I. Later he returned to New York City, became a reporter, and married and divorced a sophisticated gynecologist.

Then he heads back to North Carolina and spends the rest of his life trying to re-create his childhood environment, even establishing a dairy.

“Remember when they used to deliver glass bottles of milk and leave them on your porch? I grew up across the state line from Mecklenburg, and there was a dairy there,” said Martin.

Milk and loneliness

He describes one of his character’s dilemmas: “He has a lot of milk during the Depression and tries to give it away on the corner of an upscale park in Charlotte, but the neighbors didn’t want poor folks coming by for a quart of milk. They ran him off and he went to the Salvation Army to give away his milk.”

At all stages of his life, the main character confronts an essential loneliness: the child with no control over his circumstances, entrapment inside a primitive submarine, the sexual onslaught of a beautiful, witty woman, the inescapability of racial prejudice, defeat by the fractured economic system, the moral collapse of a beloved second spouse, and the loss of a child beneath the rapids of a powerful mountain river.

The setting for Martin’s book includes a house located in the historic area of Brattonsville, S.C.

“When I was growing up, this run-down place was full of hay. Now it’s a beautifully restored house that was used in the movie ‘The Patriot,’ ” said Martin.

He knew Tolly Shelton of Decatur when he was in high school in York, S.C., and she was in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Later she attended an American literature seminar he taught at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and recently went to his talk and book signing at Madison County’s library.

Martin earned a degree in English from Vanderbilt University and also taught at North Carolina State University before UAH. He has been a visiting research fellow at the Institute for U.S. Studies at the University of London and served as an exchange professor at the University of Osaka, Japan.

Southern literature

Along with articles in literary magazines, he has published a critical study of Flannery O’Connor, “The True Country,” and edited a collection titled “The Presence of Grace.” He specialized in Southern literature.

Since retiring from teaching, Martin has continued to write fiction, poetry and a memoir. He lives on a 27-acre farm, Three Forks, on the Brier Fork of the Flint River between Huntsville and New Market with his wife, Linda.

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