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Writer Wilton Barnhardt: Avoiding The South, Then Finding It

Photo: 'Lookaway, Lookaway' book cover
St. Martin's Press


When Wilton Barnhardt graduated from high school in North Carolina, he left for college with no plans to return. He went on what would become a two-decade tour of New York City, Oxford, New Orleans and Los Angeles. Then, even though he’d bet he’d never go back home, he ended up teaching in Raleigh, N.C.

Barnhardt, a writer, produced three well-regarded novels – none of them fully straying into the American South. But this year, he dove into the stories of his home state with “Lookaway, Lookaway,” a novel about the rise and fall of a prominent family in the state’s largest city, Charlotte.

“About the time that I began writing this book I also began dealing with that deep, dark secret that I am a Southerner,” Barnhardt says. “And I really do love it here, and I really fit in better here than I did probably in any of the other places that I lived.”

In this conversation with host Dick Gordon, Barnhardt talks about growing up visiting an aunt in a tony neighborhood of Charlotte, and hearing all the secrets about her wealthy neighbors’ affairs and indiscretions, and about other ways his own experiences inspired his writing.

Also in this show: The song writer and banjo player Old Man Luedecke talks about the inspiration he draws from old country and Canada’s northwestern reaches of Yukon province.

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