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Frazier, Charles 1950–

Frazier, Charles 1950–

(Charles R. Frazier, Charles Robinson Frazier)

PERSONAL:

Born November 4, 1950, in Asheville, NC; son of Charles O. (a high school principal) and Betty (a school librarian and administrator) Frazier; married, c. 1976; wife's name Katherine (an accounting professor); children: Annie. Education: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, B.A., 1973, University of South Carolina, Ph.D., 1976; graduate study at Appalachian State University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Near Raleigh, NC. Agent— Amanda Urban, International Creative Management, Inc., 40 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

CAREER:

Writer, educator, and horse breeder. University of Colorado, Boulder, instructor in early American literature; taught literature at a college in North Carolina, prior to 1990; freelance writer, 1990—. Raises horses on farm near Raleigh, North Carolina.

AWARDS, HONORS:

National Book Award for fiction, from the National Book Foundation, 1997, for Cold Mountain; North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship, 1997.

WRITINGS:

Developing Communications Skills for the Accounting Profession, American Accounting Association (Sarasota, FL), 1980.

(With Donald Secreast) Adventuring in the Andes: The Sierra Club Travel Guide to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, the Amazon Basin, and the Galapagos Islands (nonfiction), Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1985.

Cold Mountain (novel), Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Thirteen Moons (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author of the introduction to a paperback edition of The Book of Job.

ADAPTATIONS:

Cold Mountain was adapted for film by MGM and Miramax in 2003, directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renee Zellweger. Cold Mountain was also adapted as an audiobook.

SIDELIGHTS:

Before publishing his award-winning first novel, Cold Mountain, in 1997, Charles Frazier taught early American literature, first at the University of Colorado and later in his native North Carolina. He also traveled extensively in South America, his experiences becoming the basis for a book written in collaboration with Donald Secreast that appeared in 1985, Adventuring in the Andes: The Sierra Club Travel Guide to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, the Amazon Basin, and the Galapagos Islands. Around 1990, he left academic life to focus on the story that would become Cold Mountain. Frazier's first novel brought him considerable critical acclaim, winning a National Book Award and reaching the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Adventuring in the Andes contains a variety of knowledge useful to anyone planning a vacation near the South American mountain range—from people who want strenuous hiking to those who merely want a comfortable hotel stay in an exotic location. The volume discusses one hundred hiking trails, including the Inca trail to Machu Picchu; it also describes the cuisine available in each region. In addition, Frazier and his coauthor warn readers of the various types of disease and other medical complications they might encounter during their travels in South America. John Brosnahan noted in Booklist: "The book supplies a generous amount of … information." A Kliatt contributor called Adventuring in the Andes "excellent" and "invaluable," while Harold M. Otness in the Library Journal summed it up as "a fine choice for travel collections."

Frazier has also hiked extensively in the North Carolina mountains, not coincidentally the setting of Cold Mountain. He got the idea for the novel from the life of one of his ancestors, a great-great uncle named W.P. Inman who, after being wounded, deserted from the Confederate Army during the War between the States. Frazier tells the story of Inman's three-hundred-mile-long journey home to the woman and the mountain he loves, evading troops from the North as well as Southern Home Guard patrols bent on capturing and executing deserters as he winds his way through the mountains. Frazier alternates Inman's chapters with others written from the viewpoint of Inman's sweetheart Ada, a genteel Southern woman from Charleston whose life has been changed drastically by the war and by her father's death. Another interesting character featured in Ada's chapters is Ruby, a more practical woman who helps Ada homestead a farm. More importantly, perhaps, Ruby teaches Ada how to be self-sufficient, and steeps her in the old Appalachian folklore that guides her in her interactions with the natural world surrounding Cold Mountain.

Critics have been as quick to praise Cold Mountain as readers have been in sending it to the bestseller list. Mel Gussow in the New York Times asserted that the novel "is filled with flavorful details: language (tools like maul and froe, spurtle, fleam and snath), crops, food, books and Cherokee legends," and went on to note that "Mr. Frazier is a stickler for authenticity." The difference, Gussow noted, between this and other popular novels about the Civil War is that in this one, "the war is in the background." Frazier told Gussow that he was aiming at "an Odyssey rather than an Iliad." Civil War historian Shelby Foote read the book and liked it, in part, according to Gussow, because Frazier "did not presume to step inside historical characters." A contributor to Publishers Weekly lauded Cold Mountain as "rich in evocative physical detail and timeless human insight." Likewise, David A. Berona in the Library Journal proclaimed it both "a remarkable effort" and a "monumental novel." Malcolm Jones, Jr. in Newsweek cited Frazier's acknowledgment in which he apologizes for not being completely true to the facts of his ancestor's life and to "the geography surrounding Cold Mountain," and noted: "One must assume that he is merely being polite. This writer owes apologies to no one." One of the few voices of dissent came from Greil Marcus, reviewing the novel in Esquire. "I was halfway through Cold Mountain … when I realized it was only going to get worse," the critic remarked. Marcus went on to maintain that "Cold Mountain is a ridiculous book. Not for its story, which is merely picaresque when it's Inman's and uplifting when it's Ada's, but for its language: denatured, tangled, squeamish."

Frazier discussed with Gussow his feelings about the ways Cold Mountain compares with other novels about the Civil War. "When you grow up in the South," he told the reporter, "you get this concept of the war as this noble, tragic thing, and when I think about my own family's experience, it doesn't seem so noble in any direction." He added, "These people were sort of duped by a kind of war-fever hysteria. To go off and fight for a cause they had not much relation to: that's the part I see as tragic." Speaking of Civil War novels such as Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage and Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, Frazier told Gussow: "I felt those battle books had been done and in many cases done well. What I was interested in was the old lost culture of the southern Appalachians." To Jones, Frazier asserted what is perhaps his answer to Marcus's criticism. "I want the diction of the book to make people understand this is a different world," he stated.

Frazier worked for approximately seven years on Cold Mountain before it was ready for publication, and has frequently acknowledged the roles that family members and friends played in its creation. His daughter read drafts of the novel aloud for him, and Frazier told Michelle Green in People that "it really helped to hear it in somebody else's voice and to see if she was getting the rhythm of the sentences." The author also revealed his gratitude to his wife Katherine Green, saying "I don't know many wives who would have said to a forty-year-old man, ‘Sure, honey, quit your job. Write that novel.’" Also, one of the members of the Fraziers' parental car pool who took turns driving the neighborhood children to activities turned out to be novelist Kaye Gibbons. Frazier showed a draft of Cold Mountain to Gibbons, who in turn encouraged him to show it to agents and publishers.

Though Frazier's accomplishment of selling Cold Mountain to Atlantic Monthly Press for a six-figure advance on the basis of the first one hundred pages of his draft is impressive, he sold his follow-up book, Thirteen Moons, for over eight million dollars on the basis of a one-page outline. Several sources reported that the subject of Frazier's next novel came "from research he had come across while writing Cold Mountain," as an article about the author in Newsmakers put it. "Around 1900," the piece continued, "a North Carolina state psychiatric hospital housed a 100-year-old man who sometimes refused to speak any language but Cherokee. He was not a Native American, but rather had grown up among the Cherokee in North Carolina, and represented them in Washington for a time." Frazier has already sold the film rights to the story.

With the phenomenal financial and critical success of Cold Mountain, Frazier faced high expectations for his next book. Thirteen Moons tells the story of James Monroe, who, at an advanced age, remembers his adventuresome life of long ago. As a young man during the presidency of James Monroe, the orphaned Cooper finds himself running a trading post in the wilderness area called the Indian Nation. Cooper sympathizes with the Cherokees he encounters each day and is likewise looked upon kindly by the Indians, who call him "White Chief." As the story is told, Cooper ultimately fails to defend his Indian friends in Washington, where the decision is made to relocate the Indians to a small reservation. In the meantime, Cooper reaches the height of success only to lose it all while remaining in love with Claire, a woman he won in a card game when both were only twelve years old.

Thirteen Moons received mixed reviews, with many reviewers noting that it did not equal his first novel. For example, USA Today contributor Jocelyn McClurg wrote: "You will find much to admire and savor in Thirteen Moons, but you won't love it like you did Cold Mountain. That may not be fair, but there it is." Nevertheless, many reviewers offered much higher praise for the book. "Thirteen Moons is a powerfully written novel that creates, detail by detail, a historical world that is no more, a world that is as unknown to most readers as any world of fantasy," wrote Rick Kleffel on the Trashotron.com—Agony Column Web site. Bruce Allen, writing in Kirkus Reviews referred to the book as "one of the great Native American—and American—stories, and a great gift to all of us, from one of our very best writers."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Minghella, Anthony, Cold Mountain: A Screenplay, Miramax Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Newsmakers, Issue 2, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.

PERIODICALS

All Things Considered, October 2, 2006, "In New Novel, Frazier Returns to Love in Appalachia."

America's Intelligence Wire, November 15, 2006, "Syracuse: Book Review: Cold Mountain Author Delivers Breathtaking Second Novel."

Atlantic Monthly, November, 2006, review of Thirteen Moons, p. 125.

Booklist, September 1, 1985, John Brosnahan, review of Adventuring in the Andes: The Sierra Club Travel Guide to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, the Amazon Basin, and the Galapagos Islands p. 23; August 1, 2006, Brad Hooper, review of Thirteen Moons, p. 6.

Books, October 1, 2006, Beth Kephart, review of Thirteen Moons, p. 5.

Bookseller, April 12, 2002, "Observer" (brief article about new publishers for author), p. 8; April 12, 2002, "Sceptre Retains Charles Frazier," p. 7.

Book World, October 1, 2006, Jonathan Yardley, "Charles Frazier's Long-Awaited Second Novel Finally Arrives," p. 2.

Bulletin with Newsweek, December 19, 2006, Mark Tredinnick, review of Thirteen Moons, p. 157.

Economist, October 28, 2006, "Insipid and Overcooked; New Fiction" (review of Thirteen Moons), p. 95.

Entertainment Weekly, September 26, 1997, Alexandra Jacobs, review of Cold Mountain and "‘Mountain’ Man: In the Battle for Readers, Charles Frazier's Romantic Civil War Yarn Is the Year's Biggest Gun," pp. 46-47; October 6, 2006, Jennifer Reese, "Half-Full ‘Moons,’" p. 72; October 20, 2006, Gregory Kirschling, "The 8 Million Dollar Man," p. 48.

Esquire, November, 1998, Greil Marcus, "The Maiden Takes Her Easement" (review of Cold Mountain), pp. 70-72; October, 2006, Noah Oppenheim, "Big Book of the Month: $20,000 a Page," p. 72.

Financial Times, November 18, 2006, Francesca Segal, "Fiction—Downward Slope in His Second Novel, the Writer of Cold Mountain Stays on Similar Ground, but Loses His Way," p. 31.

Guardian (London, England), April 9, 1998, Roger Clarke, "American Odyssey," p. 16.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2006, Bruce Allen, "Lonesome Traveler" (review of Thirteen Moons), p. 802.

Kliatt, fall, 1985, review of Adventuring in the Andes, p. 57.

Library Journal, June 1, 1985, Harold M. Otness, review of Adventuring in the Andes, p. 127; May 15, 1997, David A. Berona, review of ColdMountain, p. 100; September 1, 2006, Henry L. Carrigan, review of Thirteen Moons, p. 136.

Miami Herald, October 15, 2006, "O Pioneer! Charles Frazier Follows Cold Mountain with a Sentimental and Overlong Odyssey about the West."

Mississippi Quarterly, spring, 1999, Bill McCarron and Paul Knoke, "Images of War and Peace: Parallelism and Antithesis in the Beginning and Ending of Cold Mountain," p. 273; winter, 2001, Terry Gifford, "Terrain, Character, and Text: Is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier a Post-Pastoral Novel?," pp. 87-96.

Morning Edition, October 3, 2006, "Big Advances Win Headlines for Fall Books."

Newsweek, June 23, 1997, Malcom Jones, Jr., review of Cold Mountain, p. 73; July 28, 1997, Jeff Giles., interview with Charles Frazier, pp. 64-65; April 15, 2002, Malcom Jones, "Publishing: King of the Mountain," p. 54; September 18, 2006, Jeff Giles, "This Land Is Your Land; Cold Mountain Author Charles Frazier Returns with a Mesmerizing Novel about a White Man Fighting to Save a Cherokee Tribe's Home. An Exclusive Interview," p. 60.

New York Times, August 27, 1997, Mel Gussow, "How a Family Tale Became a Word-of-Mouth Phenomenon," pp. B1, B7; April 20, 2006, Motoko Rich, "Banking on Heights of Cold Mountain," p. 1; September 29, 2006, Michiko Kakutani, "Chasing Love across a Vanishing America," p. 27.

New York Times Book Review, October 29, 2006, Adam Goodheart, "Trail of Tears," p. 14.

People, February 23, 1998, Michelle Green, interview with Charles Frazier, p. 107.

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 21, 2006, Sandy Bauers, "Cold Mountain Author's Newest, Told with Southern Richness."

Publishers Weekly, May 5, 1997, review of Cold Mountain, p. 196; July 31, 2006, "Can Frazier Meet Expectations?," p. 14; August 28, 2006, review of Thirteen Moons, p. 30.

Spectator, November 18, 2006, William Brett, "Back to the Appalachians."

State (Columbia, SC), October 4, 2006, review of Thirteen Moons.

Times Literary Supplement, November 10, 2006, Andrew Rosenheim, "For the Love of Claire," p. 20.

USA Today, September 7, 2006, Jacqueline Blais, "Frazier Gets a Warm Reception," p. 1; October 3, 2006, Jocelyn McClurg, "Thirteen Moons Waxes and Wanes," p. 6.

Variety, April 8, 2002, Jonathan Ding, "‘Mountain’ Man Books $11 Mil for Next Novel," pp. 1-2.

Washington Post, November 19, 1997, David Streitfeld, "Cold Mountain Surprise Winner of Book Award; Charles Frazier's Novel Beats out Underwolf," p. 1.

ONLINE

NZ Listener,http://www.listener.co.nz/ (September 16, 2007), Paul Morris, "On the Trail of Tears" (review of Thirteen Moons.)

Trashotron.com—Agony Column,http://trashotron.com/agony/ (September 16, 2007), Rick Kleffel, review of Thirteen Moons.

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