'You can't goddammit/ shoot a river:' Fred Chappell Takes on Champion International Paper

In this paper, I will consider various representations of what Marjorie Pryse refers to as the “consumable Appalachian identity” in select fiction and poetry of Fred Chappell, which is rooted in and around Asheville. While not commonly considered an environmental writer, Chappell’s attention to the agrarian tradition permeates these works. John Lang reminds us that Chappell “does find in farming a meaningful—though not financially rewarding—lifestyle, one that heightens recognition of humanity’s dependence on nature and that encourages both humility and a sense of stewardship” (74). I will discuss how an ecocritical reading of the Kirkman novels and select poems of Midquest helps readers imagine a resistance to this consumption of southern Appalachia. Set in the mid-twentieth century and later, Fred Chappell’s inclusion of magical realism in his works I Am One of You Forever; Look Back, All the Green Valley; and Midquest provides an imagined alternative to the devastation wrought by the fictional counterpart to Champion Paper, International. Lastly, I will discuss how Chappell’s techniques also allude to the political and activist roles of magical realism.