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In Stitches, Bob uses his family and community background of growing up near Paducah, Kentucky, to bring together pieces of human fabric to make an incredible quilt. It is surely his quilt, but at the same time it is a universal quilt, belonging to all of us. The fabric is rich and soft and just thick enough to keep us warm on long winter nights.
I have noticed that by the time we reach the end of one of Bob’s stories, the story is bigger, deeper, and richer than we ever dreamed or expected it would be. The story has wings―it flies into our minds to stick in our memory like the sound of some distant train whistle or like some familiar odor that jars our recall of a time and place and moment we had somehow forgotten, giving us joy.
Take Granny in his introduction to the book. She is, in many ways, the grandmother we all know—a sweet, gentle lady who is concerned with those close to her, of course, but she also prepares to assist those she will never meet or see. It is here we find a great lesson, learning the importance of spaces, blank places, and areas of no sound, which are just as significant as what we perceive as real, solid, and important.
This is what actors, writers, and storytellers call timing: the space between the line and punch line. Go too quickly and the point is lost. Go too slowly and not much gets punched. Bob Thompson’s timing in his telling and in his writing is impeccable. You will see those important empty spaces in every single one of his stories.
I am reminded of something I heard about a little girl in kindergarten who was coloring in her coloring book. The teacher, looking over her shoulder, said, 'Why, Janie, that’s wonderful! You haven’t gone outside the lines anywhere.'
'I know,' said Janie. 'There’s nothing out there to color.'
Bob does not color outside the lines. His stories are accurate. He colors what’s there.
So get ready for something very special as you read these stories. Take them slowly and give their impact time to happen. Read each story and then think about it for a while. Every stitch counts; every space, empty or full, is important."
—Lee Pennington, Kentucky author, Lee Pennington’s 20th book, Appalachian Newground has recently been nominated for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Pennington, who grew up in Greenup County, Kentucky, is the author of nine other books of poetry including: Scenes from a Southern Road.
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