Pope pours grief into new book, ‘Fetch’

From staff reports

From 40,000 words in his last novel to one word in his latest, local author Jerald Pope has taken the phrase “paring down” to heart.

Pope, a writer and illustrator from Swannanoa, has created a book that is both a eulogy to a beloved pet and a parable of hope in the midst of change. Pope will do a reading from the book, “Fetch,” at the Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain at 7 p.m. Nov. 12.

“I knew from the start that this would be a story told just in pictures,” Pope said. “Scratchboard lends a mythic atmosphere that made me want to reach for a more universal story, one not limited by words.” Scratchboard pictures are made by etching through a layer of black ink to a white clay base.

“Fetch” is the simple tale of an old man taking his dog out to play one last time. It was motivated by the sudden death of Pope’s dog, Rusty.

“I was really blind-sided by his passing,” Pope said. “The grief was so deep and long-lasting, I could only get through it by making art.” He has been sharing the book with veterinarians across the country and is gratified by the enthusiastic and heartfelt response.

Pope’s last novel, “The Elvis Tooth,” takes off from a real event (Elvis Presley’s tooth being pulled in Black Mountain on his last tour in 1977) to create what he calls “a historical, science fiction comedy.” It follows the travails of a tourist, in town to get married, who suddenly and inexplicably finds himself sent back 65 years into the past. The tourist has to convince a network of bumpkins, schemers and ‘not-what-they-seemers’ to help him find his way back home.

Jerald Pope lives in Swannanoa with his wife, chickens and the shadow of a dog. His work includes the children’s picture books “Madeleine Claire and the Dinosaur,” “The Minute Elf,” “Bouffant Flint and the Momentary Universe” and “An Early Appalachian Coloring Book.”