by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Every year, Dickinson brings a major literary figure to campus to serve a much-anticipated residency, and with just days to go before this year’s Stellfox Award recipient arrives, excitement is running high.
“It’s quite a unique opportunity to get to spend two evenings with a writer like Lorrie Moore,” says English major Katie Jarman ’16, who will attend two small-group events with the celebrated short-story author. “I want to take full advantage of our time with her next week.”
Jarman was among the approximately 40 students and faculty members who attended an Oct. 30 discussion of two of Moore's works ("People Like That are the Only People Here" and "Foes"). Over a pizza lunch, they hashed out their take on two of Moore's best-known stories, gearing up for the big event.
The author of the collections Birds of America and Like Life and the recipient of the Irish Times International Prize for Literature, a Lannan Foundation fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Award and the Rea Award, Moore has published fiction and nonfiction works in The New Yorker, Harperʼs, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Yale Review and Best American Short Stories. Her most recent novel was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize.
English major Kathleen Lyons ’15 attended the Oct. 30 discussion and was rewarded with a copy of one of the author’s books, courtesy of the English department. Seven days before Moore’s arrival on campus, Lyons’ book was already dotted with marginalia.
“I love [Moore’s] sarcasm and wit, and I’m really interested to see if that’s how she [comes across] in person,” she said, voicing a natural curiosity about the writer’s life and personality that many echoed.
“The writing is brutal, but it’s honest and realistic, and I like that,” added Helena Gaubiz, an overseas assistant from Germany. “She puts down on paper what people think, but don’t admit to thinking. It’s brave and true.”
Elizabeth Hardison ’16, an English major who writes for The Dickinsonian as well as the Carlisle, Pa., newspaper, The Sentinel, stresses that events like these “are a great way for the campus to come together around one writer and take time out of our hectic schedules to appreciate literature.” But for the aspiring writers in the room, she added, it also meant much more. “We’re always looking for ways to develop as critics and writers, and working with established writers is the best way to put our skills into action,” she explained.
Discussing Moore’s award-winning story about a critically ill infant—as told, with Moore's signature humor and bite—Madonna Enwe ’16, an undeclared student with an interest in creative writing, said she was intrigued by the level of detail Moore achieved. “It’s really interesting to read a story that tells about this kind of experience from a patient’s perspective, especially since I plan to go into medicine,” she said. “I can’t wait to ask her how she gets her ideas, and why she chooses to write short stories.”
Noah Fusco ’18, another English major, felt much the same. “The chance to talk with a famous fiction writer also gives us the chance to see what it’s actually like to be in that profession,” he added, likening the experience of learning about a writer’s processes to that of delving deep into a character’s psyche. “When we look into her [experiences and motivations] we can pull from them, like we would from her text, and apply what we learn about her career and work to our own lives.”
As part of her residency, Moore will deliver a reading at 7:30 p.m. in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, Thursday, Nov. 6, with a book-signing immediately following. In addition to meeting with students during her visit, she will also take more questions during an open question & answer session in Memorial Hall, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7.
Published November 3, 2014