Literary Heat

Posted: October 21, 2013 in Uncategorized
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As writers, we fall in love all the time. With overheard and stolen pieces of music, with moments glimpsed at and then caught and held like a painting, or with the wind colliding into us and then moving swiftly away, towards the Hudson and the night; but mostly, with books, with language, with whatever it is that words do.

As we learn eventually, these feelings are often fleeting and unreliable. If we fall in love every day, is it still love? But occasionally, we fall in that slow-motion way that lingers: we want it to linger; we want to stop and say, “Wait, can we take this slow, can we appreciate this?”

When I read the book Evening and discovered the author Susan Minot through my Uses of Affliction class, I crushed hard. I wanted to know everything. Why did she overlap multiple points of view and multiple time periods? What was the effect of her deconstructed language and her focus on imagery? How was she so successful at evoking feelings that felt both so personal and so universal at once?

Was this just casual infatuation, or was I really yielding to a genuine attachment? Was I willing to commit? But this wasn’t just a one-night-stand of reading all night, only to wake up and reconsider if those words were really so brilliant, or if perhaps they were clichés, cloaked in the magic of the euphoric night.

I yearn to witness intimacy in its written form and the novel Evening satisfied that desire. This was a romance that I wanted to keep with me, past my class, past grad school, through reading the rest of her books, and then through reading them again and again, as a student and as a writer. Just as any lover studies a body, I wanted to study Susan Minot’s body of work.

I was eager to hear Susan Minot speak for the first Writers Speak, held in September, and as a graduate assistant, I was also looking forward to filming the event and helping to ensure that it went smoothly. I spent the Sunday before the Monday of the event at the Brooklyn Book festival, feeling more and more inspired about the path I’m on. I was prepared for the week ahead and was looking forward to going home and reveling in all the new chapbooks and literary journals I had picked up.

But when I came home Sunday night, I received an email from my supervisor, Magdalene Brandeis. “Introduction!!!!!” was the title. She wanted me to introduce Susan Minot. My dream of unwinding suddenly dissipated. How was I going to write an appropriate introduction for such a distinguished author—an author that I felt so personally grateful for and amazed by?

Everyone told me that grad school would work my edges. So there I was, the night before the first Stony Brook reading, writing an introduction for my new favorite author, and there I was, the following night, introducing her, despite my fear of public speaking. When it was over, she stood up at the podium and said it was the nicest introduction she had ever received. My devotion was solidified, my love affair only made worse—or perhaps better—as I understood that behind the words that had captured me was this person, this author, that I can continue to learn so much from.

It’s just the beginning. I still get to read the rest of Susan Minot’s work, taking my sweet time with it, and somehow I know I will fall in love with so many other books and other authors while in this MFA program. (I just hope Susan isn’t jealous!)

And the best news of all: Stony Brook has just announced that Susan Minot will be teaching in Manhattan in Spring 2014. My romance with her writing, and with literature in general, will unabashedly continue. Swoon!

-Harmony Hazard

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