Last Thursday night, students and professors gathered to hear Margaret Bradham Thornton read from her new novel, Charleston, in Randolph Hall. After a brief introduction from creative writing professor Dr. Lott, Thornton came to the stage and did something all English majors would give anything to do: present their published work at a reading.
After spending ten years working on Tennessee Williams’ Notebooks, Thornton put Williams and her other fiction work aside to write her first novel. As she discussed her writing process in her own introduction at the reading, she pointed to different themes she wished to focus on, including home, human fragility and second chances.
As she read from selected passages in Charleston, her audience did not just imagine the world Thornton was describing; we live in it. We were there with her as she described arriving downtown from the airport, passing billboards and even stopping at certain lights and intersections – it’s a drive we know all too well.
Perhaps this may seem overly glorified or personal, but last Thursday night felt special. Here we were, listening to a Charlestonian speak about a city we were either born in or came to love and know, sitting in one of the most historic buildings in Charleston. And while all this seemed somewhat surreal, it did not feel any less accessible.
While some critics are currently praising Thornton for doing for Charleston what Joyce did for Dublin, her anecdotes and advice seemed to still encourage students without intimidation. After all, if she could capture her hometown in this beautiful light, who’s to say we couldn’t possibly do so too?
Thornton’s reading was one of the first in a series of visiting writers this semester that are not simply pleasurable events to attend, but also a way students can put a face and personality to admired contemporary writers and learn from them. Kevin Simmonds, a writer and musician from New Orleans, will give a poetry reading this month, September 18th, through Crazyhorse, our literary magazine on campus, followed by a fiction reading by writer Trudy Lewis November 13th. To learn more details about these and more writers coming to read at the College, click here.
Tennessee William once said, “Life is all memory. Except for the one present moment that goes by so quickly you hardly catch it going.” Join us at the Crazyhorse reading series this semester; you may find yourself in an insightful moment you won’t want to miss.