Monday, December 13, 2010

Response to Jennifer Cognard-Black’s Reading

At her packed reading, JCB read two poems, a letter written from Harriet Beecher Stowe to George Eliote, and three of her short stories. Her two poems were written about her daughter, whose 11th birthday was the day of the reading. One of her stories was metafictional, a story about a story. I really loved it. I think that most amateur writers fall into the trap of writing a story about a writer who is having trouble writing a story. Those stories rarely are any good. This one was miles better than any other metafictional stories I’ve read (which aren’t too many, to be honest). I loved how there was still a story (an abused farm wife leaving her family), along with the commentary on writing.

Her second story that she read was a collaboration between her story and a painting by Carrie Patterson. The story was entitled “Gifts”, I believe. I don’t remember how the collaboration started or who had the original idea, but the overall origin of the story seemed to come from a cathedral. Carrie Patterson started with sketches and paintings of the cathedral, which evolved into a much more symbolic painting than an actual depiction of the cathedral. Although we were not privy to the revisions that JCB did in her story, the story became to be about more than just a cathedral as well, just as the painting was more than just a picture of a church. The story took place in a cathedral at a man’s funeral. The in-home nurse attending the funeral spent the time remembering the good and bad of the man she served.

Her last short story was from a collaboration her Advanced Fiction class and Professor Caldwell’s Photo Book class. The project was entitled Eye and I. Since every fiction student was paired with a photo student, JCB and Colby paired up to create “Blink”. The story was about a young girl growing up and her love of photography, along with the story of a female photographer from the 1800s, during the birth of photography. Sometimes, the photos appeared to be ones that the characters (whether the girl or the 1800s woman) would’ve or could’ve taken. When the young girl became obsessed with taking photos of round objects, the photo next to that block words was full of round objects. Sometimes, they appeared more tenuously linked.

In all of her stories, there was no dialogue. I found this very interesting. I didn’t feel that her stories suffered any from the lack of dialogue, but it is usually such a key element in other stories that it was surprising. I wonder if this is a common trait in all of her stories or if that’s just how to worked out this time. All of her main characters were female as well. I don’t know if people are more likely to write from main characters that are their gender. It would be interesting to examine.

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