Hobson and Hunt Reading at Taylor Hall
Two fabulous writers visited Taylor Hall at the Macomb Square on Tuesday, October 16th to give us a glimpse of their brilliantly written novels. Brandon Hobson read part of his novel Where the Dead Sit Talking and Samantha Hunt read part of her novel The Dark Dark. Taylor Hall was so filled up that people had to sit on the floor. It was an amazing turnout.
A little background about the authors and their pieces:
Brandon Hobson went to Oklahoma State University where he received his Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing. He is also a member of the Cherokee Nation tribe of Oklahoma. Where the Dead Sit Talking is his most recent publication and has won multiple awards, including the Pushcart Prize, and is featured in magazines such as The Believer, Publisher’s Weekly, The Paris Review Weekly, NOON, and more! He was also nominated for the National Book Award for Fiction.
Hobson read us an excerpt of his novel. In this brief reading, we learned that the story is set in Oklahoma in 1989 and is told in the first person point of view of eighteen-year-old Sequoia, who is a foster kid searching for a home and a family, as well as his identity as a Native American trying to find himself in this crazy world. Sequoia has bounced from foster home to foster home and has a burn mark on his face. His mother is in jail and he holds some resentment towards her. He is a bit of a troublemaker who doesn’t like change and is an emotionally driven person.
I really enjoyed listening to even just this brief portion of his story. I think Sequoia can resonate with just about anybody in the sense that he is trying to find himself in this big mess of a world, just like all of us here at WIU, and of course, people in all parts of the world of all ages, are doing every day.
Samantha Hunt is from Pound Ridge, New York, and went to college at Warren Wilson College and Northfield Mount Hermon. She is the author of four books- The Dark Dark, The Seas, Mr. Splitfoot, and The Invention of Everything Else, along with several short stories and essays. Hunt was a finalist for the Orange Prize and has won multiple awards like the Bard Fiction Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship for creative arts, and the National Book Foundations 5 Under 35 award. Her work has been featured in magazines such as The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times, The Believer, and more!
Hunt read us one of her short stories from The Dark Dark called “Beasts”. She told us that at one point in time she lived on a mountain. She didn’t have a cell phone and wasn’t connected, and constantly felt scared of the dark. But living on the serenity of the mountain, able to truly express her freedom, she found peace and wonderment- “the fear becomes beauty.” The short story “Beasts” is told in the first person point of view of a middle-aged woman, and is about how love sometimes takes time and that plans are hard to make. The narrator is afraid of moving forward because of what lies ahead. At night, the woman fears that she is turning into a deer. She summons the courage to tell her husband this, and he is pretty calm about it but is disappointed to learn that deer don’t mate for life. The woman, and maybe also the husband, feels trapped, then free, but also lost. The narrator claims that people are messed up by sex and other people, but in spite of that, you can still like people like that.
I thought “Beasts” was witty, dark, and humorous but at the same time serious. The narrator thinks about fear and love and again I think pretty much everybody can relate to feeling trapped, free, and lost all at the same time, and like Sequoia, making plans and change is difficult to undergo. Being afraid of moving forward in life is scary for everybody I think, but through that fear, you can still find peace and wonderment and as Hunt said: “the fear becomes beauty.”
If you would like to know more about Brandon Hobson and Samantha Hunt, there are links below to their websites. It was such an honor and a great pleasure to have such talented writers visit WIU!