• Collegian staff

Willamette’s Hallie Ford Literary Series helps the audience see the author’s perspective

Oscar Calvete Al-Khalidi

Contributing Writer


The Hallie Ford Literary Series is a brilliant way to engage with any interest that you might have in literature. Sadly, the event with Janice Lee on Nov.18 concerning her new novel “Imagine a Death” was the last of the semester. In due course, beyond the winter break, this series will resume. Taking place in the evenings at designated dates on campus, these literary presentations are highly accessible and worthwhile. Capable of sustaining your attention for the duration, the Hallie Ford Literary Series will prove to be a rewarding and insightful experience should one be willing to attend.


It is not possible for anyone to understand the sentiment within a novel, or to vocalize the personality of its sentences, better than the writer themselves. The ability to narrate a story in an engaging manner, abiding not only by carefully chosen grammatical inputs, but also behavioral and creative preferences that have been inserted by their own hand, is an entirely unique skill.


While an author reading their own work to themselves might sound futile to those who don’t associate themselves with the literary community, this is actually an invaluable experience. Listening to such readings forces one to both recognise the passion and hard work of the author (which can often be lost when one is solo reading), as well as gain a higher sense of appreciation for the text and what it’s trying to accomplish.


It is possible to participate in such an experience even without prior understanding of the novel to be discussed. Naturally, some will be keen to see their favorite authors as opposed to an unknown one, but the point of a reading for the author is to get all audience members interested in pursuing their book after the event. Thus, one is always encouraged to attend regardless of where natural curiosities may lie.


Questions are always taken at the end, though some might regard the interrogation of an unfamiliar text as daunting or not especially rewarding; however, if it is possible for one to listen for the duration of the readings, then one should also be patient with the exciting opportunity to explore any seedling queries that have come about from the audience during that period. Questions are to be expected from people who have just been provided with new material to grasp.

Initially intended to be a Sci-Fi Novel, “Imagine a Death” was conceived after experiencing a somber vision of blooded hands being washed in a sink. Lee remarked that this imagery was powerful enough to generate designs of a work of cosmic fiction in her mind. Understanding that this vision had just predetermined a new project, Lee subsequently set about constructing its complementary text. This put her on the path towards completing the final version of the book (which was officially published in September earlier this year).


During the Literary Review, Lee comfortably discussed various anecdotes relating to her writing process for this specific novel. It is worth noting at this juncture that being able to gain insight into the methodology of writing by way of being in an author’s presence as they present their work before you will prove to be invaluable to those who wish to better understand the creative process, especially as it pertains to the publication of modern literature. Furthermore, such events are likely to illuminate the industry for any who aspire to enter it. In no other setting is it possible to discuss as in-depth the various nuances of the writing process and its personalisation from author to author.


From what was communicated by the author, as well as in the excerpts that were read, it is easy to understand how Lee’s book justifies its title. Remembering again the pivotal scene of the blooded hands, it is possible to draw an immediate comparison with the wider body of work as a whole as a presentation of suffrage. The cleaning of the hands, much like the novel itself, are meant to represent the cleansing of trauma. This depth of understanding of the novel can only be ascertained with the help of the author. Herein lies the value of the Literary Series.


Choosing to explore the non-human world seemingly allowed Lee to better convey her overall sentiment, without the complication that might be brought about by human characters. Another benefit of vocalizing the inanimate or linguistically ineligible is that the settings of the text are vitalised and a variety of unique narratives can be offered. Brought forth in these different ways, Lee’s descriptive style seems to flourish.



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