Volume 93, Issue 96
Thursday, March 30, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Donoghue hosts literary event
©Photo bu Claire McNarvee
By Matt Pearson
"You have to write [in] many different forms to make a buck," offers Western's writer-in-residence Emma Donoghue. Donoghue currently fits this profile, as she's filled her literary resumé with titles such as novelist, playwright and historian.
Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Donoghue received a PhD from Cambridge University in England before moving to Canada in 1998. She has spent the last school year working in the English department as the writer-in-residence, an experience she enjoys considerably.
"It's been very interesting," Donoghue says, recounting the range of people who have sought her literary counsel over the course of the year. Recently, she has also been sequestered by Western's Gay and Lesbian Alumni Chapter to lead Queer Fictions, an evening of readings given by local gay and lesbian writers.
Donoghue relishes in the opportunity to read before an audience. "I love it," she enthuses. "Your words go right into the ears of your listeners."
She believes public readings such as Queer Fictions allow people to experience writers whose work they may not otherwise encounter. Not surprisingly, Donoghue enjoys doing these kinds of readings with other writers. "Everything is connected by content," she says of Queer Fictions.
Reading alongside Donoghue will be writers Julie Glaser, Nairne Holtz and Brain Mallette, all of whom bring their own individual style to the evening's repertoire. Donoghue describes Glaser's work as mix of prose-poetry, while Holtz's is colloquial and chatty and Mallette's is somewhat dark. "There is a good mixture of content and a good variety of style," she declares.
Although she was influenced by writers such as Jane Austen as a young child, it was her first realization of the acceptability of queer fiction at the age of 19 which influenced her path. "It was permissible to write about these things," Donoghue recalls. "Our culture and our lives are not unspeakable and not boring."
Although Donoghue considers the work of the Pride Library to be very important, she points out that Western's campus does not have an overly vocal gay and lesbian community. Nevertheless, she hopes that Queer Fictions will allow members of the heterosexual community to learn more about gay and lesbian culture by putting it in the spotlight for one evening. "Literature offers a glimpse of other lives," Donoghue notes. "[A glimpse of] stories set in other places about lives never lived."
Donoghue speaks candidly about what qualifies a piece of work for this distinction. "'Queer' points to a kind of experimental attitude which is willing to blur boundaries," she explains, adding depicting aspects of gay life does not inherently mean the writer themselves is gay or lesbian.
Still, Donoghue admits that it is common for young lesbian and gay writers to use their work as a platform from which to address their lives. The rationale behind this trend is quite simple gay and lesbian themes are still rather new and unexplored in comparison to the heterosexual themes which have dominated literature throughout the ages.
"There's a sense that it's never been said before," Donoghue insists. "There's an urgency [for gay and lesbian writers] to tell their stories." This seems accurate, as this year's Pulitzer Prize was won by Michael Cunningham for his novel The Hours, which has a considerable amount of lesbian and gay content.
Donoghue draws greatly from her own life experiences. "Characters are, in some sense, based on me," she admits. "That terrible bitch is in me somewhere," she says, referring to the inspiration of one particular figure.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000