BRIEF EXCERPT FROM LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE JOHN R. MILTON WRITERS’ CONFERENCE SPONSORED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH DAKOTA

On September 18th I delivered a presentation about What Days Are Like When There Are Only Nights, a novel of mine that takes the form of a road, the pages black, the text displayed as an undulating series of white centerlines.

In particular I examined the the special suitability of hybrid texts to address the complexity of extreme social and personal circumstances.

“The unprecedented, when encountered, strips us of literacy and even identity—a literacy and identity that then reformulates as circumstances are absorbed by the mind, heart, and spirit. Form is a key tool to unearthing the drama because form, at the core, is an issue of identity played out on the page in front of readers. This narrative—a story concerning the continual displacement of a group of refugees—is not just a record of ‘what happened’ and ‘who is to blame’ but in addition strives to depict the deep and intense story of language’s power to reassert the humanity that no inhuman conditions can erase.”

NEVER FORGET

Remembering looking out a Manhattan building office window and seeing a volcanic plume of fire twenty years ago when the second plane hit the World Trade Towers…the moment when my supervisor entered my office in tears, saying that she was unable to contact her cousin Brian, who worked in one of the towers, and then turning to try to call him again…the long walk to Brooklyn in the silver air, past empty gurneys in front of hospitals and milling doctors and nurses in scrubs waiting for the injured that were not coming…the faces of the missing on poles in weeks to follow and the impromptu shrines in front of fire houses…