Why do we read fiction? Is it because we’re curious beings, or maybe because we simply want to escape to another time, space or world? Whatever the reason, we continue to sit on couches and immerse ourselves in books. But we do know one thing: the incomparable pleasures we get from reading are often difficult to describe.

Zell Visiting Writing Series: Joanna Scott

Tomorrow at 5:10 p.m.
Helmut Stern Auditorium
Free


As readers, we see the words on the page and attempt to interpret their meaning, but sometimes we get the chance to hear about the other side of a novel — the writer’s experience. Joanna Scott, an award-winning novelist and the Roswell Smith Burrows professor of English at the University of Rochester, is part of the Zell Visiting Writing Series and will present a reading of some of her work, as well as answer audience members’ questions at the Helmut Stern Auditorium tomorrow.

Scott has written eight novels and various short fiction pieces and essays. Each of her projects delves into distinct topics of study. She noted that her subjects often choose her.

“There has been a sequence of accidental encounters with sometimes just an image, an anecdote I heard, a little piece of a story that comes my way coincidentally that captures my imagination,” Scott said. “Once I’m captured, I go with it, and I hope I can make something complete out of it. That’s why I like to think that my subjects are catching me rather than me catching them.”

Even though she is mainly a prose writer, Scott does not shy away from taking risks and manipulating traditional forms in her writing. She embeds quotes within her stories, employs fragmented narratives and switches between voices, narrators and speech patterns.

One of the key components of her fiction focuses on the aspect of suspense and the confusion characters fall into. As a professor, she teaches a course devoted to the literature of confusion. The uncertainty of events drives this course as well as her stories, allowing her to emphasize how the mind becomes an essential tool used to escape any conundrum.

By understanding the mind of a writer, we can be better readers. Scott expressed that writing is never an easy task. There are always concerns, which she tries to address in her pieces. She emphasized that fiction is a mode for experimenting with language, in which she plays with the arrangements of words and the power of representation.

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand and, as a result, one’s passions as a reader often flow into one’s writing.

“With each book there have been certain pleasures that I can never repeat,” Scott said. “Some took me to places where I had to travel to do research, some introduced me to areas of knowledge that I was ignorant of, some were personally satisfying like the kind of expressions, the play of language that I allowed myself.”

Scott’s writing has become more than just a career. Rather, she becomes so immersed in her work that she transforms into a character herself and sees the place she is imagining and the culture she is envisioning.

“I like to go to the places that I write about,” Scott said.

Even though fiction lies in our imagination, by hearing the writer speak, her fictional world is brought closer to our own.

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