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I really wanted to spend a little time hashing out how glad I was to have attended the Leslie Jamison Reading in the Browsing Room on Oct. 7. I sat, awaiting her arrival, trying to predict how the reading would unfold. I knew nothing of her other than what was written on the posters and emails circulating around campus. I was very glad to hear that she would be reading primarily from her new book of essays, as I am definitely more drawn to non-fiction than I am any other type of writing. I wish I had taken notes in order to better remember the titles of each piece she read, however, I would still like to discuss the reading as I enjoyed it so much and was really touched particularly by her second piece, Rehearsals.

She began reading an essay about a journey to a silver mine in Bolivia. Something that I would never be interested in experiencing, much less ever wonder or try to empathize with anyone in such a situation. This is exactly what the essay does. She took an honest look at the horror and trauma that comes with such a job, and presented it to the reader through the lens of a young american woman. This, needless to say, is touching to all us young american women. We are able to empathize with the feelings that she has even without having experienced them ourselves. I felt very invested in this essay as she read it. It was mentioned later on that he use of the second person drags the listener in, almost unintentionally. I did not notice that strategy as much in this essay as in the first essay but I definitely felt enthralled in her descriptions, and explanations of the experience.

The second piece she read was my favorite, and really left me at ease. I cannot even explain how much I admire the voice that she used in this piece as it is often the very voice that I try to utilize; an organized stream of consciousness that makes sense aurally and visually, without getting the reader lost in the words. Her long sentences could have easily been shortened to be more conventional, or grammatically correct, but then they would have been less real. Her repetition could have been eliminated, to show more and tell less, but they were showing the feeling and the power of the story with their more existence. The tension that was presented just in the voice of this essay was very effective and confessional and I can only hope to one day succeed in using this strategy. The beautiful thing about this piece was that she was able to describe emotions and feelings, that most people would never even imagine trying to describe or interpret to another person, and explained it in such a way that we understood her completely. I believe that this is the answer to her question “Can we ever feel what other people are feeling?” I think that her ability to describe emotions that are so universal to general society, yet have never before been specifically touched upon, is the answer and the answer is yes. We all understand, we all feel what the author feels, what she feels and we have no problem admitting it.

After the reading, as we were walking away, a friend wondered to me “When did she know she was accomplished?” I understood what she was saying. We asked each other what had to be done to write such experimental, yet brutally honest  and seemingly perfect material. Would we be taken seriously? It was the repetition, that was the most powerful. Her use of the language as a sound rather than just a story. Yes, it is good to tell a story, but sometimes it is good to tell a story beautifully. I suppose this is more effective in the writing of non-fiction, rather than the short love stories we are writing in this class, but I wish that it wasn’t. I think a lot about artists who break away from traditional voice and wonder how many people didn’t take them seriously before they were published. Specifically, Bret Easton Ellis, who I have recently been reading in snippets when I have time. Must confidence in one’s writing come before success or a feeling of accomplishment, or will we ever feel like we are good enough? If we are not confident in what we write, will we ever succeed? It is sort of a which-came-first type of a debate.

Although it probably is not very important in the long term, but as a senior wondering what I am going to do after graduation, if I’m even going to graduate, and if I chose the right major after I had been so sure all this time, it was very easy for me to leave the reading wondering how many rules we should break, and how many we should conform to. I am so glad I left with questions because I feel like Leslie personified the idea that we all have the right tools to somehow, eventually, find the answers.

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