My friend Ashley and I enjoyed a glimpse of re-living the college life the other evening at Butler University, where we attended a Visiting Writers Series session with author Jhumpa Lahiri. The sweet lady sitting next to me asked what year I was in, and although I informed her I was already a graduate, though not of this school, I had to grin because Ashley and I had just been joking about how it was way too easy for us to blend in as college students. In fact, we even ate their food and drank their coffee and no one asked questions. Being on campus, we couldn’t help but feel nostalgic towards days of casual clothes and laid-back afternoons, always dining with friends, staying up late, and hanging out between classes. The college atmosphere just can’t be re-created.
Although I don’t necessarily miss all of the homework and studying, I have to say I still love acquiring certain bits of learning. For instance, when authors speak, I take notes, wanting to glean as much as possible from the inspiration they impart. Ms. Lahiri was quite lovely on all fronts, and I’m so glad I got to see her speak and hear her read from both old work and new. I loved her novel, The Namesake–(although the film was a bit of a stretch)–and speaking of college, I actually wrote a Lit. Crit. paper on Lahiri’s short story, “Interpreter of Maladies,” which I then presented at a Sigma Tau Delta conference. Ah, memoirs of an English major.
I’m currently diving back into the other stories collected in Interpreter of Maladies (which won the Pulitzer) and remembering how much I like her style, which is understated yet telling at the same time. One of my favorite things she said in the Q & A session was that writing detail is “like being in charge of a dream…. Something is back there and waiting for the fog to lift.” I like this image and hope it will stay with me.
Post script: Here’s a semi-recent New Yorker article written by Lahiri of her own memories and insights of youth, identity, and her journey into life as a writer: Trading Stories.