BENNINGTON -- Bennington College continued its series of guest readings on Monday evening, inviting authors Susan Choi and Peter Trachtenberg to speak before a group of students, faculty, and community members.
Choi, who read a passage from her 2013 novel, "My Education," is a professor at Princeton, and won the Asian-American Literary Award for Fiction with her first novel, "The Foreign Student." Her second novel, "American Woman," was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
"My Education" will be released in paperback this summer.
Trachtenberg is a journalist, essayist, short story writer, and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. His work has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, and the New York Times' Travel Magazine. He has been awarded the Whiting Award, the Nelson Algren Award for short fiction, a Guggenheim fellowship, and his latest nonfiction work, "Another Insane Devotion" was named a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice.
Choi spoke first, and read a chapter from "My Education," which tells the story of Regina, a 21-year-old graduate student who finds herself falling for her professor, before ending up in a less traditional affair -- with the professor's wife. The passage she read was from the latter part of the book, which shows the reader Regina 15 years after her affair with the professor's wife, now married herself and considering the differences between her current love, which is based on mutual interests and shared experiences, and the seemingly illogical "coup de foudre" love of her past.
"I've never been to Bennington, and I'm enthralled," said Choi, before telling the story of Regina's dinner party with an old acquaintance and his new, fascinatingly vapid, wife. Choi had the audience laughing with her impressions of the wife, and just moments later would lead them through her main character's ruminations on the nature of love itself. When she closed the book in front of her, the audience thanked her with a hearty round of applause.
Trachtenberg read an essay on Lou Reed, the vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter for The Velvet Underground, who died in 2013. He referred to Reed as an actor, often playing multiple parts throughout his songs, and spoke of a world that didn't understand this type of songwriter. In America, he said, "We want them to sing from the heart, or the mind, or the groin, or wherever the true self is." He closed his reading with a discussion of Reed's use of raw symbolism, and by saying that, by the late seventies, the age of things having only one meaning was coming to an end. As he spoke, Reed's 1978 song "Street Hassle" played behind him, and Reed sang, "Come on, baby, I need you, baby, oh, please don't slip away."
The series of faculty and guest readings at the college began with Bret Anthony Johnston and Dinah Lenney on June 19, and will continue through this Friday, June 27. On Wednesday, June 25, poet and author David Daniel will speak, along with author Lynne Sharon Schwartz. On Thursday, June 26, the guest readers will be writer and critic Maria Bustillos and New Yorker staff writer James Wood. Finally, on Friday June 27, attendees will hear from biographer Susan Cheever and author Brian Morton.
The Wednesday and Friday events will begin at 7 p.m., and the Thursday readings will start half an hour later, at 7:30 p.m. All of the readings will take place in the Deane Carriage Barn, and are free and open to the public. More information on the program can be found online at bennington.edu.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB