Author delivers reading of works
Andrea Vale | Thursday, February 12, 2015
Author Lynne Tillman gave a reading of her work on Wednesday evening at the Eck Center Auditorium, hosted by Notre Dame’s MFA creative writing program.
Tillman is a novelist, short story writer and cultural critic. Her work spans several genres, and she is known for her varied and unique styles of writing.
At the reading, professor of English Steve Tomasula introduced Tillman as “one of the most important authors writing in contemporary America” and as “a writer’s writer … most appreciated by those who have put pen to paper [and can] appreciate the seemingly effortless ease with which Lynne Tillman makes language do things it never has before.”
Tomasula noted that Tillman’s “genius is in the simplicity of her language.”
Tillman said she never got a definite ‘start’ in writing, but rather “had always wanted to be a writer, from the age of 8, and started working hard on a couple of shorter works and giving reading around New York City and being published in smaller magazines.”
Tillman’s art criticism is noted for its unique framing within fiction, narrated by “Madame Realism.”
“I started doing unusual — I think it’s probably unique — work in the art world in that I did not write traditional art criticism, but used a character called ‘Madame Realism’ to comment on shows or exhibitions,” Tillman said. “I hadn’t trained as an artist or art critic … but I think in the face of all the things you don’t know, it’s not a bad idea to remain insecure.
“So I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll write as a fiction writer,’ and then that had a certain kind of impact … I continued to do narratives rather than regular criticism, because … I didn’t want to put writing in the background, I wanted writing as an art form, and I wanted writing to be foregrounded,” she said. “I was using writing to write about art, but I was trying to use words to make art as well.”
Her creative work, which includes novels, essays and short story collections, has been said to “bend narrative writing into experimental realms.”
“I try to do different things depending on the subject matter, the point of view, the characters,” Tillman described. “I like to sort of thoroughly absorb myself in whatever it is that I’m writing, and I don’t believe that a writer necessarily has one style.
“I believe that when you’re writing from a point of view, your character will have a style. So I try to find different ways of approaching things … I’m interested in making writing that convinces me as I’m working on it that I should keep going,” she said.
At the reading, Tillman first read an excerpt from her first novel “Haunted Houses” (1987), followed by a piece from the 1991 novel “Motion Sickness,” and finally, she shared from her most recent work, “American Genius, A Comedy” (2006).
Tillman is currently working on a novel that is “maybe halfway or two-thirds done,” which she hopes will come out next year.
“I’m very happy to be reading at Notre Dame,” she said. “The department seems terrific, the people who are writers there, so I’m excited about that.”