As part of the 2017 Pitzer Literary Series, David Chan, a visiting writer at Pitzer College, and Adam Novy, a professor at both Pitzer and Scripps College, came together for a talk about their new books at Pitzer's Avery Hall on Monday, March 6.
Author of Goblin Fruit: Stories, Chan is a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. He has been granted numerous writing fellowships from Yaddo, the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and the MacDowell Colony.
In 2009, Chan was one of five American artists selected to take part in a cultural exchange program in China with Chinese writers, funded by the U.S. State Department and the Chinese Writers Association.
Goblin Fruit has been praised by Rick Moody of the Los Angeles Times Book Review as “probably the most stunning debut of the year, one that gives much promise of great things to come.”
Chan earned degrees from Yale University, the University of California, Irvine, and Syracuse University. Most recently, he served as the inaugural Clayton B. Ofstad Endowed Chair Writer-in-Residence and Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Truman State University.
In his talk, Chan read from one of his new short stories titled “I Am The Black Box.” Set in his hometown of East Hollywood, the story captures the diversity of the school district he once lived in.
The tale begins with the intriguing opening line: “I am all that is left of that summer.”
Novy is the author of the 2010 novel The Avian Gospels. Publisher's Weekly called his book “a potential cult classic.”
From the moment he sat down, Novy presented his humorous personality, saying he had wished his name was “Adam St. Novy.”
Novy went on to fill the entire room with laughter, after remarking about how much he loved the American rock band The Beach Boys.
“A lot of college, I think, is sitting in chalky rooms, listening to aging men self-actualize,” he said. “I also want to thank everybody for coming to this reading, especially for those of you who know me, but came anyway.”
In a slightly more serious tone, Novy remarked that sitting in a room full of college students made him feel younger.
“I always feel I am identical to my surroundings, so right now I feel very young and full of possibility,” he said. “And my back doesn’t hurt at all.”
Novy read from a novel he is currently working on, centered around the mythic characters Medusa and Perseus. Having taught Greek mythology for a long time, Novy said he still tends to ask, “What does the mythic writer mean?”
In answering his own question, Novy responded that we cannot know since myths come from a long time ago. His solution is to “just make [myths] contemporary for [him]self.’”
Novy continued, “I seem to write things that are a little impossible … My writing is more successful when I have no control over it.”
There were quite a few positive responses from students.
“It's a privilege to hear writers read their work in their own voices,” Michael Caldwell PZ ‘17 said. “I'm taking a class from Adam Novy this semester, [so] I thought it would be neat to hear him read some of his own stuff.”
Caldwell said he enjoyed the “variety of the stories” and the Q&A session.
“Novy said he is writing … to discover the banal details in the impossible,” Caldwell said. “I find that level of immersion inspiring. Writers should be seeking out the commonplace in the impossible worlds that we create.”
Editor's Note: David Chan passed away on Friday, Mar. 10, 2017.