On Thursday, Apr. 15 the VOICES lecture series presented author and professor Lee K. Abbott. This VOICES reading saw a change in venue from Daugherty Palmer Commons to Cole Cinema.
Lee K. Abbott is a non-fiction writer and professor at Ohio State University. K. Abbott has been published in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and The Los Angelus Book Review. Abbott was also professor to two of St. Mary’s English professors, Jennifer Cognard-Black and Jerry Gabriel.
The lecture began with an introduction by English Professor Karen Anderson who served less as an introduction to Abbott but more of an introduction to Cognard-Black and Gabriel, who shared stories of their classroom time with Lee K. Abbott.
Cognard-Black gave a very funny overview of her relationship with K. Abbott. At one point she very amusingly says, “…he’s a cowboy and I’m a princess–okay, I’m a feminist princess.
“He changed both me and my writing completely,” said Cognard-Black, “He’s a mentor in the truest sense of the word.”
Gabriel followed up Cognard-Black by saying, “ …don’t follow JCB.” He also gave a few words about Lee K. Abbott and his experience in the classroom.
He ended up his introduction with a phrase he said to one of his classmates back during his time at Ohio State, “Lee K. Abbott’s a big deal…yeah, no kidding.”
As Abbott took to the podium in Cole Cinema the lights dimmed except for those shown on Abbott. He was the focal point of the entire audience’s attention.
He did not give much of a lecture before his reading. He acknowledged the accolades heaped on him by his former students and introduced the title of the short story he would be reading, “A Great Piece of Elephant.”
Abbott’s story focuses on three individuals and as he moves through the story he changes the character’s point-of-view from L.T., a drunken younger brother; Smitty, the staunch Republican older brother; and Sheriff Mac, the town sheriff caught in between enjoying neither brother’s company.
During each shift Abbott alerted the readers to what is about to occur taking time to point out, “the fancy move,” he makes.
As the story moves through the plot and changes point of views there is a prevalent line that stays the same, the character of L.T. keeps repeating a bumper sticker saying, “Democrats are Sexy.”
This little phrase, while amusing in context, is hilarious at the end of the story when not only is the joke explained–much to the amusement of the audience–but so is the title. “Democrats are sexy: Whoever heard of a great piece of elephant?”
During the question asking portion of the lecture, Abbott explained that this story was inspired by a bumper sticker that he actually saw, but that the majority of it was simply a story that came from a bumper sticker.
“I was so intrigued by this [sticker] that I looked online to see what other kinds of bumper stickers you can buy. You’ll be happy to know that your first amendment right is being put to good use,” said Abbott.
Naturally in the discussion it was asked if Abbott was a political writer since the story he shared was inspired by a political bumper sticker and one of his characters was a typical, stuffy Republican. “In my personal life, I’m a yellow dog Democrat–if the race is between a Republican and a yellow dog, I vote for the yellow dog,” said Abbott.
Not only did Abbott give a lecture but he also visited one of the Creative Nonfiction classes on campus.
“It was really cool. He came to my Creative Writing class and led a workshop. I like his attention to detail and how they [details] are all important in his stories. Plus, he’s a really cool guy,” said junior Lauren Grey.
The next VOICES Reading and last one of the semester will be April 29th at 8:15 in DPC.