On the evening of Thurs., Feb. 20 at 8:15 pm, St. Mary’s College alumni Corrie Byrne visited her alma mater for a VOICES reading of her upcoming novel, hopefully titled “The Obituary Writer”. Under the roof of DPC with a full house, Byrne combined both auditory presentations of excerpts from her book with visual presentations of what she calls “playing with format: an overlay of a character’s inner thoughts displayed over the events taking place on the page”.
Along with this new age medium of novel construction, Byrne also created a set of characters that seemed to pull in the audience as if they were right there in the setting with them. As we entered Byrne’s story, we were roped into the life of a widow struggling to overcome her husband’s death by writing the obituaries of people she did not know. In following along with this character, the audience of Byrne’s presentation was transported into a tiny town on a small island off of Maine, a canvas that Byrne filled with a perfect portrayal of ordinary life with humor.
As an alumni of St. Mary’s College, Byrne gives credit to her roots in the English Department. “I took Jennifer Cognard-Black’s fiction course and she did a post-modern section. She introduced me to playing with footnotes.” Byrne also pointed to her love of list making and short stories as another means of playing with form. “I like making lists, and I think it started from there. I wanted to write stories around them.”
Throughout the reading, Byrne’s exploration of free form and various channels of character development helped establish an exaggeration of the characters’ thoughts and actions, caricaturizing both the protagonist and the people she meets throughout the excerpts. These exaggerations were met with many laughs from the audience, as they were simultaneously exposed to both the protagonist’s superficial reactions to the world around her and her darker, more humorous thoughts in the visual presentations. Her unique style and slightly off-color sense of humor worked in perfect synchronization in order to deliver an educational and entertaining event.