Nicole Letendre ’23
On February 13, the College of the Holy Cross welcomed author and editor Joshua Wolf Shenk as part of the Working Writers Series to give a reading and literary discussion in Rehm Library. He works as the editor-in-chief of “The Believer,” a bimonthly literary magazine. Shenk found his passion within the historical non-fiction genre, authoring a book entitled “Lincoln’s Melancholy” which chronicles Lincoln’s depression. Additionally, he wrote “Powers of Two,” a book about how creativity increases when people work together in pairs. Shenk finds joy in the margins of literary genres and he crafts his work with tact. During his talk, he compared crafting sentences to opening a preserved jar of almonds; though an idea or perspective may have been opened before, the sentence itself—“it oughta smell fresh.”
Shenk read to the audience an untitled essay he drafted, which explores the connections between people through the lens of time travel. He mentioned the film “Back to the Future,” comparing the flux capacitor and plutonium components to desire and relationships. He manages to tackle complicated metaphysical subjects, such as relationships and the best use of time, with the tangible reality he adds in his writing. With the recurring line, “Writing is time travel, and the destination is now,” Shenk captivated audience members, and drew them into another world. His essay demonstrates the pure imagination of writing. It acts as a vehicle for adventure, a means in which to experience the adventures or struggles of another time or person. Shenk offered powerful insight as to the dynamics of time: “To be present at all you need to have some faith in the future.” He bridges the divide between the future of people in books and one’s own future. Having faith in yourself, and in others, can grant you the ability to face the future with power and confidence.
Shenk was highly appreciative of the audience turnout. When he had finished his reading, he admitted: “There’s an ocean of life in this room.” Not only was he glad to have a successful reading, but he seemed to genuinely care about engaging in discussion with the audience. From there, the event became a Q and A. More so than writing for a job, Shenk writes for love of the craft. He is abundantly creative, and his imagination comes through in his writing. Throughout the adventures of life, the message is to be content with where you are. Whatever place or time you’re existing in, it’s important to find hope and peace. At the conclusion of his essay, Shenk leaves the audience with the words: “…and I am traveling.” This is a powerful way to guide the audience into reflection, hopefully finding peace within their own lives. For more information about writer Joshua Wolf Shenk, visit his website: http://www.shenk.net/bio.