One of the perks of being a faculty spouse is the occasional meeting of campus visitors; last night it was author Dorothy Allison. She spoke about writing to my wife's 2 o'clock class and in the evening offered a public reading from her forthcoming novel. In between a small group of us had dinner with her at a local restaurant. It was a most refreshing - and enriching - experience.
While some authors may be better read than met, Ms. Allison is not one of them. Both through her writing and in sitting across from her eating fried seafood and discussing hushpuppies, she reveals herself as one who is as real as the day is long, and as honest as most of us can generally stand.
Such a combination can make unpleasant company - but not in her case. She is a person who writes as if her life depends on it. It probably does. And she believes with a ferocious intensely what she has to say. But she is also comfortable enough within her own skin to put others at ease, all the while focusing their attention on subjects they otherwise might not want to think about. It is a rare combination.
Ms. Allison's world is large, too large to visit here today. It is a world I inhabit only at the fringes. But yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to someone saying well many things that needed to heard, especially by young writers, young people. If you know her work, and a little bit about her, you understand. If not, I suggest you explore the world of Dorothy Allison.