Author reads "The Writing on the Wall"

The Daily Pennsylvanian
March 25, 2008

As her voice carries across the packed living room of the Kelly Writers House yesterday, reciting passages from her Best Literary Fiction Award-winning 2005 novel, The Writing on the Wall, it was clear to audience members that Lynne Sharon Schwartz's voice was made to read.

It is a voice personal and sincere, tinged with understanding and humor. It is a voice that has the power to soothe listeners into a state of eager submission to her words.

The qualities of Schwartz's physical voice in fact pervade her narrative voice, which skillfully and effortlessly invests the reader into the grief and guilt-stricken life of the main character of The Writing on The Wall, Renata, through the use of powerful descriptions and similes.

In the story, after the original passing of Renata's sister, she becomes the guardian of her deceased sister's daughter. Later in the novel, though in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Renata faces many emotional situations relating to a consistent sense of loss and a need for understanding and truth.

The second fellow of 2008 in the Kelly Writer's House Fellows Program - which seeks to bring "the most influential writers of our time into the intimate space of the Writer's House" according to distributional materials - Schwartz is the acclaimed author of 19 works of various genres.

Schwartz ended her reading of excerpts by describing the image of a newscaster standing in the rubble-filled wake of the World Trade Center attacks: "I don't know what we'll see when the smoke clears ... I fear it will be nothing."

She impresses upon the reader through her authoritative, yet humble voice the vastness of emptiness and of loss. Her voice, with its acclaimed power to imbue sanctity into the ordinary and to ascribe meaning to the universal processes of grieving, loss and truth-seeking, resonated with audience members at Writers House last night.

College senior and DP Columnist Mara Gordon who participated in the author-led seminar given by Schwartz and also introduced the author, described the power of the author's style. "There is something sacred in ordinary stories about ordinary people ... perhaps even in my own story," she said.