Writer brings novel to life with voice impressions

The 215 Festival returns with a diverse literary and musical lineup

The Daily Pennsylvanian
November 5, 2004

'Soul City' author and CNN pop culture correspondent Toure reads excerpts from his novel at the Kelly
Writers House yesterday evening.

Writer Toure and English professor Anthony DeCurtis cross paths again.

Toure met DeCurtis as an intern at Rolling Stone magazine, where DeCurtis worked as an editor.

Toure, who is now a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, spoke yesterday night at the Kelly Writers House. The event, co-sponsored by Makuu and the Center for Africana Studies, was presented in conjunction with DeCurtis' English course, "The Arts and Popular Culture."

Toure, who is also a CNN pop culture correspondent, read an excerpt from his latest work of fiction, Soul City, before sharing his experiences and advice with the approximately 30-person audience.

When reading character dialogue, Toure used voice impersonations, like that of triple-chinned Ubiquity Jones, which ignited laughter throughout the crowd.

Students said Toure's oral presentation successfully brought the characters to life.

Readers have their own conceptions of the characters, but hearing the author use the voices Toure envisioned "is more enticing," said Bryn Mawr College sophomore Tanya Cooper, a student in DeCurtis' class.

The story of Soul City is presented using magic realism. In accordance with his belief that writers are entertainers, Toure employed this literary style to undermine the audience's expectations and deliver stories of limitless imagination.

"If you are a writer, you are the god of the universe you're creating," Toure said.

Soul City is not Toure's first publication. His book of short stories called The Portable Promised Land was printed in 2002.

Toure's passion to be a writer stemmed from his desire to "expand the complexity of discussion around black people."

While much of today's black literature focuses on romantic relationships, Toure can be viewed as a source of inspiration, because "he breaks [that mold] by writing in another format," College junior Titilola Bakare said.

His connection with the audience, comprising mostly students who are aspiring writers, is what led DeCurtis to invite Toure to Penn, noting students' receptiveness to advice from a glamorous figure.

"Toure is about discipline," DeCurtis said, adding that it is important for young writers to hear from him about the dedication essential to a writer's success.

"He's a good writer," Writers House Program Coordinator Tom Devaney said. He "speaks to students directly," and his work is "literary [and] intelligent."

Toure has had an unconventional formal education. He holds no degrees, despite attending Emory University for three years and participating in Columbia University's graduate creative writing program.

Last night was Toure's second appearance at the Writers House.