Volume 79, Issue 14
February 8, 2008

Sophie Kerr Reading: Joshua Furst

BY LAURA WALTER
Elm Staff Writer

It may be exciting for an author to visit Washington College for a day, but it is always interesting to have one teach for a whole semester. Author/ playwright Joshua Furst (legal name Sessions) has taken over several creative writing courses and, on Feb. 5, gave the premier Sophie Kerr reading of the new semester.

The audience was treated to - and at times frightened by - a short story entitled "Mercy," about a teenager scolding his younger brother. This may seem standard, but the first line set up the ominous direction of the plot: "Well, we have to say it was an accident." Thus, the audience was left to wonder what had gone wrong, and to pick up details about this misfortune throughout the reading.

The speaker is telling his brother about being a high school junior, that guys are harsh to one another to show respect, and he shouldn't be such a baby. "You gotta learn to take it... You're a doofus, doofus." There is an underlying thread of insecurity in the story. Every insult masks fear and attempts to push the blame away from the speaker, for whatever accident happened at the party they crashed. In the end he basically says, 'I told you I'd do that if you didn't shut up.' They are now driving to Mercy Hospital.

Furst asserted the power of voice in a story, which can be difficult to maintain. This entire tale of "Mercy" had to be "conveyed realistically through one character" without directly telling the story. Yet Furst found it "easy to pick up the linguistic tricks" of the speaker in this case, such his habit of berating the little brother whenever the thread of the story was lost.

Joshua Furst creatively and realistically portrayed the insecurity of teenagers and consequences of rash, panicked decisions in his writing. As always, the reading was a great event. This semester's Sophie Kerr programs continue Feb. 25 with Huston Diehl.