For the next post in our series on 9L contributors participating in the Early Spring Literary Festival, we turn our attention to Peter Orner. His essay, "Horace and Josephine" is in the current issue (vol. 7, no.2).
Orner's nonfiction work shares a lot of the same great qualities he brings to his fiction. They are rich, fulfilling experiences on the initial read, but what makes them truly spectacular is that more and more depth is revealed on subsequent reads. Making this feat even more impressive is the economy of his prose. Orner can express an entire lifetime in only several pages. This is certainly the case with "Horace and Josephine." At first glance, the essay could be read as simply a tale of eccentric relatives dealing with the change in their social and economic status after Horace gets caught embezzling money. However, it also very much a love story. Horace's and Josephine's love story. One that sneaks up on you because the beginning is very much about Horace's scams and how that ripples throughout the entire family. The end of the story firmly focuses on the ultimately heartbreaking relationship between Horace and Josephine. The emotion of the last scene is overwhelming. Confession: I've read the essay dozens of times by now and I still can't read the end without tearing up. A wonderful thing about the essay is that when you go back to the beginning, you see how it was a love story the whole time, even though it doesn't first appear that way. The end works, it is earned emotion, because Orner, as he does in his fiction, has done such a suburb job of building the characters, in this case his relatives, on the page. We see what makes them flawed, tragic, and importantly we see their capacity for love.
"Horace and Josephine" is available in the current issue (vol. 7. no, 2), so head on over to our webstore to pick up a copy.
To read a great example of Peter Orner's fiction check out "On a Bridge Over the Homochito" which appears in his short story collection, Esther Stories.
Here are the details for Peter Orner's appearances at the Early Spring Literary Festival:
Panel Discussion: Bearing Witness with Philip Graham, Cary Nelson, Peter Orner, and Sue Silverman on Tuesday, March 15 at 10:00am.
Peter Orner and Sue Silverman reading on Tuesday, March 15 at 4:30pm.
Both events will be in the Author's Corner on the 2nd floor of the Illini Union Bookstore. The events are free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!