Stephanie Danler reads “Stoned Fruits” from the Fall 2019 edition of The Sewanee Review. Photos courtesy of The Review.
By Claire Smith
The Sewanee Review fall open house took place on a particularly gloomy afternoon, with soft gray light falling onto the speakers in Convocation Hall. This was a fitting mood, as the two guest speakers, Stephanie Danler and Lisa Taddeo, both read stories with brutal honesty and vulnerability that struck everyone in the audience to the heart.
The open house included staff readings of favorite pieces from this year’s issues of the Sewanee Review, along with longer readings from Danler and Taddeo. A nice Convocation reception and book-signing followed, and both Danler and Taddeo hung around the small crowd to meet people and talk.
Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter, read her piece “Stoned Fruits” from the Review’s 2019 Winter issue. Her piece talked about her pregnancies and her experiences with womanhood and motherhood with such sincerity and openness. Lisa Taddeo read her short story “The Huntsman” from the Fall 2019 issue, bringing a dry humor and stark commentary on the lives of young women that hit hard. Though the story was fairly unrelatable, about a young woman having an affair with her boss, the way Taddeo writes about women’s thoughts felt relatable to everyone in the crowd.
Lisa Taddeo reads from “The Huntsman” in Convocation Hall.
Both of these writers’ readings felt oddly liberating; the sincerity and relatability they brought to their work and the commentary they gave on the experience of womanhood was refreshing and exciting. Everything was soft-spoken and refined- crisp white shirts and straightened hair and level voices- but there was also an energy and excitement around hearing these women speak.
I had been on the fence about buying Taddeo’s book Three Women, but after hearing her speak, I paid the marked-up Sewanee price and bought it right there in Convocation. I couldn’t put it down. I had to read more of what these women had to say. If you’re in a reading rut, or you want to read something for fun that wasn’t assigned for a paper, the Review is a solid place to look for current writers. If you didn’t make it out to the open house, look out for other Review events; you might find a new favorite writer or some inspiration for your own work.