Saturday, January 17, 2004

Whitney Otto

Since the usual format of a Nye Beach Writer¹s presentation characteristically includes two writers, there is always the question of whether they will be disparate or similar, or in any way complement one other. Although we have presented fiction and nonfiction writers together before, an interesting aspect of tonight¹s guests is that their work neatly dovetails in a very odd way.

Tonight¹s fiction writer¹s style is emphatic and declaratory, a plainspoken rendering of rich detail about her character¹s lives that seems to imply fact rather than fiction. Their fictional personality traits and peculiarities are presented from a distance, as if the story was a product of research rather than imagination. Yet the nonfiction writer with us tonight has chosen to research and write about historical figures both outrageous and unconventional, and brought them to life in such an intimate way that their stories border on the unbelievable, the stuff of modern myth.

Whitney Otto has written four novels, her first the wildly successful 1991 How to make an American Quilt, made into a film by Steven Spielberg. Her subsequent works include Now You See Her, The Passion Dream Book and in 2003, A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity.

Whitney Otto writes shrewdly and incisively about a certain kind of modern women, and as I mentioned, from a distance. There is a feeling of the expatriate about her characters, as if upon dismissing the mainstream life of American consumerism and embracing a certain consciousness regarding artistic sensibility, they neglect to adequately substitute a clearly defined course leading elsewhere. They inhabit a floating world of their own devising, oddly elitist and nearly invisible to the rest of society, but somewhat unsatisfying to occupy.

Please welcome Whitney Otto.

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