Saturday, August 21, 2010

Leslie What

In the collection Crazy Love, a tale called “Storytime” begins:
This story begins with a beautiful and happy woman whose husband is madly in love with her. The husband is a professional of some type, a doctor or scientist, or perhaps something to do with business. The woman is a stay-at-home mom, fulfilled and devoted to her family. There are two intelligent, well-behaved children: a teenage boy and his younger sister, each with twenty-twenty vision. The children’s orthodontist has stated that no correction is necessary.
A bucolic beginning to a story about a perfectly happy family, right? Well, no matter how the story begins, you can bet it doesn’t end that way. This is, after all, the work of tonight’s featured author, Leslie What, also occasionally known as “the queen of gonzo.”

I’m not totally sure about the etymology of the word “gonzo.” I first heard it in the Sixties in connection with the work of the journalist Hunter S. Thompson. But it has entered into English dictionaries meaning “weird, crazy, bizarre, characterized by a distinctly individual style.” It can be safely said that these are definitely characteristics of Leslie’s writing. She has earned her title.

I first met Leslie some years ago when we matriculated together into a graduate writing program at Pacific University. She seemed to me a very nice woman with a friendly smile. Then I discovered Leslie’s work. When we met, I was something of a newbie. Leslie was already an award-winning author with dozens of published stories and the novel Olympic Games to her credit. I laughed as she rewrote Greek mythology and read on, awed, as her imagination took me to places I would never have thought to go in stories that are alternately very funny or staggeringly sad.

I don’t know what she will read us tonight, but you can be sure it will take you somewhere you never anticipated. Please welcome Leslie What.

Introduction written by Marianne Klekacz