Who is Barbara Kingslover?

Written by Hannah Yterdal.

What makes a great writer? Is it the number of books they sell? The messages they deliver? Their skill with words? Or their uncanny ability to examine humanity in a way that makes us re-examine ourselves?

If any or all of these makes a great writer, few are on a level with Barbara Kingsolver. She is the author of 12 books, the first of which was published in 1988, that range from novels to essay collections to poetry. Her books have been adopted into high school and college curriculums across the country and translated into several languages. Her flowing, poetic style and insightful prose have made her one of the most influential modern authors.

Kingsolver was born in 1955 in Annapolis, Maryland and grew up in the Kentucky countryside. Beginning at age nine, she kept a journal and entered every essay contest she could. She graduated from DePauw University with a degree in Biology. She then spent the years after college in Greece, France and England, and later moved to Tucson, Arizona and earned her graduate degree in evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona. After graduate school she worked as a scientific writer for the University of Arizona before becoming a freelance journalist.

Kingsolver’s short stories and poetry began to be published in the mid-1980’s. She wrote her first novel, “The Bean Trees,” while pregnant with her first child. The novel was published in 1988 and has since been adopted into the core curriculum of high school and college literature classes across the U.S., and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Her other novels include “The Poisonwood Bible”, “Pigs in Heaven”, and “Animal Dreams”. Her collection of essays “High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now and Never” was published in 1995 and became a bestseller.

In 1997 Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize, awarded in even-numbered years to a first novel that exemplifies outstanding literary quality and a commitment to literature as a tool for social change. In 2000, in addition to the major medals and honors her books had won, Kingsolver was awarded with the National Humanities Medal, the United State’s highest honor for service through the arts.

In 1998 a special edition 10-year anniversary hardcover of “The Bean Trees” was issued. Although the book was received enthusiastically by critics, the most important thing to Kingsolver is that the ordinary reader enjoys her novels.

“A novel can educate to some extent,” she told “Publishers Weekly”. “But first, a novel has to entertain—that’s the contract with the reader: you give me ten hours and I’ll give you a reason to turn every page. I have a commitment to accessibility. I believe in plot. I want an English professor to understand the symbolism while at the same time I want the people I grew up with—who may not often read anything but the Sears catalogue—to read my books.”

Barbara is the mother of two daughters, Camille and Lily, and is married to Steven Hopp, a professor of Environmental Sciences.  In 2004, after more than 25 years in Tucson, Arizona, Barbara left the southwest to return to her native terrain.  She now lives with her family on a farm in southwestern Virginia where they raise free-range chickens, turkeys, Icelandic sheep, and an enormous vegetable garden.

Many of Kingsolver’s novels are set in the physical and psychological locations that the author is most familiar with, but readers would be mistaken to assume that her work is autobiographical.

“There are little things that people who know me might recognize in my novels,” she said, “but my work is not about me. I don’t ever write about real people. That would be stealing, first of all. And second of all, art is supposed to be better than that. If you want a slice of life, look out the window. An artist has to look out that window, isolate one or two suggestive things, and embroider them together with poetry and fabrication, to create a revelation. If we can’t, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread.”

Cross Country Prepares for Conference

Written by Allen Smith.

The SU Men’s and Women’s cross country teams have been working hard to prepare for the SCAC Conference Championships this Saturday at the SU Golf Course. The course features a steep 300-m hill that is sure to slow many of the runner’s times, and make it a strength race. The women will race at 9 a.m. and the men will race at 10 a.m.

The women have been battling injuries late this season, but still remain one of the top teams in the conference. Tami Warner led the team to a 6th place finish at the Texas Lutheran Invitational with a 6k time of 25:20. Jessica Ratclife, Kristin Lahaie, Ursula James and Elly Martinez are expected to contribute greatly to the team on Saturday.
Despite losing Junior Kelly Parmet and First-year Lili McEntire to injury, the girls are still optimistic about conference.

DePauw comes in as the favorite on the women’s side after being ranked 13th in the nation in the latest NCAA D3 poll. Trinity is another team that is picked to do well, though Southwestern is hoping to battle it out for 3rd.

On the men’s side, Colorado College comes in as the favorite after being ranked in the top 35 nationally. DePauw, Centre, Trinity, Sewanee and Rhodes are expected to be tough as well.

Southwestern is hoping to take advantage of their pack running strategy that has worked well all season. At the Texas Lutheran Invitational, the top five men for Southwestern finished within 1:07 of each other to grab 4th place in a meet that featured D1 schools Texas State and Prairie View A&M. Junior Ben Sloan led the Pirates at TLU with a season best time of 28:36. Josh Gideon, Addison English, Allen Smith and David Pruit rounded out the top five.

“Conference is going to out of this world,” Sophomore David Pruit, who has finished as the Pirates 5th runner the last two races, said. “It will be quite an adrenaline rush for all parties involved.”

This monumental meet marks the second time Southwestern has hosted the conference championships in the last 10 years. The team has been training regularly on the course to prepare for the challenges it will provide. The course is undergoing some final preparations this week to get rid of certain rocky areas.

Southwestern students and faculty are encouraged to come out and support the men’s and women’s cross country teams this Saturday morning. Once conference is over, the Pirates will participate in the Jameson 5k road race next Saturday, which will take place on the Southwestern campus. The following week, they will travel to Williamsburg, Virginia for the South/Southeast Regional Championships.

Plastic Surgery: Becoming Barbie

Written by Regan Lemley

Does the name Nicole Scherzinger ring any bells? If her name doesn’t, her face will. She’s the lead singer of raunchy pop group The Pussycat Dolls, and she is in ownership of the ideal American female body. She’s skinny, she’s tall, and she’s still curvaceous. The pathetic part is how she goes about getting it.

Forget the low-carbohydrate diet or just eating small portions of healthy foods, because this diva goes a few days a month without eating. As an alternative to real nourishment, she puts nothing in her malnourished body except water that contains cayenne pepper, honey, lemon, and maple syrup.
Now don’t you worry girls, if you don’t feel like becoming mildly anorexic like Scherzinger, and you’re not that into throwing up partly digested food and stomach acid after every meal, we lazy Americans have the thing for you.

Welcome to the billion-dollar industry that is plastic surgery.

Feeling chubby? Spend a few thousand dollars for a surgeon to insert a hollow tube into your body that is connected to a vacuum unit which sucks out your fat through tiny incisions. Don’t like your nose? There’s always the option of rhinoplasty, but don’t let the thought of a doctor breaking your nose with a hammer and chisel bother you. The bleeding will stop eventually, and the blood that pools around your eyes will recede.

Breasts not as big as they should be as defined by what is shown to you each day through television, movies and magazines? Then you females should thank whatever being you worship for being born in this country in this particular time period, because the FDA just lifted its ban on silicone breast implants in 2006. Now you have the right to pay a man approximately $3,000 for an optional surgery in which he shoves gel thingies into one of the most sensitive areas of your body. It should also be mentioned that the implants were approved despite female health organizations declaring the implants were dangerous to a women’s health, so apparently money and politics hold more weight than health precautions.

Fortunately, plastic surgery has had so much support in recent years, as evidenced by the 7 percent increase in cosmetic plastic surgery between 2005 and 2006, that the field has expanded to fix areas that hardly anyone sees. So girls, if your vagina just doesn’t compare to what our porn-raised boys consider to be normal, then there’s a quick fix surgery to make it perfect.

I wish I was kidding, but there is now a booming market for vaginal rejuvenation surgery. Overseas, this would be considered genital mutilation. In America, this is considered a luxury.

There’s something extremely disgusting and disturbing about plastic surgery. Yes, I know some people need corrective surgery or reconstruction. I am aware. But don’t tell me a woman needs her breasts to be bigger. No one needs that.

Men and women who undergo optional cosmetic surgery are paying someone to mutilate their bodies. They are paying someone to cut and break and bruise and contort their bodies just so that they can fit into some kind of beauty ideal that is both unattainable and unnatural. Something about that just defies logic.

The lesson of plastic surgery is that everything has a quick fix, so long as you have the money for it. The rich, who we are supposed to view as role models, make plastic surgery seem glamorous and desired. This is in direct opposition to the belief that plastic surgery is vapid and wasteful, which it is.
Even worse than reinforcing superficial beauty ideals is the fact that plastic surgery is telling men and women that something in them is sick or broken and in need of fixing. Television shows like “The Swan” and “Extreme Make-Over” seek to “fix” people’s faces, implying that each person has some horrid defect that demands surgical attention if the person ever wishes to be accepted by society.
We’re supposed to pity and even mock the people on these shows that don’t fit into the narrow ideal of what beauty is, and we’re supposed to applaud those that finally “fix” themselves and adhere to societal standards.

In real life, it’s pretty similar. If you’re not constantly trying to improve yourself even in the smallest ways like working out or getting pedicures, then you’re not taking care of yourself.

At the very least, plastic surgery can give you insight into a person’s personality. I refer to my one of my favorite comedians, Daniel Tosh, who said, “I am all for women who decided to get plastic surgery. Plastic surgery allows you the rare opportunity to make your outer appearance resemble your inner appearance. Fake.”

Which, let’s be honest, it is.

Webcomics – Nerdy Fun Humor, or Something Everyone to Guffaw Over?

Written by Sam Allen

Peanuts. Garfield. Family Circus. All of these cherished strips are regulars amongst the nation’s funny papers. Most of us have read one, if not all, and while we cherish the life lessons learned from Snoopy, it’s likely that us fancy-pants college students might not read these as regularly as we once did. I mean, with textbook prices the way they are, who can afford a newspaper anyway?

That’s where the Internet comes in to save the day. Besides giving us the opportunity to watch David Blaine transform orange soda into Cheez-Its, the glorious World Wide Web offers up a plethora of deliciously entertaining comics.

It must be said, though, that enthusiasts of serious, socially challenging graphic novels might fare better at their local Borders. For the rest of us that are just looking for a chuckle during our work-study hours, paradise and abundance await.

Web comics, like crappy metal bands on MySpace, are dime-a-dozen—there are thousands of different strips. For the patient and the dedicated (or the readers of this article), there exist choice gems out there. But, due to space constraints, I can only list what I feel are the best.

One strip that might be a good introduction to the wild, wacky world of web comics is Qwantz, also known as Dinosaur Comics. The title pretty much explains the premise: It’s about a T-Rex and his two dinosaur friends and their trip through this amazing Dark Age we call life. The comic’s uniqueness lies in its incredibly silly dialogue. That’s really the only way to describe it. Author Ryan North only writes fresh dialogue for new strips— the actual artwork of the strip has remained exactly the same for the three years of the comic’s life. All in all, Qwantz is a very delightfully random strip, and it’s updated every almost day, to boot. It can be found at www.qwantz.com.

Web comics, though now in rampant abundance, were not always as plentiful as they are today. One strip that was important in bringing popularity and attention the medium is the famously sardonic Penny Arcade. Written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik, the strip concerns the lives of two game fanatics known as Tycho and Gabe, each of which is an alter ego for Holkins and Krahulik, respectively. The strip’s humor is spot-on and incendiary, and often profanity-laced. While it appeals largely to video game geeks like myself, there still might be a strip or two that makes you silently giggle. PA is of the web’s most popular comics, netting several thousand visits daily. Its initial and continuing popularity eventually led to an increased interest in the web comic genre.

In every art form there exists a widely held masterpiece, be it “OK Computer” (a seminal album by a seminal band) or “Pootie Tang” (a masterpiece of cinema that has no rivals).

For web comics, there is no more highly regarded strip than The Perry Bible Fellowship. Nicholas Gurewitch’s brilliant humor is matched only by overwhelming aesthetic sensibilities. The artwork in each strip perfectly complements the writing, whether it’s a pirate down on his luck or Arthurian knights playing whack-a-mole. Undoubtedly, the PBF, though rarely updated, squarely hits the surreal, Bizarro-esque humor nail square on the head.

All in all, if you’re just looking for a quick laugh or for a break from your local comics page, these strips (and a slew of others as well) will surely fit the bill.

Happenings On Campus: 10/25 – 11/1

Thursday, October 25

SEAK’s Fall Earth Day – 1:00 to 4:00 pm on the Academic Mall.

The Country Wife – Performance at 7 pm in Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.

Friday, October 26

The Country Wife – Performance at 8 pm in the Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.

Friday Night Live: Tungsten Coil – 8:30 pm in the Cove.

Saturday, October 27

SCAC Cross Country Championships – Men start at 9 am, women start at 10 am on the Golf course.

SU Volleyball – SU vs. UT-Tyler at noon. SU vs. Texas Wesleyan University at 5 pm.

The Country Wife – 8:00 pm in the Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.

Sunday, October 28th

The Country Wife – 3:00 pm in the Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones Theater.

Wednesday, October 31

Happy Halloween!

SU Volleyball – SU vs. University of Mary-Hardin Baylor – Robertson Center at 7 pm.

Thursday, November

Lying In Order to Write – 4 pm in Olin 105

An Interview with Amy Tan

Written by Angelica Castillo and Tristine Baccam

For this year’s The Writer’s Voice, the incredible novelist, Amy Tan, graced the campus community with an evening of high-spirited and comical insight into the life which has served as the inspiration for her widely known and much loved novels. Earlier in the day on Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Tan to discuss her novels, views on authorial responsibility, and the experiences which have colored her life in the wake of The Joy Luck Club’s initial publication.

Amy Tan:If you hear this sound recording, I’ll say, “This is Lily drinking water”


The Megaphone:Lily is a very cute doggy!


Megaphone:First of all, Would you like me to refer to you as Ms. Tan…?

AT:Amy is fine.

Megaphone:Alright…thank you.

AT:Oh even my nieces call me Amy. Yeah…They start to say Auntie…but they still call me Auntie Amy…laughter.

Megaphone::Ok…So let’s start off with…How would you, Amy Tan, introduce your work to a new reader? How would you describe it?

AT: Oh…um… Well I’ve never been asked that question…(laughter) You’d think it’s an obvious one, but I’ve never been asked that. Usually when people ask…Well you know, if I’m on an airplane or I meet somebody and they don’t know I’m a writer…They say, “Well what do you do?” and I say “I’m a writer. I’m a fiction writer,” and then that’s basically all I say. And if they were to say “What kind of fiction?” I suppose that I would say that “I write, um, literary fiction” and second, if they asked what it’s about, then I would say “Most people would say it’s about mothers and daughters.” For me, I would say that it’s about the questions that I ask myself in life that add up, that one day add up to what I think is the meaning of my life. I never have short answers to anything, and everything is in context which makes it very difficult if you were to write a one sentence answer…If you ask me what my favorite color is, I can just go on and on and on…there are different reasons for every answer I have, I don’t have just one answer to anything…

Megaphone: No that’s great… I mean the more we get to learn about you the better. Like I said we are all very excited to have you here…You have asserted on several occasions, that writing is a deeply personal thing for you, and I believe in one of your essays, you described… the words that you use in your books… as words that often have “specific associations with something deeply personal and often times secretly ironic in my life…” So, how do you reconcile this intimacy with the fact that your work, once published, is read, interpreted, and possessed by millions of readers?

AT: Well partly, I don’t always have awareness as I’m writing it. I have had people say to me “You are so brave to write that.” and I think, “Well… What did I write?” Laughter It’s as though I um… I had said something that was shocking or that people wouldn’t normally say. And then I wonder, well, what is it that people don’t say to one another? I don’t think that I reveal everything about myself in the deepest sense of what I’m trying to explore in myself. The things that are private…when I said that I use choices of words or whatever it is, they are things that nobody is going to be able to read and say, “Oh. I remember. She was doing this on such and such a day. Or this came about the day that her friend died and she was wondering about such and such and that’s why she wrote that. People will not know that. So that’s what I mean by “deep and personal.” The kinds of questions that we all have in life, I get to explore on a daily basis when I’m writing, so as I said, I don’t think that I’m sharing everything in my life but I think that what I write about is deeply personal in the sense that they’re the questions that I want to ask. I think that they are probably the questions that everybody wants to ask, or they do ask themselves. How many people don’t get to sit down for twelve hours a day, just thinking about that, writing about it, you know, it’s a great luxury to be able to think a lot…

Megaphone: When my mother found out that I was going to interview you, the first thing she did was rush to buy a Spanish language version of The Hundred Secret Senses, which is the book I recommended to her. So what do you think about the fact that your works are now widely available to people around the country and around the world and that it has become widely cherished and appreciated?

AT: It was shocking when I first found out that I was going to be published at all. Shocking when this book was selling much more than anybody thought that it would sell, and so when it was being published in other countries, I thought it was strange—in one sense because these were characters who to me lived in such a small world, the private world, these were in some respects modeled after my mother who was an unseen person. She was the person you would see in the store who didn’t speak English that well, and you know, people wouldn’t think “I want to sit down and talk with this person.” She didn’t speak English that well. So these were unseen women, all of these women in my family, and suddenly they were being seen in all these other countries! My grandmother who died without even, without most of us knowing her name, what really happened…now she has the life outside of that window of time when she lived. So, it was a tremendous honor in many respects and frightening (laughter). So I take it your mother, she speaks Spanish…she’s reading Los Cien…

Megaphone: Los Cien Sentidos Secretos.

AT:Ah… I will say that at one point in my life I could speak Spanish, far better than I could Chinese, very ironic, I was in Cabo [San Lucas], and I got to use it, and when you don’t speak a language very well…I was pretty… It’s the only translation I have been able to read in the past, otherwise, I’m learning French now, so I’m now able to read the French edition.

Megaphone:I don’t know, If I were able to read something I had written in another language and be able to understand it, I don’t think I would even be able to run that through my mind, to process it.

AT:Yeah…I’m even more curious, also, in a cultural sense, about what people see. Because in a story there are a lot of images and there are a lot of cultural assumptions. It is an American writer and an American context and what do people in other countries think about those various American images that are a display of culture. There was a journalist in Italy, in my first year, who wrote that when she interviewed me, I had long, lacquer red finger nails and I think she called them “Dragon lady… long, lacquered dragon lady finger nails” and I thought that what she did was carry in her mind some image that she had of Chinese women, and that’s what she claimed in the way of describing me. I don’t have long, lacquer red nails. I mean, you can see, they are short nails. And I don’t think I ever wrote about a character with long, lacquer nails. It just never would have occurred to me that that would be a detail but that’s what I mean about people’s own cultural assumptions and impressions that are over laid in the book and that’s interesting…I don’t think I have time to talk to everybody about what they see and a lot of what they see is going to be caught in a rubric of the exotic…

Megaphone:So, kind of on that note, since your books have been published in so many different places, do you receive fan mail from readers abroad with their reactions to what you write and, maybe, do you know how that compares to how readers in this country feel about your work?

AT: The fan mail that I do get is often similar. You know, it often has to do with something that struck a personal chord…um… I am always surprised when I get something from a man, say in another country. He’s read one of my books and has much appreciation for it. You know, the curious thing is, I don’t really get a lot of fan mail and maybe it’s because we’ve also made it hard to get the fan mail. I don’t know what it is, but I hear about these people who say “yeah, I got 89 letters the other day…” 89 letters, you know! I get one or two every now and then but or maybe Ellen (her publicist) doesn’t show them to me…I don’t know…I have no idea…It’s not that I’m encouraging it because I also have a policy of not wanting to read them. I think that I try to leave as many influences out of my life as that of being, in that public sense, an author and not a writer, and I don’t want to be a hermit. But I also don’t want to read things like “You’re just wonderful!” You get this distorted sense of yourself.

Megaphone:Since the publication of The Joy Luck Club, which was your first big novel, I would imagine that many things probably changed in your life after that. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve developed as a writer, and as a person, how this has affected you?

AT: Well, in a wonderful way and a difficult way. The difficult was feeling that my life was completely out of control. I had never dreamed of being a published writer. I had never dreamed at all of selling a lot of books. All of that was pulled along, I never… Someone sent my story to somebody, it got published. That is, it was never anything that I sought that actively. I cried the first day my book was published. I cried all day long because I was scared. By then things were getting a little weird. I just didn’t know where my life was going, because I had a very happy life in many respects, and I didn’t want anything to change too horribly. A friend of mine actually just wrote me a letter, an email yesterday, and he had a partner who won the equivalent of American Idol in China, and suddenly was all over the place. Movie deals, tours, signings…and they broke up. His partner came and said “Yeah. My life has changed and …” then he broke down and cried and I could really empathize with somebody who goes through that. There’s a part of you that’s still there but you are no longer the same person. It’s like you lost a part of yourself…So that’s the scary part, and I’ve adjusted to that. The good part, one of the main things is that I get to meet a lot of really interesting people. Writers. Wonderful writers, and I get to call them my friends as well as people in other areas. That is truly one of the best things. Another one, a huge one, is that I was able to make my mother very happy. The last few years of her life were completely happy, and she was so happy that we appreciated her. That was wonderful. I was also able to support her and do more things for her. Although with that kind of financial success there comes a certain responsibility, and so our goal has always been to think about how you manage these funds. All of our money basically goes to charity…you know…who do you look at…who do you leave money to and why and so that’s really been an interesting way of how we look at our lives and how we affect things. I always keep in mind, though, that somebody who scrimps and saves ten dollars and gives that same amount of money to an organization probably had to make a bigger sacrifice than I had to make, so the amounts of the money are not an indication of being a more generous person, and I mention this because I’m always struggling with this sense of who I am. That who I am, in one, for me should not have anything to do with how many books I sell and the same thing with your generosity…there are so many different elements that go into that. It’s easy to give away money if you have money to give away. Oh …just one other thing…as a writer I’m much more self-conscious. Much more self-conscious. Every writer I know has dealt with the same thing. It doesn’t get any easier…

Megaphone: Do you think that it could be because you are giving away a part of yourself in the book that you’re writing and so in that sense, people are having access to you?

AT:No. I don’t think that is the issue. I think more that as a writer, the whole craft of writing, and what you seem to be saying, is what you argue. Are you trivial, are you shapeless or over-inflated? There are tons of different questions having to do with craft. When you are better known, you will hear more opinions, and so every single writer would have this kind of exposure…they’ve been exposed to these kinds of opinions and it’s kind of scary. It’s like going out to be target practice for somebody. I’ve had friends who say, “Well, if you get published you should expect that people are going to attack you and that people at a party can come up to you and say “I really didn’t like that last novel…” I don’t know, I’m only a human being. Why would people think that things like common courtesy go away just because you’ve been published? Anyway, it’s hard. It’s also wondering if, as a writer, you’re covering the same ground…When you look at people’s work, you also see that many writers write about a similar thing which eventually…ooh you know the work and so I see that a particular question I’ve been asking myself becomes clear to me, and when it becomes clear to me then it is a little bit dangerous, because then I fall to the possible avenue of being contrived. Of moving in a certain direction rather than letting it be discovered naturally…

Megaphone: So, throughout your career and the publication of your novels, I imagine that since you’re so well known and read by many people, and you’ve already addressed part of this…that there are pressures which come with having your work published, so do you think that the writer has a responsibility to the society?

AT:Yes and no. A writer does not have the responsibility to shape her work according to what society says it should be about. That is a surefire way to have literature go down the tubes of propaganda. There are writers, however, who write politically. But they do it in a form of a fiction that is not polemical. It just presents a story in which the person feels the story and then the issue and the nature of whatever politics they have in mind are going to assert themselves. If everything in life, if you say politics has a lot to do with what you believe and then what publicly people should do is according to those beliefs and then everyone has some kind of politics in their books. There is a responsibility, and you say “Gee, If I write this will everybody in a certain city think that all men have concubines even to this day, and at some point, I as a writer have to say, I cannot be responsible for every single way somebody is going to read something, that readers have a responsibility too, to be aware and not read everything literally and textbook. The third kind of responsibility is when people say “You are in the limelight. You are in the spotlight. You need to call attention to abuse in orphanages in China or these baby girls or you need to protest in Burma and I had to say to myself, “Well, what is it that I believe that I should do? What do you do with compassion?” I have to come to the conclusion that I don’t want to make my responsibility that of somebody who stands out and shouts and vilifies people. I would rather do something actively than attack. So the things that I have done, you know, working with orphanages, it has to do with trying to get more babies adopted. Then you have programs to improve care giving in orphanages, or Burma, not protesting out loud “Burma is terrible!” standing out there. Writing a story, you have to at least feel the suffering that others have, and I think my big conclusion is compassion…that you are doing something that other people read and feel compassion…that’s a good political move…

Megaphone: Great… now to change the subject a little…

AT:You see… I have no short answers…

Megaphone: No, that is, I love that you are letting us know so much…laughter… You are a wonderful, wonderful storyteller. In all of the different novels that you have presented us with, you take us around the world and you introduce us to so many different relationships and so many different situations. At some points, some of them even seem quite fantastic. For example, in The Hundred Secret Senses, the character of Kwan, she can see and she can speak to ghosts. So, where do you get the inspiration for some of these fictional characters and situations?

AT:Well, a lot of them were inspired by my mother. She was so honest and she was contradictory, very opinionated, really, really an expert in human behavior and observation of human beings. She was especially good at saying if somebody was…the Chinese word basically means “fake.” She would get really mad when people pretended to be nice, and they weren’t, and she would tell them they weren’t. She taught me to read faces. There was something about being able to read a person’s face, and you could know, almost instantly, something about their character. That helped me as a writer because then I put it into my books. So Kwan, I have no idea where Kwan came from. Well, in some ways she is like my mother…having these opinions and being very open. Kwan is a very open person. My mother was completely open. People would say to me “What does your mom think of the book? You know, was she wounded or…?” I would say “No. She loved it!” I could say anything openly and honestly. She had nothing to hide. If I said there was a time my mother tried to kill herself, she would say “Oh, I remember, but there was that other time too… I thought about killing you. I didn’t tell you but I was thinking about it.” So she was just completely open. I don’t think she had the understanding that it might have been inappropriate, that there were some things she should hide…Kwan, sometimes I think she is my grandmother…

At this point Amy’s assistant comes in to remind us that we need to finish up the interview…

Megaphone: Oh ok, so just really quickly…to finish up…Any future plans? Are you working on a novel or anything that your readers can look forward to?

AT:I am working on an opera. I actually wrote the libretto for an opera based on “The Bonesetter’s Daughter”. I finished the libretto. The composer is still finishing the music, but he’s pretty close to done. We start our rehearsals in December, and it will open, have its world premiere September 6, 2008. David Gockley, we got him from Houston Grand Opera, you know, he was twenty five years at Houston. My composer also, he trained in Austin—a lot about the opera comes from Texas (laughter), and then I’m working on an article for National Geographic that concerns a tiny village of rice farmers in the poorest province of China, probably one of the poorest regions in that province. The province is Gui Zhou and it’s a tiny, little village, and so that story will come out in National Geographic sometime in the spring in a special issue on China. All the other articles will be about China. And then my new book…

Megaphone: Oh…

AT: have a lot of notes for it in my head. And the only thing I can never talk about is a book and what it’s about. But I will say I will say that I so fell in love with this village and I have many books…notebooks and hours of tapes, interviews and research, that, and I am writing only a little fourth of it for an essay for National Geographic, and they know I am going to use it, that material for something. It is such a beautiful location, such an interesting location. I love being there, and I figured, that is where I want to be in a story. I am going to write it and be there. It’s where I want to be.

Megaphone: That’s wonderful…

AT: I’m pretty, you know… ok, maybe, yeah, readers will want to be in a beautiful, interesting place like that.

Megaphone: That’s great. It’s exciting that we have that to look forward to, and I am sorry I took you over time…

AT: No, No. I should have kept my answers shorter, but it would have been over in like 10 minutes.

Megaphone:Thank you so much.

AT: You’re welcome.

The Open Mic Night at Korouva

Written by Hannah Yterdal.

Most of Southwestern wouldn’t believe it necessary for Korouva and its frequenters to prove even more definitively their status as the liberal indie presence on campus. The students announced its opening by banging on drums, because after all it is kind of hard to miss the hippie vibe.

The Open Mic Night at Korouva last Thursday, however, really proved that Korouva is indie. Just the concept of “Open Mic” screams poetry to bongos and snapping fingers as applause.

As it turns out, people actually clapped their hands and applauded in the common manner. More people played the guitar than the bongos, and the highlights were the singers rather than the poets.

Most of the lights were turned down, so that the few left shining brightly pointed at the tiny stage at the front of the room. A microphone and stool were positioned under a My Little Pony hanging from the ceiling. Fortunately, most of the performers were talented or interesting enough to distract the audience from the pink toy dangling above the stage. Several folding chairs were set up in the middle of the room, but most people crammed themselves together in the more cushy seats around the edges.

In true Korouva fashion, most spectators—and, indeed, performers—didn’t arrive until after 10 p.m., quite a while after the Open Mic Night was advertised to start. Most people there were obviously Korouva regulars. They grouped together quickly, encouraging performers and trying to get each other to get up on the stage to do their own set. People who migrated outside would at some point drift back in to watch their friends as they took a turn at the mic.

One of the most talented performers was a singer and guitar player wearing black-rimmed glasses who was just tall enough that when he wasn’t singing, my eye was drawn up to that My Little Pony suspended from the ceiling. When he struck up a chord and began singing, however, the toy was all but forgotten. The songs were covers of angst-type songs about heartbreak and identity crises, which fit well with that indie atmosphere. Between songs, his friends in the audience would shout out requests. Once, he was handed a pair of beer goggles (goggles with small, clear beer mugs as the eyepieces) to replace his glasses. The sight was very memorable, but after fumbling a bit on his guitar, he passed on wearing the beer goggles and took back his black-rimmed glasses—the better to see with, I suppose.

People who came to be entertained in a different way than by undeniable musical talent were not disappointed either. If you wanted more humor than skill, one of the highlights had to have been a poem of questionable writing ability but a very good talent for comedy: The Honda Accord poem. In this poem, which was by far my favorite, a former Honda Accord owner indulges in some nostalgia about her Accord, the perfect car, while lamenting that it didn’t quite as far as she had hoped.

“I thought we would make it to 200,000 miles,” she said, struggling not to giggle. Her list of regrets was accompanied by the solemn notes of what I think, as a music dummy, was a French horn. Oh, Honda Accord.

The whole event was, for the most part, entertaining. Korouva’s cozy atmosphere lent itself well to Open Mic Night.

And, if nothing else, I will have the wonderful memories of beer goggles and Honda Accords for a while.

SU Pirates Swimming Team

You’ve seen them walking around campus… the ones with ice packs strapped to them, sopping wet hair and an overall appearance of fatigue. However, they are also the ones who sit in the far side of the Commons and can sometimes be obnoxiously loud.

Yes, the Southwestern swim team has grown, nearly doubling the size of last year’s team. With 8 men and fourteen women, the Pirate swimmers are eager to being their season.

On Friday, October 12, the women’s team opened their season with an evening meet against The University of Houston’s Division I team. The men were able to post some times as well, some posting lifetime bests.

Losing the meet 116-85, the women’s team is not discouraged and is ready for more competition further into the season. The first-year women’s squad of Samatha Kessler, Katie Coleman, Kassie Krusley, Bailey Thompson and Michelle Comerota seemed to have added much depth to the women’s side.

“I love how we are a great cohesive group…not just swimmers, but also friends. When we can swim together twice a day and still want to hang out on weekends, that’s a pretty good sign. I love the different personalities everyone brings to the team, and how humor is always incorporated into practices and competition. I still keep in touch with the 
swimmers who were seniors when I was a freshman, and I’d like to graduate knowing that I will keep in touch with this year’s awesome freshmen, too,” Senior Katie Stancil said.

The winning 200-yard medley composed of returning junior members Alana Bergfield and Jessie Carrer and first-year swimmers Bailey Thompson and Samantha Kessler clocked a time that almost broke last year’s varsity record set by sophomore Lorena Saenz, Bergfield, senior captain Allie Stevenson and Carrier.

Last year’s medley relay team was presented with a certificate at the opening of the meet for last year’s third place finish at conference. Carrier, who achieved an NCAA qualifying B-cut at last season’s conference meet, the first in Southwestern swimming history, was also presented with a certificate of achievement by Head Athletic Director Glada Munt.

Bergfield, who made her own Southwestern Swimming history at conference, was also awarded. Bergfield finished as a double conference champion in both 100 and 200 yard-breastroke, achieving NCAA B-cuts in both events.

“It’s been a really neat year for me so far on the swim team. It’s weird being a senior and seeing the team come full circle. I think the freshmen we have are going to be great and add so much to our team. It will also be nice to have a men’s relay team this year. I really think that these freshman combined with the returning swimmers is going to 
produce the fastest swim team in Southwestern history,” Senior captain Allie Stevenson said.
The women’s team had three first place finishes, the 200 medley relay team and Bergfield, who won both 200 yard freestyle and 100 yard breastroke.

“It was a great return for racing for our team. I was really excited by the way we came out and weren’t intimidated. Our women got into the meet and really raced well. We’re going into a big training block now, so we’ll see where we are in a few weeks when we start racing again,” Head Coach Steve Brandt said.

So far, the swim team has had a pretty eventful season since official practices started September 17.

“I think my favorite two parts of the season so far were when Michele, Jon and Allie’s team gave an awesome effort in their ‘get out swims’ for the whole team so that we could get out of our last kick set and play kickball,” sophomore Anya Lopez-Fuentes said. “The second was us being able to get out of doing a 600 for warm-up and running down to the soccer field in our suits to do a cheer for the girls’ game against Rhodes.”

The swim team has a busy schedule this season and will be competing against various conference teams in Dallas, Sherman, San Antonio and Savannah, Georgia. The team will also be traveling to California for winter training where they will compete against Champan University at the University of Redlands. The next meet will be Saturday, November 3 in San Antonio against the University of Incarnate Word.

“Practices are getting more intense as the season heads into full swing, but because of the amount of fun we have during practice, we work through the pain together by laughing a lot. We have so many people on our team with positive energy that are there to support one another, even during those extremely painful work-outs.  We feel the pain as one,” Bergfield said.

Oral Male Contraceptives: Move Over, Condom!

Written by Meg Susong.

Ever since the 1960’s, when birth control pills became a widespread option for women in America, women have been able to control and protect themselves more efficiently. Of course, there were condoms, but those relied on the consent of the man, which was not always there. However, it was recently announced that a male oral contraceptive might hit the market in as little as five years.

Rightly so, it should be noted that the pill is not for every man in every situation. For example, it probably isn’t smart to walk into a bar, pick up a guy, and trust that he really is on the pill if he says he is. The pill is intended primarily for couples who, well, are couples. The male contraceptive is for men who want to help “share the burden” (if that’s your outlook on it) or just have another option. There are situations in which a woman can’t use oral contraceptives, and this would be another option for a man, other than a condom or a vasectomy.

On top of oral contraceptives, a new device known as Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance or (RISUG), was found to provide effective pregnancy prevention in males for up to 10 years or more. The breakthrough with this particular item is that it is reversible. So, if a man decides that he wants children later on down the road, then he can have them without harm.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful idea. Women have had the burden of protection themselves from pregnancy (and disease, but since birth control does not protect against that, I won’t count it here) for far too long. We have been the ones who have to have the condoms, get the medication, and then, if something does go afoul, face the consequences—sometimes alone.

As mentioned before though, the pill would not be for those one-night stands (still effective, but not the intended audience). The pill would allow women, as well as men, new options on how they want to protect themselves. Anytime men are held more responsible in regards to pregnancy is a good thing.

As for the options it affords men, both the pill and the procedure could be invaluable to younger men who wish to postpone becoming a father until they are finished with school or advancing in their career. In older men, the procedure will allow a man to avoid having more children but the freedom to change his mind. The benefits are positive on both sides.

Even with this in mind, some men are skeptical. They say that they would forget to take it, or that they don’t want to put hormones into their bodies. I have three words for them: Suck it up. Women have been doing it for years, and if you really care, then you can help out. Why would you not want your significant other to be safer?

And this doesn’t mean that you have to do it forever. Try it and stop if it doesn’t work for you. That’s what women do. Don’t just dismiss it because “your wife’s taking the pills.” Maybe she’d like some help.

I read an article where a newly wed husband said his wife was taking the pill, and he never would. Personally, I wouldn’t marry that guy. If he isn’t willing to at least try and work with you (and no, using a condom is not working with you, that should be a given), then maybe it shouldn’t be working at all.

A personal quip and a concern for men, as with any new drug on the market, are adverse effects. Yes, there are tests for that, but they are not always accurate (especially since they are first done on animals—which are not valid, but that’s another opinion article). However, the intriguing thing about the male pill is that it is designed to be non-hormonal. Which essentially means that is won’t cause mood swings or loss of sexual drive (always a good thing in this case).

In short, whether you decided that this wasn’t for you, and stick to other methods, that’s fine too. However, this is just one more way for women and their partners to have control over their lives. And why wouldn’t you want at least one more option? The drug is not coming out tomorrow, and there will be tests done and studies. Don’t be so quick to dismiss something that won’t be out for at least five years. Things will change and be improved. Give it a chance, because it is a good idea in theory and practice.

Do SU Students Illegally Share Files?

Written by Caitlyn Buckley.

The results of a recently conducted poll show that SU students overwhelmingly favor the legalization of file sharing.

More than 87 percent of the poll-takers believe that file sharing should be legal. File sharing is defined as the practice of making files available for other users to download over the Internet or smaller networks. Currently, the practice of file sharing is illegal in the United States due to copyright infringement issues.

The students who took the poll did agree with a 70 percent majority that while file sharing should not be a crime, it is not an ethical practice. However, 12.5 percent said that it was ethical because current CD or DVD prices are outrageous.

A valid point made by one poll taker about the ethics behind file sharing is that “the only people who can judge that would be the artists, many of whom love it and encourage it since it is the only way people will find their music juxtaposed against major labels and bands. Others loathe it and tell their fans that it is stealing.”

Another shocking statistic revealed in the poll showed that more than 70 percent of the takers at one point or another have illegally downloaded media from such sources as 4shared.com, Utorrent, Soul Seek, Limewire, WinMX, Bittorrent, BitComet, Napster, Kazaa, Morpheus and several other file sharing platforms.

Those who downloaded, for the most part, did not feel guilty about it, with 62 percent saying they felt no guilt whatsoever.

One even went on to comment that they felt “not guilty, but scared to be caught.”

With CD and movie prices spiraling out of control, most people turn to file sharing as a free alternative to shelling out sometimes more than $20 for music or $30 or more for movies.

Another student left this final comment on the poll that sums up the general feelings of those who are frustrated with having to pay so much money for their media: “If artists made their music more accessible (read: cheaper), I would pay for CDs. However, the markup on music is ridiculously high and I don’t feel the need to support the record companies’ fat salaries. I support artists by going to their shows instead.”

Bob Paver, SU’s Associate Vice President of ITS, believes that the uproar being caused by the movie and music industries is disproportionate to the activity actually going on.

“File sharing is a big problem for the music and movie industries who are extremely reluctant to let go of old distribution models. This is not the first time there has been an uproar from them. When cassette tape recorders became affordable the music industry was very vocal because they thought they would be put out of business. Obviously that didn’t happen,” Paver said.

Paver also explains how easy it is to track illegal downloading from the movie and music industries’ side.

“For a computer to connect to the Internet, it must have an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Normally the IP address uniquely identifies the computer on the Internet. It is like the physical address of a building or a telephone number,” Paver said. “The IP address is transmitted when a computer interacts with a resource on the Internet. The RIAA and MPAA have developed sophisticated systems that scan the Internet for the IP addresses of computers that are sharing music. It is all too easy to get caught.”

This is something serious to consider for those who do engage in file sharing. Fortunately for those who loathe paying excessive amounts of money for their entertainment but don’t want to give up purchasing movies or music entirely, there are legal alternatives at more reasonable prices than buying a CD or DVD from a store.

The iTunes music store is one option, and a revamped Napster is another. Paying a lower rate for the product in one of the online stores is ultimately less expensive than paying $2000 to $3000 to settle with the wronged company, or more than $200,000, as a woman was recently ordered to pay in punitive damages after a trial. These figures may seem grim, but if enough people vocally oppose the laws that are in place that cause file sharing to be illegal, eventually they may be overturned.

The Country Wife Preview

The Slightly Risque Advertising for the Country WifeWritten by Leslie Lube.At the end of October, the Sarofim School of Fine Arts will present William Wycherley’s Restoration comedy “The Country Wife” in the Jones Theatre. Between October 24 and 28 there will be five performances: one at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday; one at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and one at 3:00 on Sunday.After the Wednesday and Thursday performances, the audience will have the opportunity to join the director and cast for a discussion of the play and its relevance today. Prior to the Sunday performance, Dr. Jim Kilfoyle, chair of the English department, will provide background information about the Restoration period as well as host a question/answer session. This will take place next door to the theatre in the Caldwell-Carvey Foyer.“I think that restoration drama as a whole is particularly astute at exploring the concept of desire,” Kilfoyle said. “The playwrights were able to dig pretty deeply into the good and bad consequences of desire.”SU thespians have been working hard to memorize lines, to prepare costumes and to construct sets. They are joined in their efforts by a guest director, Jared J. Stein. Mr. Stein, who earned a BFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama in 1995 and a MFA in playwriting from UCLA in 2001, is a freelance director and playwright whose work has taken him all over the world. He is the founder and the artistic director of the Fourth World Theatre Laboratory for International Theatre Research. Currently, the laboratory’s main project is the Rhodopi International Theatre Collective, which is a summer program in Bulgaria.Professor Sergio Costola has taken groups of SU theatre students to the collective for the past three years. He and Stein were colleagues in Los Angeles, and their work with the collective led to Stein’s invitation to Southwestern to direct both “The Country Wife” and “Suburbia,” which will be performed later this year.“The Country Wife” tells the story of Mr. Horner, a scheming womanizer who at the play’s opening has come up with a unique method of cuckolding his acquaintances by sleeping with their wives almost literally under their noses.Other characters include Dr. Quack, the physician who assists Horner with his plot; Horner’s friends Harcourt and Dorilant, two somewhat foolish dandies with similarly philandering ways; Pinchwife, Sparkish and Sir Fidget, all prospective cuckolds; Margery Pinchwife, a simple country girl attracted to London society life; Alithea, Pinchwife’s sister-in-law; and Lady Fidger, Dainty Fidget and Mrs. Squeamish, three woman for whom respectability is merely a façade.The story, which was not performed for over 170 years due to its risqué action and suggestive language, is driven by sexual intrigue as the characters defy morality in their quest for pleasure.Wycherley, a well-known Restoration playwright, wrote “The Country Wife” in 1675, and it was performed by the King’s Company at the Theatre Royal in London’s Drury Lane. Several famous actors of the day, including Charles Hart and Elizabeth Boutell, played the lead roles, and the show enjoyed moderate success until the mid 18th century. Its blatantly sexual content had caused a significant amount of controversy from the beginning, and by 1753 the play was no longer performed. Two tamer adaptations that removed offensive scenes replaced the original for a while, but Wycherley’s original work was not performed again until 1924.Restoration playwrights such as Wycherley wrote during a unique time in English history. The Restoration period began in 1660 when Charles II returned to the throne and ended the Puritanical rule of Oliver Cromwell. From 1642 to 1660 a political decree had closed the theatres of London due to the ruling that playacting was not a moral pursuit. The newly reinstated King Charles II, an avid supporter of the arts, established two theatres, the King’s and the Duke’s soon after his return to England.The two troupes had no fresh material to work with since all theatre-related activity had been banned for so long. In the interim, they turned to classics from before the civil wars such as Shakespeare and Fletcher, but soon a new generation of playwrights was writing material that, though often based on earlier dramas, contained a bawdiness that was in direct response to the restrictions of the old Puritanical regime. Wycherley, John Dryden, George Etherege, Aphra Behn and others wrote about formerly taboo topics such as seduction and adultery. English audiences, rebelling after years of obligatory conservatism, reveled in the raciness of this new age of theatre.Although the period itself was somewhat short and the plays did not achieve the lasting popularity of Elizabethan drama, the presentation of these works has become more common in the last few decades as modern audiences discover the clever plots and delightful bawdiness of Restoration drama.Stein highly praised the students he directed in this production. “This play is so demanding,” he said. “Many very experienced actors would have trouble undertaking this huge task.”The work they had to do included cutting the length of the play from four and a half hours to three hours and attempting to create their own interpretation of a Restoration play.“Our view of the logistics of theatre is different than the view held by Restoration audiences,” Stein said. He explained how audience members in the 1670s would come and go during the performance, talk to each other and cause other disturbances. Because modern audiences are so much more attentive to the play itself, inconsistencies that the Restoration audience would not have noticed have to be dealt with in a contemporary presentation. Also, common theatrical techniques of Wycherley’s day, such as his frequent use of asides, must be modified for an audience not as comfortable with those methods of storytelling.Despite the allowances that must be made for the different eras, Stein feels that the themes present in “The Country Wife” are still very relevant today.“I think that the play has a very special significance now,” Stein said, “because we live in a very reactionary society. We are constantly reacting to other people’s sexual manners…Our culture environment has become a giant high school.”Stein explained the ways in which today’s culture is affected by the “never ending gossip” presented by the media. “We hear about Brittany Spears’s underwear or what a senator is doing in the bathroom, and we’re passionate about it for about 15 minutes before we move onto something else.”Stein sees this behavior as a direct parallel to “The Country Wife’s” storyline. “It is a wonderful satire of this kind of culture,” he said. “Sex is seen as a sport, and no one is trying to hide it…The basis of the play is what we talk about continuously on a national level.”All Southwestern students receive two complimentary tickets to the show, which they can reserve at the theatre box office. Everyone else who wishes to attend can purchase tickets from the box office in person, by phone at 512-863-1378, or online at HYPERLINK “http://www.southwestern.edu/boxoffice” www.southwestern.edu/boxoffice. Ticket prices are: Adults-$15, Seniors 63 and older, Youth 16 and under- $10. There are also discounts available for groups of 20 or
more. The box office accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express.Questions about tickets or scheduling should be directed to the box office. Due to the subject matter, this show is not recommended for young children.

SU Radio Gets Moving

Written by Leslie Lube

SU may soon offer students a medium through which they can do such things as share music, express their political views or listen to the morning news. Students Kaitlyn Dennis and Alex Rutledge are working with Student Activities Coordinator Jason Chapman to launch a school radio station.

“I know a lot of people have said they wish SU had a radio station, and they were disappointed when they found out that we don’t,” Dennis said.

She believes that a school-affiliated station would provide another method by which students can interact with each other on campus.

According to Dennis, the project is “still in the primary stage of planning,” and there is a lot of work to do if the station is going to get on the air. Chapman has been doing research to see what is “financially feasible,” for the project at this time, and they have decided that it will probably start out as an internet radio station.

They want to work with a website called Live365, which is helpful for a fledgling station because it handles matters such as royalties to give the stations a reduced price. However, the station will still cost over one hundred dollars a month, so finding financial backing is crucial.

The group of students creating the station will have to form an official organization in order to receive funding from the school. This would include drafting a constitution and electing officers. They are also looking for a permanent place to meet. After they are recognized as a school organization they will be eligible to receive a certain amount of money from the school, but this will not cover all of the costs.

In an effort to seek further funding, Dennis said, “I’m working on a King Creativity proposal to get money for basic funding.” Money from this grant could be used for equipment and the beginnings of a music library.

Because of the amount of work that still needs to be done, Dennis said, “the station will probably go on the air, at the very earliest, at the end of this semester, or, more likely, at the beginning of next semester.”

In the meantime, the group is actively seeking new members to help and to share ideas. One of the things that they want to do is to use a portion of the station’s airtime to “showcase SU artists.” There are several solo artists and groups on campus whose music could be shared on a school station.

Also, Dennis points out “most of the recitals and ensembles are recorded so we could play some of those, too.” Another idea she mentioned was to offer airtime to professors who do internet pod casts so that they have the opportunity to share their work with students.

So far, student support for the project has been positive. Students are excited about the idea of a school station and are willing to participate in the work it is going to take to get it going. Sophomore Jake Wilson, who attended the interest meeting, said, “I want to have a show where I answer questions about everything, but it’s going to be a pretty involved project. It’s a shame the FCC takes so long to approve new stations.”

Senior Sarah Salinas said, “I think that would be really great to have our own station because it could feature music that the students are playing.”

Dennis worked for the Texas Tech radio station, KTXT, this past summer, and she gained some valuable experience as a DJ. She said, “I enjoyed [the station] so much at Tech that I wanted to make one here. I think that a lot of students will want to be on it.”

Students interested in participating in the project can contact Kaitlyn Dennis.