If students were itching for another reading after the “Wild Gifts” event held last week, then this week’s “Literature for Lunch” event was the place to be.
This event was held on Sept. 28 in TECO Hall and featured a reading from Maile Chapman, author of “Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto.” The book has received favorable reviews from the New York Times Book Review. The event went from 12:30 p.m. to 1:20 p.m., hence its series title “Literature for Lunch.”
Maile Chapman is an American novelist and short story writer. “Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto” is her first, and it was short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award, as well as a finalist for the PEN Center USA literary award in fiction. Moreover, her stories have appeared in many literary magazines including, “A Public Space,” “the Fairy Tale Review,” and “the Best American Fantasy,” and many others.
Maile Chapman received her Master of Fine Arts in fiction from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she is currently a professor. She has been a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers as well as a Fulbright grantee to Finland. She also serves as an editor for Witness Magazine.
The novel is about Suvanto, which is a Finnish recovery hospital. Most of the patients are wealthy women, seeking respite from their everyday lives. Julia Dey, a former dancer, has been sent to Suvanto without her consent as she was suffering from numerous illnesses, including a horrible infection. Julia wastes no time in making her dissatisfaction about being at the hospital known to everyone. Sunny Taylor, her American nurse, came to Suvanto to escape her unhappy life but ends up being unhappier. Dr. Peter Weber is the physician in charge of the hospital. Similar to many doctors in the 1920’s, his belief is that most women’s problems are related to gynecology, and so, he tries to perfect an operation that will cure the women at Suvanto and uses them as his test subjects. The operation involves an exact stitch, and eventually a hysterectomy. Sadly, not enough information was known about hysterectomies then, and therefore Weber’s procedures become lethal.
According to one critic, “Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto is an incredibly dark, gothic novel. The period in which it takes place, the setting of an isolated hospital, really adds to the overall feel. Not only a mystery but also a showcase of the period, the way women, even the wealthy, were regarded.”
Maile said that she has always been a fan of creepy, scary movies with her favorite movie being a horror film called “The Shining.” She was inspired to write this novel because of a tiny photo of a hospital that she saw in a book that she got from a thrift store. The hospital was surrounded by a forest and seemed eerie. She was so intrigued by it that she decided to write a story based on that setting. She researched the picture and found out that the hospital was in Finland. Therefore she applied for a grant to visit it.
At the event, there were about 40 people in attendance, which included both students and faculty. Maile grabbed the attention of the audience with her readings from the first few chapters of the book. She also interjected with personal anecdotes that related to the story and its development. Her presentation intrigued the guests so much that she garnered some questions during the question and answer segment.
“Her book has quite an interesting plot, and her readings drew me in,” said Vanessa Reid, a sophomore marketing major.
Chapman and her novel were a great addition to Literature Lunch series which has seen other great acts. According to Jennifer Orendorf, the administrator of events and special programs for the School of Arts and Sciences, “We had some great poets last spring, Terese Svoboda and Aja Monet. I was inspired after seeing each of them.” So don’t miss the chance to attend next time around and be inspired yourselves.