Norman Rush visited Queens College on Oct. 8 to read the opening pages from his latest novel, “Subtle Bodies,” followed by an interview with Leonard Lopate.
Rush began with a joke about the many compliments he received in the introduction by the series’ director, Joe Cuomo and by humbly thanking the crowd for attending the reading.
As he began reading the first few lines of his novel, the audience was engaged with the story that he was beginning to tell and listened as it unfolded.
The novel deals with many serious topics such as death, friendship, love, marriage and relationships but also has many comedic elements.
Rush said the themes in his latest novel include “love, work and empire.” One of the reasons he was inspired to write the book was the lack of literature regarding “male friendships.”
For this novel, he took inspiration from things he saw in popular culture, particularly the movie “The Big Chill.”
He combined all of these themes and interests into “Subtle Bodies” and created an interesting, funny and touching story about a group of college friends who reunite many years after graduation after one member of the group dies suddenly.
The novel’s main characters are Ned and Nina, a married couple who are trying to conceive a child. When Ned hears the news about his friend’s death, he immediately flies across the country to the funeral. Nina is furious, as she is ovulating and flies to be with him.
As the novel continues, the reader learns more about Ned’s group of college friends and how time and distance affect friendships. Nina provides an outsider’s view of the situation and commentary on her husband’s friendships.
Rush had an interesting viewpoint regarding friendships that are made during one’s youth. He explained that initially people are attracted to “individual ingredients” a potential friend possesses and as they get older, the friendship undergoes a “process of revision.” In “Subtle Bodies,” the friends are revisiting memories they created in their youth and thinking about their friendship on a more critical level.
Rush began his career as a novelist late in life. He was 53 when his first novel “Whites,” was published.
Rush blames his “delusional notions of what I should be doing as a writer,” for his late start. Before writing novels, Rush wrote poetry, comic strips and dabbled in experimental forms of writing.
“Subtle Bodies” was a laborious process for Rush and the vision he had when he initially began writing it changed as time went by.
Lopate addressed something Rush said eight years ago about the novel being a “screwball tragedy.” When asked if he believed that the final version of the novel fit into that genre, Rush said, “It’s deeper than that.”
The evening ended with questions from audience members who were fans of Rush’s writing and were eager to ask him specific questions they had while reading.
For more information on the Evening Reading series please visit: www.qcreadings.org