Robert Lopez – “a force of literary nature come unhinged,” one reviewer wrote – will give a reading tonight in Spokane as part of Eastern Washington University’s Visiting Writers Series.
The author of two novels, “Kamby Bolongo Mean River” and “Part of the World,” Lopez most recently published a short-story collection, “Asunder,” in 2010.
Reviewer J.A. Tyler called Lopez a “word-storm.”
“This is a collection as proof, a collection as loveliness, a collection as rippage, and we are lucky to get it into our waiting hands, its words into our heads,” Tyler wrote of “Asunder” for TheRumpus.net.
Lopez’s work often resists traditional elements of fiction, said Melissa Huggins, director of Get Lit!, EWU’s annual literary festival. Plot, for example. Lopez isn’t not interested in straightforward story lines, she said. And his work leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
“We’re not being led to a well and being told to drink,” Huggins said. “There’s a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty that reflects how our lives are experienced – not everything can be neatly summarized.”
Also considering his precise use of language – Lopez labors like a poet over each sentence, Huggins said – Lopez’s work might be called experimental. “It’s always exciting to read authors who are pushing boundaries and playing with sounds and rhythm and language in unexpected ways,” Huggins said.
Lopez’s work is also really funny, she said – but “never just funny or just sad or just dark. It’s doing all those things at once.”
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Lopez teaches fiction writing at The New School, a university in New York City.
Several of Lopez’s stories and interviews have appeared in EWU’s literary journal, Willow Springs.
“I tell students that you have to cultivate your fears, your perversions, your peccadilloes, your compulsions,” he told the journal in 2011. “You have to use that stuff because it’s ultimately going to make the work vibrant and come off the page. All the stories we tell have been told a million times before. … We cultivate the strange things that make us unique, and that uniqueness is what connects us to other people. Otherwise strangeness is just a freak-show.”
The Visiting Writers Series is a partnership between EWU’s Inland Northwest Center for Writers and Get Lit! Programs. The next writer in the series will be poet John Hodgen, who’ll be in Spokane during the Get Lit! Festival, from April 8 to April 14.