Author Pamela Lu’s calming aura filled the small McCormack Family Theater Thursday night during a Writers on Writing Series event hosted by the Department of Literary Arts. Lu, a fiction writer, has authored “Pamela: A Novel,” “The Private Listener” and, most recently, “Ambient Parking Lot.”
Lu said she was inspired to write her most recent novel after seeing a photograph on display in Chicago of a boy attempting to record the sounds of a parking lot. Struck by the sincerity of the boy’s expression, Lu said she began to contemplate the idealism of art as well as the aspects of our landscape that society has neglected.
Lu’s novel was introduced by Assistant Professor of Literary Arts Renee Gladman, one of the instructors of the Writers on Writing course. Gladman called the novel a “work of fiction that attempts to do an extraordinary and impossible thing, that is, even for the space of a sentence or a paragraph, uphold music – that vibratory texture relation of silence and sound inside language.”
“Ambient Parking Lot” follows a band, The Ambient Parkers, who record sounds in parking lots and make music out of it. They are in search of the “ultimate ambient noise,” one that can exemplify “their historical moment.”
Noah Prestwich ’14 said the book is funny, so much so that at times it can be mocking. It has brief moments when it wants you to take it very seriously, he said, and in these moments it demonstrates a striking earnestness.
The passage Lu selected for the reading was from a chapter called “The Stationmaster,” in which the character, the stationmaster, acts as The Ambient Parkers’ counterpart from a previous generation. The band members latched onto him as their unwilling mentor, and within this chapter he composes a response to the band, telling them of his quest for a reclusive composer and acquisition of a once-in-a-lifetime recording.
Lu enchanted the audience members with the cadences of the English language as she read from her novel.
“Over centuries, the human ear has evolved from a tuning device to a filtering device,” Lu recited from her novel. “These days it’s all just noise or silence, silence or noise.”