Fiction is not always a story of pure imagination. Personal history and the public past inspire the works of fiction writers, including local author Sabina Murray. She has written the novels "Forgery," "A Carnivore’s Inquiry," and "Slow Burn" as well as the screenplay for the film "Beautiful Country." Fiction, she says, is a powerful way to make sense of current culture and to understand past characters and situations that would otherwise seem unfamiliar or distant.
On Monday, November 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Auditorium at UMass Amherst, Murray delivers the talk "The Writer’s Perspective: Literary Imagination and Living History." Murray's talk looks at the power of engaging history in one's fiction—of inviting the real into the imagined. Her talk is part of the Commonwealth Honors College Faculty Lecture Series.
While in her twenties, Murray began research on the short story collection "The Caprices" as a way of understanding her mother, who — as a child — experienced the Japanese invasion of Manila. Winner of the 2002 PEN/Faulkner award, the stories tell of the Pacific Campaign of the Second World War. "The experience of creating something both large and historical, but that had something personal at stake," she says, has influenced all her subsequent books.
Murray is currently at work on a novel, "Valiant Gentlemen," that explores the relationship between Herbert Ward, artist and adventurer, and Roger Casement, humanitarian and revolutionary. Her talk explains the draw of writing about these two men, whose personal dramas played out against the backdrop of the Belgian Congo, the Irish Uprising of 1916, the Parisian modernist art scene, and the First World War. Murray will present her approach to her own work and demonstrate how histories—public and private—continue to be a constant source of inspiration.
Sabina Murray is a professor of English and teaches in the MFA/Creative Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She is the author of three novels and two short story collections, including "The Caprices" and the contemporary gothic "A Carnivore's Inquiry." Her work is included in "The Norton Anthology." She wrote the script for "Beautiful Country," a Golden Bear contender, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Her latest book, "Tales of the New World," was recently published by Grove/Black Cat.
Murray completed her Master of Arts as a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow and Bunting Fellow. She has earned grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and awards from UMass Amherst and the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, she holds a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Commonwealth Honors College introduced its Faculty Lecture Series in 2011 in recognition of university faculty who have made significant contributions to research or creative activity. Through lectures that highlight academic excellence and scholarship, these faculty share their ideas and insight with honors students in sessions open to the campus community.
Many of the talks in the faculty lecture series relate to themes in "Ideas that Changed the World," the seminar in which honors students examine books and other works that have profoundly shaped the world we live in. The texts in this class and the related faculty lectures are meant to be exemplary for students who have the potential themselves to achieve outstanding things.
Murray's talk concludes this semester's lecture series.