Narrative As A Memoir

Gilberto Cardenas/New University

The UCI Bookstore welcomed acclaimed writers James Brown and Victoria Patterson during last week’s Author Series event on Thursday, May 26 at 5 p.m.

Students, faculty, writers from local literary publications and members of the general public gathered in the Bookstore to hear the authors read excerpts from their books and answer questions.

The event began with a reading from Victoria Patterson, author of “This Vacant Paradise.” This novel is a modern reinterpretation of Edith Wharton’s “House of Mirth,” and takes place in Newport Beach, California during the 1990s. Centered around main character Esther Wilson, this book crafts the tale of a young woman’s difficulties of being a Newport Beach trophy wife, all while providing social commentary on the not-so-perfect lives of many women in Orange County.

After reading three excerpts from her book, Patterson explained how her novel was considered controversial among some groups in Orange County. Many women felt as though Patterson was referring to or insulting them through her book. When Patterson was invited to reading groups containing women similar to the characters in her story, the members would often make Patterson aware of their discontent of how they were portrayed in certain aspects.

“I guess when you bite the hand, it’s not going to feed you,” Patterson said with a chuckle after talking about some of the comments made by the women in reading groups.

However, Patterson did not always receive negative comments – often times, women would pull her aside and thank her for exposing the intricacies and complications of women living in the OC. Women would often be happy that Patterson revealed the true side of their lives, and she would receive amazed comments such as, “I felt like you were writing my secrets!” from the different people in the groups.

Aside from some women appreciating the portrayals in the book, this novel was also well-received by many critics. “This Vacant Paradise” was chosen as an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times Book Review, and the New York Times praised her work by claiming that “Patterson beautifully parses the consequences of one woman’s fall in this memorable, penetrating, fully achieved novel.”

After Patterson’s reading and brief discussion with the audience, author James Brown was introduced.

James Brown’s newest book, “The River,” is another addition to his acclaimed memoir series called “The Los Angeles Diaries.” This very personal memoir relays stories from his shattered childhood and dysfunctional family. Covering topics such as substance abuse and suicide, this book illustrates Brown’s most difficult adversities and his determination to overcome them. Brown’s work through this most recent piece and other memoirs have allowed him to receive several awards such as the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction.

After this brief introduction, Brown began to read one excerpt from his book.

“I hope I can read this with as much passion as it was written,” he told the audience.

Once the reading was complete, Brown answered questions from the audience about different aspects of his writing. Through his answers, Brown revealed the motivations for most of his pieces, and how his stories relate to the actual events in his life.

“I’ve lost a lot of family members,” he explained. “Through my work, I’ve attempted to reconcile and come to terms with their losses.”

After the question and answer session was completed with both authors, Patterson and Brown went to their respective tables in the Bookstore to sign copies of their pieces, and the Author Series came to a close.