Arts and Entertainment Editor
Troy University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) wants students to surround themselves with and embrace a culture of reading.
“We want you to read,” said Hal Fulmer, the associate provost and dean of undergraduate and first-year studies. “There are all kinds of reasons not to read, and we know you have to cheat to find time.”
Fulmer said that, though some may never be avid readers, students read everyday in many forms.
Part of the QEP’s efforts to encourage students to read is its Afternoon with an Author sessions.
For the QEP’s second installation of Afternoon with an Author, Frye Gaillard, writer in residence at The University of South Alabama and awarding-winning author, historian and journalist, spoke to students on Tuesday about his book, “The Books That Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir.”
Gaillard’s book explores and celebrates the importance of specific classic and contemporary pieces of literature and their connection to the human condition. It illustrates his personal experience as a reader and how he came to conclusions about historical context and the connectedness of humans.
Gaillard specifically harnesses inspiration from Southern literature, and his book serves as a veritable reference book for often unknown, powerful fiction.
Gaillard’s passion for reading wasn’t always present.
“I didn’t like books as a child,” Gaillard said. “Fairy tales scared me as a child, and assigned reading was boring.”
Gaillard wasn’t a reader until “Jonny Tremain,” by Esther Forbes, imbued him with a passion for reading.
“A storyteller brought to life history in a way I wanted to hear,” Gaillard said.
Gaillard wanted to write about books that interested him, and his book includes works such as: “Huckleberry Finn,” “All the Kings Men,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Salvation on Sand Mountain,” “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,” “Slaughterhouse-five” and “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”
Gaillard’s presentation consisted of several experiential excerpts about some of the books he writes about in “The Books That Mattered: A Reader’s Memoir.” He presented about historical figures such as Huey Long, and he made connections between literature and the periods of time they portray.
Gaillard also offered advice on how to find contemporary literary fiction, which he said is often overshadowed by classics.
“You have to rely on word of mouth sometimes,” Gaillard said.
Gaillard also said that there are polarized feelings about digital books and Kindles, but they are good things for exposure.
“What he talked about is my life,” said Meg Shackelford, a senior English major from Troy. “Meeting an author that’s published that wrote my own experience is pretty awesome, and it gives me hope for a future in writing.”
Gaillard’s fusion of English, history and journalism attracted the interest of a myriad students.
“As he spoke about history, he spoke about what I love,” said Haley Hart, a senior history major from New Orleans.
The next Afternoon with an Author is scheduled to be in November.