Alumna Returns To Showcase Acclaimed Book

Alumna Returns To Showcase Acclaimed Book

Kate Stichnoth

Colgate alumna Kerry Neville Bakken ’94 returned to campus for a book reading on Friday, November 3 to promote her new, highly acclaimed collection of short stories, Necessary Lies.

At Colgate, it is not uncommon for alumni to return to campus to provide personal insight into their post-Colgate successes.

At the Colgate Bookstore, Mrs. Bakken and her husband Christopher, both professors of English at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, read from their respective new titles.

Mr. Bakken recited several poems from the yet-to-be-published Goat Funeral, a collection of poems he calls an “experiment in the American pastoral” with themes ranging from politics and war to love and sex and several influences such as Greece and family.

He then went on to introduce his wife as the other half of the “writing couple.”

Mrs. Bakken spoke of her mixed feelings about being back at Colgate to do a book reading.

“This is a wonderful but nerve-wracking moment for me,” she said.

Necessary Lies is Mrs. Bakken’s debut collection of short stories. The works in Necessary Lies focus on “the lies that we tell ourselves to help us survive,” as Mrs. Bakken said.

Her stories range in theme and focus: birth and death, sexuality and the complications of having and creating a family are all incorporated into her stories.

Necessary Lies has already won rave reviews from the likes of Publisher’s Weekly and The Los Angeles Times, as well as numerous book awards such as the G.S. Charat Prize in Fiction and the Best Books 2006 National Book Award from in the “Fiction and Literature: Short Story” category.

Mrs. Bakken read an excerpt from one of the short stories from Necessary Lies titled, “The Effects of Light.” In the story, the main character seeks closure as he travels to Greece with his recently estranged wife, Sarah, to discover where and why his younger sister committed suicide.

Although most of the book is set on Long Island, this particular story takes place in Greece, an important part of the world for both Bakkens. They have been traveling in Greece for years, and their experiences there have been a source from which they draw many ideas and themes found in both their writings.

Mrs. Bakken graduated from the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston but cites Colgate as an essential part of her education.

Mrs. Bakken said that a Colgate professor had said very supportive things to her during her time here.

“Fortunately and unfortunately,” the professor had said, “You’re a writer.”

In her first year at Colgate, Mrs. Bakken was enrolled in Director of Summer Programs and Instructor in Physical Education and Diving Coach Matt Leone’s first-year seminar (FSEM). In that class, Mrs. Bakken was immediately thrown into the modern classics, such as D.H. Lawrence and Tolstoy, and, she said, really learned how to write.

Several of Professor Leone’s current FSEM students attended Mrs. Bakken’s reading.

“It is so interesting to me that Bakken’s experiences in the class I am currently taking really set her foundations as a writer,” said first year Caitlin Baber, who is now enrolled in Professor Matt Leone’s FSEM, “Ultimate Things and the Literary Mind.”

Mrs. Bakken is currently working on another collection of short stories as well as a “skeleton of a novel.”

“[I am] after a kind of truth in the way we use language,” Mrs. Bakken said.