The University kept author Chris Cleave of London busy as a writer-in-residence this spring teaching classes, running creative workshops, and giving public lectures at the Kingston and Feinstein Providence Campuses.
His book, Incendiary, is an international bestseller that was published in 20 countries. A movie based on the book and directed by Sharon Maguire (director of Bridget Jones’s Diary) will be released this year.
Cleave’s visit was a result of his participation in an online forum that was part of an honors seminar last year taught by Alain-Philippe Durand, associate professor of French, film media, and comparative literature. The course explored the 2001 terrorist attacks through a selection of post 9/11 literature and film, including Cleave’s novel.
“Not only did Cleave write a compelling and prescient novel, but he graciously and thoughtfully responded to every point the students made,” says Naomi Mandel, associate professor of English and comparative literature. “Not all the students liked the book, but Cleave took their reservations as grist for an engaging dialogue.”
Mandel and Durand joined forces in the spring to teach an honors seminar, Novels of the Contemporary Extreme, that explored emerging global literature set in an often apocalyptic world invaded by popular culture, permeated with technology, and dominated by destruction. The two professors edited and wrote chapters for a book, Novels of the Contemporary Extreme, published by Continuum in 2006.
Students found Cleave engaging. “Chris Cleave is a wonderful person and very genuine,” said Megan Coral. “He was open to listening to viewpoints that didn’t agree with his and said that some of the comments had actually persuaded him to see things in new ways.”
Katie Collazzo agreed. “I thought his book was haunting and original,” she said, noting that she and Coral gave Cleave a campus tour. During the tour, Cleave mentioned that his two sons asked him to bring back American candy. The students later surprised the author with bags of gummi worms.
“What an incredible, life-affirming experience it was for me to be surrounded by such intense intellectual engagement—and such fun and kindness too,” the author emailed shortly after returning to England. “I will never forget it. In fact it has had an immediate effect on my writing. I sat down this morning and threw away the manuscript I was working on and started something much more fun and a whole lot weirder instead!”