On the night of March 19th, author Silas House was given the Judy Gaines Young Literary Award. Each year, Dr. Byron Young, a Transylvania University alumn, gives this award in honor of his wife and fellow Transylvania alumni, Judy Gaines Young. The award is given to a writer of a book with significance. On that night, the University celebrated Silas House’ novel Southernmost.
Professor Maurice Manning, a professor of writing and our campus’ Writer in Residence, began the night by sharing a list of words he associated with House’s book. He mentioned the world “loyalty,” and compared Southernmost’s theme of blind loyalty to Wendell Berry’s theme of complete loyalty in A World Lost.
Senior Rebecca Blankenship, the former Rambler News Editor and a fiction writer herself, was also complimented by Professor Manning. Blankenship took to the podium and read a few pieces of her own. The first, aptly named “Rupturous Love,” she described as a poem she had written while reflecting on romance, past relationships, dysfunction, new life, among others. The energetic reading was almost like watching an actor perform a monologue, paired with movement and variation in speed, tone, and volume.
The second reading was of a poem translated from Latin by Catullus, which Blankenship had mentioned she interacted with when she was a lot younger. The poem was written about the Catullus’s love for Lesbia and his apathetic view on what others think of his relationship. The translation is printed below:
Let’s live, sweet slut, and therefore love!
Let’s hear the windy wisdom of our
grandpops, pay a nickel for their trouble.
The sun sets and returns.
But once our brief light sets
The night is endless sleep.
Gimmie a thousand, then a hundred,
a second thousand, a second hundred,
and a thousand and a hundred kisses.
Then we’ll lose count, so we won’t even know.
The creeps and sneaks and scientists
will never quantify us.
Her third reading, titled “Pilgrimage Unto Filing,” was a piece of speculative fiction. She introduced it as being written 200 years from now, and though it was written in prose, the performance of it was almost poetic, despite its academic language.
Finally, Silas House came to the podium and summarized Southernmost: on the same day that the Supreme Court rules to legalize same-sex marriage, a preacher’s fictional city is flooded. When he takes in two gay men as a result of the flooding, he begins to rethink what he’s been preaching after a period of reflection and self-education. The novel follows his journey as he shares his enlightened opinion with the community, is rejected, and leaves his city.
House summed up the book’s theme in one quote: “One discrimination is all discrimination. One injustice is all injustice.”
Southernmost is available online for under $20, in the Transy bookstore, along with more of Silas’s work, and in the Transy campus library.