Section: Arts

Sweetbitter author Stephanie Danler ’06 gives reading today

Sweetbitter author Stephanie Danler ’06 gives reading today

Stephanie Danler ’06, author of Sweetbitter | Courtesy of Stephanie Danler

From the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly, critics love the novel Sweetbitter, which has taken the literary world by storm since its May release. The semi-autobiographical narrative by Stephanie Danler ’06 centers on a young woman’s transition into adulthood: Tess, a recent college graduate, moves to the Big Apple and begins a job at “the best restaurant in New York City.”

Despite the seemingly immediate acclaim, Danler did not imagine her book would be so successful.

“I thought that it might be a book that was passed between servers, in restaurants,” Danler said. “It’s a weird book, and I don’t read a lot of bestsellers that are strange … they tend to be a bit more linear, and a bit more conventional. I never thought that it could find such a wide audience. I’m definitely in shock about it.”

Now, Danler returns to her alma mater for a victory lap of sorts: She will give a reading at 4:10 p.m. today in Cheever Room in Finn House.

When asked how she compares Sweetbitter to the literary successes of other Kenyon alumni such as E.L. Doctorow ’52,  John Green ’00, Ransom Riggs ’01 and Lauren Hillenbrand — who studied at Kenyon but did not graduate, and wrote the critically lauded nonfiction book Seabiscuit — Danler said the “slightly experimental form” of her book is a departure from a certain classical literary tradition.

“It’s not necessarily what Kenyon is known for,” Danler said. “But I could not have done it without [Kenyon’s] education. So I hope it changes the story about Kenyon a little bit.”

Sweetbitter has broken the bounds of typical fiction writing; Danler called the style “strange.” Incorporating elements of creative nonfiction and prose, the approach of Sweetbitter is different from the usual coming-of-age story.

“I knew that I wanted to write a female coming-of-age story, but I think that the story of Sweetbitter didn’t open up to me until I found the form,” she said.

Danler frequently separates parts of her story with beautiful poetic sections that Danler calls the book’s “chorus.”

“A lot of people call it poetry, but to me it’s a multiplicity of voices,” she said.

At today’s event, Danler will read from some popular passages.

“I think I’ll stick with sex, drugs and rock and roll,” Danler said. “But I don’t read for that long, I’d rather talk to people, I’d rather have a conversation.”

Article by Zoe Engle, Frances Saux contributed reporting.

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