Interview conducted by Brittany Parziale ’17, Connections Intern
Professor Roxanne O’Connell is Professor of Communication, teaching Visual Communication and Media Ecology. She has been with Roger Williams University since 2003.
Dr. O’Connell is currently reading a collection of detective mysteries by Margery Allingham. Finding her stories similar to that of Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh, O’Connell most admires how they “read as a puzzle.” Reading them is “a great way to disconnect— transforming oneself to a different time and place. I eat these stories up like candy.”
To satisfy her thirst for nonfiction, O’Connell is also reading Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee, the account of the harsh lives of tenant farmers during the Great Depression. Alternating between prose and poetry, this book is “a very moving account full of anger regarding the lack of social justice in America.”
The eldest girl in her family, O’Connell had a fantasy of what life would be like as an only child left alone with her book. For Dr. O’Connell, Louisa May Alcott’s Eight Cousins fulfilled this fantasy. Eight Cousins is the story of Rose Campbell, a recently orphaned child living with her great aunts, and finding a place of belonging amongst her seven male cousins and numerous aunts and uncles.
Simon Garfield’s On The Map and Just My Type are O’Connell’s memorable nonfiction reads. Garfield taught her a lot about the art of storytelling by beginning his chapters with a story about a person who is “pulling you into their discovery or observations or the unbelievable mistakes they make.”
From her childhood, she recalls reading Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books. His works consist of the original telling of fairy tales such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Nightingale,” each teaching lessons on how to live in the world.
Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, is on Dr. O’Connell’s list of upcoming reads. This story of Odysseus told from Penelope’s point of view imagines what it was like to be the wife of the great warrior, now left behind during the Trojan War. O’Connell is “waiting for a sunny hammock weekend where I can curl up and read uninterrupted.” O’Connell has many other books on her nightstand waiting to be read, as she fears “it being a Sunday and there being nothing left to read.”
O’Connell believes there are two kinds of essential reads – “the timeless kind and the one that is a must read right now.” An “eternal essential” would be Par Lagerkvist’s The Sibyl as it “examines a person’s life and relationship with things they believe are predestined to provide an alternate realm of thinking.” The “right now read” would be Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. Dr. O’Connell finds that its importance is in its thesis that the present is moving so fast that there “is no time to get over the shock of the new thing before being thrown into the next new thing–which is unsettling.” O’Connell believes that one reads to discover and that both of these books allow one to do just that.