Dennis Lehane’s talk on Thursday, Oct. 23, had the audience guffawing in their seats. Not only is the thriller-novelist responsible for writing several adored books like “Shutter Island” and “The Given Day,” he is also a Bostonian—and a hilarious one, too.
Before diving into his comedic monologue about bars and writing, he first followed up on President Barbara Snyder and Professor Robert Spadoni’s highlighted point: Libraries are valuable. Lehane himself discussed their impact on his life, noting it as 10 out of 20 reasons why he became a writer. According to him, libraries say, “you have worth.”
Libraries are not the only reason he became a storyteller. The other 10 reasons came in sequence in a comedian-like talk. To give us context, Lehane described his hometown as the “shittiest” town in Boston, and that storytelling there was, well, a “blood sport.”
As a young kid, he sat around with his dad’s friends, usually at a bar while they told stories. There were three important factors to this sport: 1) hit the ground running, 2) be funny because, 3) the story is probably tragic. Coming from a working-class family, Lehane implied how hard it was to tell his parents that he would pursue a degree in writing. In fact, to this day, his dad still tells him that other job opportunities are available.
Lehane never gave up, though, because, taken verbatim, “I suck at everything else.” He explained that he had to be “hyper-focused,” committed and a hard worker. He didn’t want to be a failed writer working at a bar with his friends calling out: “Hey, Steinbeck, bring me another Bud.”
All in all, Lehane’s talk was an inspirational story in itself. In the midst of all his jokes and side-laughs, there was rawness to his story. The audience appreciated his honesty, and demonstrated this with the fixed and amused smiles on everyone’s faces. Writing, he says, “is an imperfect science,” and narrative exists because it “gives meaningless, senseless events meaning.”
If that isn’t raw or honest enough for you, then, like Lehane would possibly say, you’ve been drinking.