A cheating wife. A dead body.
These were the center of attention during author Jamie Quatro's short story reading during Monday night's Writers in the Library event.
Quatro read from her debut short story collection, "I Want to Show You More." The book was well-received and named 2013 New York Times Notable Book, NPR Best Book of 2013 and New York Times Editors' Choice.
Before introducing Quatro, UT Writer-in-Residence Christopher Hebert summarized "Demolition," one of the stories featured in Quatro's book.
"Demolition" tells the tale of a deaf man who declares to his church congregation that he does not believe in Christianity. Hebert then discussed the portrayal of faith in the collection of stories.
"There is faith towards God, of course; and then there's faith we show, or at least try to show, our partners and spouses," Hebert said. "The latter kind of fidelity, it seems, is just as frail as the first."
Quatro currently resides in Lookout Mountain, Ga., which is split between the Tennessee-Georgia line. When a member of the audience asked if there was any significance in choosing a divided setting, Quatro said it was not done consciously.
"I do think that when you have a split setting like that, like a typographical setting, that it lends itself to thematic splits," Quatro said about the divides featured in her stories.
Those in attendance also commented on the locational and thematic divisions in Quatro's work.
"The stories are what we call magic realism," said Megan Morris, creative writing major, "so it is in a really realistic setting but then there's always strange things that happen, so it's full of surprises."
Quatro read from her short story "Decomposition: A Primer for Promiscuous Housewives," which tells the story of a wife dealing with coming clean to her husband about her affair. In the story, the body of the woman's lover is situated in the center of the couple's bed. Quatro tells the story through the stages of decomposition.
The couple goes through marriage counseling in hopes of putting the past behind them. However, their efforts fail as the wife has trouble forgetting her lover and becoming attracted to her husband again. The wife even discusses with a therapist that she might have married the wrong man.
During this time, the rotting body never leaves its spot from the bed. After attempting to explain the corpse to their four children, the wife eventually hides the body in an old playpen in the basement.
The reading was shocking at times, as Quatro spoke about the wife's sexually detailed letters to her lover, the harsh words of the woman's husband, and the deteriorating condition of the body.
"The story was daring," said Marilyn Kallet, UT's director of creative writing. "She took risks reading that here."
Quatro said her intentions weren't to compile her stories into a collection. She didn't think of publishing her work; she was simply writing for herself.
"Originally, I didn't know what I was doing." Quatro said. "I wasn't thinking in terms of doing a book at all."
After the success of her first collection, Quatro said it was quite possible she would "show us more" story collections in the future.