An afternoon at the ‘Drive-Thru’ with Julia Slavin

Last Thursday, Julia Slavin used her quirky, abnormal style of writing to captivate the campus literati during the first installment of the Visiting Writers Series in the Library Auditorium.

“I like the way she gets into the characters heads,” Scott Pioli, junior communication studies major, said. He said he was excited to see what Slavin was going to put out next.

Slavin is a quirky contemporary author who writes on an interesting variety of topics pertaining to everyday life. In her collection of short stories “The Woman Who Cut off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club,” Slavin writes about an actress’ lover who begins to literally fall apart.

Another story tells of how a woman eats her lawn boy in a fit of passion and hormones.

With these preconceptions of her writing style, the audience was not disappointed when Slavin began to read one of her most recent short stories, “Drive-Thru House.”

“She . ordered a lot of lumber. I sure will miss her,” says a lumberman at the wake of a woman who ran a drive-thru house in Slavin’s story.

“Drive-Thru House” is a short story about a house that cars can literally drive through. The home also includes a drive-in movie theater, gift shop and complimentary cookies. Although the premise of the story may seem a bit odd to any listener, Slavin is able to get the reader hooked with her incredible perceptions of people, human relationships and witty sense of humor.

Slavin used several performance techniques to enhance her reading, pausing to create tension and giving her characters southern accents, making them more real to the audience. She easily commanded the attention of everyone in the room.

Slavin delves into the life of the protagonist, Shelly Valentine, a young woman who is forced to maintain the drive-thru house where she was literally born in the headlights of the Ladies of Tuesday, a group of women that would pass through the home every Tuesday.

Shelly leads a rough life, having to run a drive-through house that never closes while trying to maintain its reputation. At the request of her customers and insistence of her brother, Shelly displays her mother’s dead body. Her brother, Sinclair, gets the body fixed up: “I got a plastic surgeon down from Greenville . I did her hair.”

In complete frustration, the local Sheriff Walt and his deputy quickly give Shelly and her brother a ticket for “displaying a non-living human female without a proper license.” In reality, Walt only harasses the brother and sister because he wants to build a super-highway through the drive-through house.

Matters are made worse when Shelly begins to struggle to find the perfect recipe for her mother’s cookies, which continually come out, “sandy,” “dusty” or could “kill Mother Teresa.”

Furthermore, she is plagued with “car-sickness,” a disease that can only be cured by not moving. But, Shelly runs a drive-thru house that never closes; she can never stop moving.

This type of humor and wit is woven throughout the story, sprinkled with bits of wisdom.

“When God calls it’s an order, not an invitation,” says one character.

Although she is mostly known for her short story prowess, Slavin did publish “Carnivore Diet” in 2005, a darker novel about a family’s potential collapse under the weight of emotional and political turmoil sparked by the protagonist’s addiction to sedatives.

“Drive-Thru House,” was a very different take on life. Slavin takes an obscure topic and captivates the audience with her descriptions of the characters and their strange lives.