Visiting Renaissance Man

Nathan Singer, a novelist from Cincinnati, Ohio, gave a reading of his work this past Thursday in the Garver room. In truth, it was more of a performance than a reading. He combined acting, singing and literature into an intricate and daring mix that grabbed the audience right from the start. He performed three excerpts, two from novels he had already written, Chasing the Wolf and A Prayer for Dawn, and one sneak peak from a book in process, titled Black Church Furnace. To add dramatics to his performance, Singer recited the excerpt from Black Church Furnace from memory, painting the picture of a 14-year-old southern black girl who had lost her innocence. Between deep rumbling words, he shouted at the audience “Is this all you got?!” so forcefully that seemed as if he expected the audience to answer him. Next, Singer performed an excerpt from Chasing the Wolf, a novel set in 1938 Mississippi. The book got its title because it involves a notorious blues/jazz singer named Wolf. Singer surprised the audience when he actually sang the lyrics from his book as Wolf would have sung them. The audience was even more surprised when Singer actually turned out to be a really good singer. His final excerpt, from A Prayer for Dawn, was performed from memory as well. It flowed naturally and rhymed at parts, and was weaved with controversial and daring ideas about religion. At one part, he looked up at the ceiling and clasped his hands so convincingly that the audience thought he was praying until he exclaimed “Forgive me father, I’m about to sin and I ain’t sorry.” Singer dictated the punctuation throughout this excerpt, saying the words “period” and “question mark” and drawing them in the air with his finger to add emphasis. Singer wasn’t afraid to explore controversial themes of race and religion and did not shy away from using profanities. He tackled topics usually shied away from with impressive intensity. “The way he portrayed his feeling and thoughts was very captivating,” said Kaitlin Gaiss ’09. Singer identified his genre as “Thrash Novel – loud, fast, aggressive, basically heavy metal in book form.” When asked if he was a more of a poet or a novelist, he said he was more of a writer, composer and performer rolled up into one. Singer originally started out as a musician, but gradually gravitated toward writing during the course of his career. Singer’s inspiration is very character driven. He said, “The characters show up fully formed; I just lock them in a room together with no food and watch what happens.” It’s no surprise that he shares his publisher, Bleak House Books, with PA’s very own controversial novelist Randall Peffer. Their styles have a lot in common; both are brave and intense and are driven by powerful, fascinating characters. Not only is Nathan Singer an amazing novelist, but he is also a musician and actor. Impressed by the performance, Mike McDonaugh ’09 commented, “He was a good actor, his words came out very naturally.” Some people just have it all.