A collection of essays by an assistant professor of English at Oregon State University is a finalist in the 2014 Oregon Book Awards.
“Let Me Clear My Throat,” by Elena Passarello of Corvallis, is one of five finalists for the Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction.
Passarello said “Let Me Clear My Throat” is a series of 25 essays about the human voice, divided into three sections: The first section examines screams and includes essays about Marlon Brando’s famous “Stella” roar in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and the so-called “Wilhelm Scream,” a stock sound effect which has appeared in more than 200 movies.
Passarello knows something about Brando’s “Stella” bellow: In 2011, she became the first woman to win New Orleans’ annual Stella Screaming Contest, which is just exactly what it sounds like: Contestants take their best shot at duplicating Brando’s famous scream.
The second part of “Let Me Clear My Throat” includes essays about singing. The third part focuses on what Passarello called “fake voices” — ventriloquists who throw their voices, for example.
Part of her fascination with the human voice comes from the 10 years she spent working as an actor and a voiceover artist, she said.
Passarello is a new hire at OSU, moving to Corvallis in August from Austin, Texas.
So far, so good, she said: “I love it. I love it here. … I really like small towns.”
And, she said, she’s been delighted to discover that “Corvallis is a killer writer’s town,” and pointed for evidence to the big turnout for the annual Magic Barrel event, which features writers reading from their works in a benefit against hunger.
Other authors nominated in the creative nonfiction category include three Portland writers, Jay Ponteri, Kim Stafford and Sandra Stone, and Scott Nadelson of Salem.
Passarello is the only Corvallis writer to be named as a finalist in this year’s awards.
A book from the OSU Press, “Breaking Chains,” by R. Gregory Nokes of West Linn, is one of the finalists for the Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction.