Double Vision

Double Vision

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she’s been writing fiction Since she could clutch a crayon. When Sheridan Hough graduated to pencil, pen and then computer, her enthusiasm for writing remained just as strong. In fact, the philosophy professor’s first play was produced when she was just an 18-year-old undergraduate.

More literary and academic works followed, including scholarly essays on the philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and David Hume, a book on Friedrich Nietzsche and The Hide, a collection of poetry. It was not until last November, however, that Hough’s first novel, Mirror’s Fathom, was published.

Mirror’s Fathom follows the adventures of Tycho Wilhelm Lund, the fictional grandnephew of Kierkegaard, who must find a lost antique mirror in order to win a lady’s hand. Principally set in two very different European countries, Malta and Denmark (the existentialist Kierkegaard’s homeland), the mystery/love story also happens to take place in two centuries. The two settings, two time periods and the inclusion of a second protagonist were no accident, says Hough, noting the symbolic importance of the mirror in the story.

“You can imagine that the trope of a mirror is irresistible to a philosopher,” she says, “especially one who focuses
on existentialism.”

As the pages turn, the reader learns just how Lund, a 19th-century anarchist and pirate, is connected to a modern-day Maltese housewife who happens to own that once-missing mirror. Beyond this intrigue are some subtly woven lessons about Kierkegaard and his philosophy regarding the self and the purpose of existence. Hough is also very interested in the historical details of her story’s settings: her descriptions of Denmark, Malta and England reflect considerable research, as well as time spent in these countries.

Soon the travel ended, however, and it came time to start writing. Hough did much of her writing in the middle of the night, when the house was quiet, everyone else was asleep, and she could “crawl into an alternate reality.” Imagining herself in a different world of her own creation, Hough then strove to “put away the sound of the academy … and just let the characters talk.”

Just letting the characters talk seems to work for Hough, who – in addition to writing an academic text on Kierkegaard and his concept of the self – is currently working on another novel. This one concerns a 19th-century British stage actress’ adventures in the wine country of northern California, where Hough’s commitment to on-the-ground research will be taking her in the following months.

Fortunately, she’s just as enthusiastic about travel as she is about writing. Some things, you just never outgrow.