May 30, 2020

Readers mix laughter and intensity at final SRS

This semester’s final edition of the Student Reading Series included ad-libs about the writers, one writer being damned to hell during his introduction, the entire crowd rising to take a picture while making ludicrous facial expressions and a reference to projectile vomit.

Oh yeah, there was some damn good writing too.

“It’s kind of ‘mobulated’ in here,” Gina McGrath, the coordinator of the event, said, referring to the dense crowd which filled most of the seats in the New Library auditorium Thursday night.

Susan Pederson, sophomore English major, kicked off the night with a short story that she warned might require some audience members to grab a Kleenex.

“I wish I had something a little happier to start the night off with,” Pederson said.

The untitled short story, which Pederson had considered naming “Three,” was a dark, ambiguous piece that mixed co-existing tales of adolescent love together with a violent car crash to form an interesting, winding tale told from three different points of view, each belonging to one of the victims of the accident.

Employing angsty dialogue and shifts from second to first-person point of view, Pederson constructed an emotional story that roused the crowd to applause while slightly lowering its spirits.

After his introduction claimed he should be “damned to hell for his crimes against humanity,” Andrew Erkkila, senior English major, followed with a series of excerpts from his memoir titled “Happy Valley.”

“I understand that it’s kind of egotistical and odd to write a memoir at 21, but I had an interesting childhood,” Erkkila said before launching into the story of his turbulent youth. The excerpt bounced back and forth between his experiences at military school and the memory of a drunken night spent at home that may have been the reason he was sent to military school in the first place.

Erkkila’s writing was honest and poignant, conveying his experiences at military school with an authentic feel.

While recounting one of his first rounds of rifle training, Erkkila remembered his inability to maneuver the weapon properly.

“I moved as if thawing from a deep-freeze, trailing microseconds behind (the corporal’s) orders,” Erkkila read. “Holding the rifle was like trying to hold a fish moving in all the contrary directions.”

Later, the story shifted to a memory of his hometown where Erkkila and a friend robbed four bottles of what he called “bum wine” from a local gas station and got drunk throughout the town, trying to break into cars to steal cigarettes, money or both. While busy engaging in this night of teenage foolishness, Erkkila’s mother discovers two handguns in a cigar box beneath his bed, which according to Erkkila, he had stolen from his grandmother.

Erkkila’s tale also shed some real-life perspective on the strict life of a military academy “plebe,” or new guy. Erkkila’s excerpt included a section devoted to the memory of one of his fellow plebes complaining about shaving his face without any shaving cream. While this particular plebe shaved his face, drawing streams of blood with every cut, Erkkila and the rest of his company were forced to knock out push-ups until he completed the task.

Alex Ruthrauff, a resident of Yardley, Pa., and a New York University graduate, introduced the next reader, Matthew Fair, senior English and journalism major. Ruthrauff announced that Fair’s mother was a Ewing-area prostitute and that his father was actually NFL-personality John Madden.

“Most of that is true, I guarantee it,” Fair said.

After Ruthrauff’s antics were complete, Fair asked the crowd to stand up and pose for a picture, while making funny faces.

Fair’s story, titled “I.D.,” brought the audience into the life of John Germaine, an aging Metro Transit conductor toiling away in the subways of New York City. Fair swayed on stage, moving at a frantic pace as he revealed the crumbling life of his protagonist, who is being fazed out of his job by an automated rail system and suffers aggravation at the hands of the Department of Motor Vehicles after he loses his wallet and all forms of identification in a drunken stupor outside of a bar in Times Square.

Fair expertly captured the suffocating feeling one sometimes encounters when walking around the sprawling mass of architecture and progress that is New York City.

“How did it not collapse? All that steel, and glass, and wire, and progress,” Fair read.

“John wondered if he would ever come back from Manhattan, or if it would just swallow him whole,” Fair continued, as his story rolled toward its quiet, yet impactful conclusion.

After a mad-lib introduction from her best friend Charlie Laskowski, a resident of Scotch Plains, N.J., that let the audience know she was involved in the porn industry for “81 and a half years,” Kathy Loglisci, senior secondary education/English major, read several selections from her sprawling selection of poetry.

Loglisci’s perky demeanor showed through her poems, which moved along at a pleasant pace, using short, staggered lines to create an odd but effective energy in the room. Among her more interesting selections were an elegy to a silverfish she had accidentally killed, even though she felt that it had committed suicide, and her closing poem titled “The Soldier’s Wife.” Her final piece depicted a wife struggling to handle the return of her battle-hardened husband who has come back from a war overseas.

“I used to ask him for his secrets . they are not mine anymore,” Loglisci read. “They are ranked and filed, crew-cut and fatigued.”

The poem ended on a heartbreaking note when the soldier asks his wife if she missed him and she replies, “I still miss you.”

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