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University’s Professor Alex Gilvarry Opens Tenth Anniversary of the Visiting Writers Series

Alex GilvarryMonmouth University’s own Award-Winning Author Alex Gilvarry opened the tenth anniversary of the annual Visiting Writers Series on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 4:30pm in the Wilson Hall Auditorium.  

Gilvarry discussed and read from a short story of his called “How to Be a Man,” from his most recent novel “From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant,” winner of a 2012 New York City Book Award, and from his forthcoming novel “Eastman was Here.” 

The event opened with an introduction from Dean Michael Thomas. In this introduction, there was tribute paid to a well-known writer who has read at the University before: C.K. Williams. Williams had only just recently passed away two days prior, Sept. 20. In his honor, a sampling of his reading of “The Gaffe” was played in which Williams reads, “I’d really only wanted to know how grief ends, and when?” This question of grief was one written by Williams and now being experienced by fans for Williams. 

Dean Thomas then reiterated how Williams’ “complexity and joy in literature” was one experienced greatly in the various readings he did at Monmouth. 

After this tribute, he introduced the reader for the evening: Alex Gilvarry. Dean Thomas described Gilvarry’s work as having a tone of being “humorous, lighthearted, tenderly tragic.” 

Gilvarry’s first sample of his work was from his short story titled “How to Be a Man.” He preludes this reading with a story of how it came to fruition. The story was written for a charity organization, Narrative 4, and was a part of an anthology called The Book Of Men: Eighty Writers on How to Be a Man produced by popular men’s magazine, Esquire. 

 It was about a man’s trip on a subway and catching the eye of two beautiful women on the subway—one in red and one in yellow. The character meets an old friend who has become a cop on the subway whom he described as “a sociopath with a gun.” After an altercation with this friend about height, the main character is finally able to communicate with the woman in red. In witnessing the altercation, she had stepped in. The cop friend leaves, and the woman starts talking to the main character because suddenly the character “was now a person of interest” to her. 

The next selection of work Gilvarry read from was “From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant.” Gilvarry introduces this piece by explaining that in the novel there is an epigraph from Coco Channel that he loves; it states: “Since everything is in our heads, we had better not lose them.” This story is an immigrant story about an unrequited love for the United States. It is set in a post 9/11 era in New York City. The main character is on trial for war crimes in which he was only in association with those actually guilty of the crimes. 

The final piece was from his working novel, set to be published sometime in 2016, “Eastman Was Here.” The novel is set in the early 1970’s in a post-war setting. Gilvarry explains to the audience the backstory and inspiration for this novel. He had attended a writer’s colony at famous writer, Normal Mailer’s home. While preparing for this event, Gilvarry studied Mailer and his works. 

He came across a piece of Mailer’s history that struck him, Mailer was once courted by the New York Herald Tribune to go to Vietnam to write dispatches. To this invitation, Mailer declined. Gilvarry, after meeting Mailer and experiencing his rough, intellectual, Ivy League attitude, decided that “Eastman Was Here” would be about a Mailer-influenced character that actually did go to Vietnam to write dispatches. 

In Gilvarry’s selection for this work in progress, he read an excerpt about a phone call between the main character, Alan Eastman, and an old enemy named Broadwater. Eastman and Broadwater have a long strife from their Ivy League college days because Broadwater had a hand in refusing to publish a poem by Eastman about Pearl Harbor, which had only recently happened at the time. All of these feelings of resentment and sourness aside, Broadwater offers a job to Eastman to write dispatches for the war, to which Eastman spitefully declined. Eastman then has a sort of internal struggle with the idea that he could possibly do it and get his name back in the public light. 

Madelyn Arecchi, junior English and Education major, explained, “I really enjoyed the event because Dr. Gilvarry is clearly an impressive writer and it’s cool to say that he is a part of Monmouth’s faculty.” 

During the Q&A of this event an interested audience member asked about the writing process and how Gilvarry deals with it. Gilvarry responded, “Writing is hard…it is just not fun.” 

He further explained the difference between being a first time writer and being a seasoned writer. He said that wiring your first book is so much easier than the second, third, etc. He explains that in writing your first book you put your everything into it—all of your thoughts and emotions you’ve ever dreamed of writing about. But, in the second novel, he explained that you become more “jaded” and it is more of a struggle. 

Within this same answer, Gilvarry gave some personal advice to aspiring writers, “You really need to believe in what you’re writing and be honest with yourself.”

IMAGE TAKEN from http://www.northeastern.edu

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