Humor mixes with harrowing tales in author’s visit, part of the school’s free summer series of readings, film and music
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Torres, recipient of the Rolon United States Artist Fellowship in Literature and a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, was part of Lesley University’s Master of Fine Arts program’s free summer series of readings, film, music and guest speakers.
Punctuating his intense and riveting subject matter with humor, Torres kept the audience rapt throughout his 45 minutes on stage, shining the light on male prostitution, the upheaval of a challenging childhood and the realities of his own life as a gay man. “Boys like me were jumped, re-jumped and humiliated,” Torres said, reading from his short story “Starve a Rat.” However, one cannot assume autobiographical connotations, as his protagonist also concedes being “capable of telling very big lies.”
Torres began the evening reading a blistering portion of his debut novel “We the Animals,” recounting details of his mother’s face, swollen and purple after a severe beating, as well as her attempt to exact his promise that he’ll “stay six forever,” since boys who turn seven turn their backs on their mothers and require toughness, rather than affection. The audience remained silent as Torres talked of unsuccessful attempts to “blind himself with the sun” to bleach the horror of what he’d seen from his memory. But then Torres broke the ice by telling the audience “You guys can totally clap” when he was finished with that heart-wrenching passage.
In his brief opening remarks, Steven Cramer, director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, acknowledged and applauded the “visceral nature” of Torres’s oeuvre, but highlighted the structure of his work, as well. Cramer, a distinguished poet, detected iambic pentameter in the midst of Torres’s prose and hailed the author’s adroit use of pronouns. The attention to detail thrilled the visitor: “I totally geeked out on the pronouns,” Torres said. “It’s nice to hear someone noticed.”
Torres also praised Lesley University’s small but estimable graduate creative writing program, calling the 100 or so students “jubilant,” adding, “It seem like you guys are onto something.”
Cramer said the program, which began in 2003 with 22 students, has been growing over the last decade and now boasts more than 100 current students, 300 alumni and 20 faculty. The program was recently named one of the Top Ten Low-Residency Programs by Poets & Writers magazine.
The summer reading series continues with a stellar line-up of student and faculty events through June 28. For the full schedule of events, read more here.
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