Novelist Justin Torres Delivers Captivating Reading

in Arts/Bryn Mawr by

by JULIA HABLAK, Staff Writer

We the Animals author Justin Torres visited Bryn Mawr College on Sept. 20 to deliver the first Creative Writing Reading Series talk of the 2017-18 school year. Earlier in the day, Torres held a question and answer session for Tri-Co students on Bryn Mawr’s campus.

The audience was largely made up of teachers and students from the Tri-Co, many of whom had first read the book for a class and had fallen in love with it. It is not hard to understand why – anyone who opens it is instantly captivated by the skill of Torres’s storytelling and the beauty of his prose.

At the reading session, Torres’ sense of humor quickly won the audience over. He did a good job maintaining the tone of the novel while adding a personal spin. He dressed impeccably for the reading and was clearly enthusiastic to be at Bryn Mawr.

Bryn Mawr’s creative writing director Daniel Torday introduced Torres with great praise. Torres humbly took the stage after Torday. While Torres might have been dubious about Torday’s praise, his audience had no such reservations. Everyone was excited for him to begin.

Torres started off reading aloud a more recent essay he had written, called “Leashed”. The essay was very different in content from We the Animals, and something for which the audience wasn’t necessarily prepared. It was received with eager applause.

The essay was set in the 21st century, referencing Mad Men, among other things, but it carried some of the same darkness that is so prevalent in his debut work.

Torres then moved to We the Animals. Because the audience had already read the book, Torres allowed the crowd to pick the chapters he would read.

Torres read four chapters total, first “Seven”, then “Trash Kites”, “Big Dick Truck”, and “Trench”. Some excerpts were more emotional than others, and as he read the room was quiet. The listeners gave Torres their undivided attention.

In a brief Q&A after the reading, Torres responded to several audience questions. One question addressed the current political climate, and asked Torres to address “the power of the writer”.

Torres responded thoughtfully that a writer must remember to be careful with language because of how powerful it is, and because it can incite people to react. In response to other questions, he discussed his interest in poetry and went into greater depth about the fiction behind We the Animals.

Torres’ writings and his words of advice will be sure to prompt discussion in classes across the Tri-Co in the next week.

The next installment of the Reading Series will be on Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m., with poet Van Jordan speaking in the Ely Room at Bryn Mawr’s Wyndham Alumnae House.

Photo courtesy of Bryn Mawr College.

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