On Tuesday, words echoed through the halls of the Fine Arts Building as the Binghamton Center for Writers welcomed Binghamton University alumni Jason Allen, ‘17, and Abby E. Murray, ‘15, as part of their ongoing Readers’ Series.
Like previous installments of the series, the event was free and open to the public, who heard the authors read excerpts of their work and answer audience questions.
Allen, a novelist who primarily writes fiction, memoirs and poetry, is most notably known for his book, “The East End,” and his poetry collection, “A Meditation on Fire.” Since graduating with a Ph.D. from BU, Murray has become the poet laureate for Tacoma, Washington and has published award-winning books such as “Hail and Farewell” and chapbooks including “How to Be Married after Iraq,” “Quick Draw: Poem’s from a Soldier’s Wife” and “Me and Coyote.”
The audience, a mix of professors, community members and students, were welcomed into Fine Arts 258 with snacks, refreshments and both the authors’ books for sale. As the guests settled down in their seats, both authors were introduced by their former instructors, who reviewed critics’ praise of their works.
Allen presented his work first, reading excerpts from his book “The East End.” In his reading, Allen presented two of the multiple points of view the book was written in, including the perspective of Cory, a teenage character loosely based on the author himself who works in the summer mansions of America’s wealthiest in the Hamptons. Ryan Stears, a second-year Ph.D. candidate studying English, said Long Island is a setting many BU students can relate to.
“I’m from out east on Long Island so when the novelist was talking about the Hamptons and the dunes, I knew exactly what he was talking about and I was immediately able to connect with that,” he said.
Allen narrated his protagonist, Cory, sneaking into the home of a Wall Street millionaire while he and his wife were asleep. While in the mansion, Cory whispers to the wife, “You are ugly.” Allen showed a side of the Hamptons never seen on TV and illustrated Cory’s desperation to escape working-class Long Island.
Allen shifted to reading an excerpt from the book from Leo’s point of view, a millionaire character who has a summer home in the Hamptons. Mike Campi, a junior double-majoring in English and Spanish, said Leo’s character resonated with him.
“What really stuck with me was the juxtaposition of the boy on the beach listening to the ocean and the rich man in the city more focused on doing lines of cocaine but still having the complexity that wasn’t anticipated from the very beginning, in my opinion,” he said.
Campi emphasized the power of complex and multifaceted characters in Allen’s works.
“Really what I was taking notes on and paying attention to was his characters and the attributes that he gave them,” Campi said. “To me, they felt very real and three-dimensional — that’s something that I strive for in my own writing.”
Murray followed up Allen’s reading with a passionate recitation of a few of her poems, including “Happy Birthday Army” and “Asking for a Friend.” Many of the poems revolved around womanhood and being a military spouse. Murray introduced each poem with some background on how she got the idea for it, what inspired it and some insight into her own life.
Abigail Widrig, a senior majoring in English, said she liked how Murray shed light on military family members.
“What resonated with me was [Murray’s] poetry on the military because it gives an inside look on what it’s like to be a military family member rather than a military member and I think that’s a very unique perspective,” she said.
Stears said Murray’s unique point of view made her poetry even more powerful.
“She said she couldn’t really resonate with the wives of military men and I think that’s very unique,” Stears said. “She’s offering a different perspective than the standard military wife point of view. I thought that was really cool and the poems were really beautiful.”