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VOICES Reading: Jim Ruland and Ben Warner

Authors Jim Ruland and Ben Warner visited St. Mary’s on Jan. 26, leading the first VOICES Reading of the fall semester. The authors were introduced by English professors Karen Leona Anderson and Jerry Gabriel, who recounted their friendships and the literary accomplishments of both readers.  Anderson preceded the readings by saying that the two authors are, “Always pushing at the edges of what is possible. For us, they can model the way that big, ambitious ideals backed by a simple, naked act– the act of putting words down, even when we don’t feel like it– transforms work into something that feels effortlessly fresh and surprising.”

Ruland’s reading consisted of a read-along of a zine (mini-magazine) titled, “The Package,” about a writer who plagiarizes a Portuguese novel in the face of a looming and important deadline. The writer is accompanied on his search for the perfect story by a cat named Cornelius, with an eerie and unsettling backstory involving a package containing a dead rat and an alarm clock with its innards stripped out. Later, Ruland explained that the story was inspired by toxoplasmosis, a parasite that can be transmitted in cat urine and feces and which resides in the human brain. Jim Ruland is the author of the novels Big Lonesome, Forest of Fortune as well as a co-writer of pop-punk artist Keith Morris’ My Damage. He also writes book reviews for The LA Times.

Benjamin Warner teaches courses in environmental writing, fiction writing, and composition at Towson and is the author of Thirst, a dystopian novel about a couple attempting to survive a natural disaster which leaves resources scarce. Warner read his unpublished, work-in-progress short story called In the Surf, which followed a man who wanders the wilderness around an anonymous beach, swimming, observing surfers and vacationers, and wondering about the locals of the beach town. Ruland said that his inspiration came from a recent beach vacation at Chincoteague with his family, remarking, “I was probably imagining what would happen, I shouldn’t say this out loud, but what would’ve happened if I ran away from them.”

The readings concluded with an author Q & A and a discussion of recommended short stories. The next VOICES reading will occur on Thursday, Feb. 7, and will feature Nina McConigley, the author of a short story collection called Cowboys and East Indians, which won a PEN Book Award. The VOICES series is sponsored by the English Department, the Arts Alliance, and The Lecture and Fine Arts Committee.

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