By Ronald Hanaki
On Tuesday, November 4, Drew Magary, author of “The Postmortal,” came to visit East Stroudsburg University.
Magary’s dystopian novel, “The Postmortal,” was selected to be this year’s “One Book, One Campus” common reading initiative.
The author’s visit was the culmination of a series of events organized by Dr. Peter Pruim intended to promote long-form reading and thoughtful conversation among ESU students.
Before Magary addressed the students, a reception and dinner were held in the Keystone Room.
The Keystone Room also served as a mini art gallery where people could see the artwork inspired by the novel and created by ESU students.
The dinner was a prelude to an address by Magary to the ESU student body in the Abeloff Center for the Performing Arts.
President Marcia Welsh began the evening by poking fun at Drew Johnson, President of Student Senate, who hosted an informal meet-and-greet with Magary dubbed “The Chat and Chew With Drew and Drew.” She said playfully, “How could you, Drew?”
Johnson said he was pleased that “The Postmortal” was assigned as a project to incoming freshmen. Johnson hopes this text can be used as a springboard to more thought-provoking conversations.
Johnson’s speech was followed by Dr. Pruim.
Dr. Pruim noted that One Book, One Campus is about reading and connecting. It is something that will make ESU a stronger school and provide a richer experience for students.
One strength of the book, according to Dr. Pruim, is its provocativeness. The cure in the novel had the same effect on society as the plague.
Dr. Pruim said, “We won’t notice things until they break, or until there’s a crisis.”
Magary took to the podium and enthused about the nature of the Poconos.
He said, “It’s like Walden. You can hear squirrels and stuff.”
The evening took a more serious turn when Magary began to speak about his history of driving under the influence.
It began when he was 17 and was out drinking with friends. He accepted a ride home with Scott, an intoxicated friend.
In a brief moment of clarity, he questioned himself, thinking, “Why am I sitting in a car drunk and going nowhere I want to go?” Yet this excursion would set a pattern for future drunk driving adventures.
Another time, Magary drove home inebriated and blew a stop sign. This caused him to slam on the brakes in his car, and he skidded into the other side of the road. After that, he promised to himself that he would never drink and drive again. However, his vow would only last so long.
Fast forward to five years ago, during the time that he was writing “The Postmortal.” Magary, now married with one daughter and living in Maryland, insisted on driving home under the influence of alcohol. On his way home, he saw a flash of lights. He knew he was going to be arrested this time, and he accepted it.
After coming home, Magary broke down in front of his wife and asked her to forgive him. His wife replied, “Stop saying that. If forgiveness were that easy, it wouldn’t be worth anything.”
Magary had to attend alcohol education classes. At the meeting, he saw rich, poor, white, black, and Hispanic people. He called it “a rainbow coalition of screw-ups.”
The meetings, however, allowed Magary to meet a man who would pass around a picture of his daughter who was killed in a drunk-driving collision. This finally caused Magary to sober up and take responsibility for his actions.
Magary said, “I told that story for a couple reasons. First, freshmen, take a cab. Second, become self-aware.”
Poignantly, he continued, “You don’t come to college already smart enough to see inside your own experiences …You have to have the ability to cut through your own BS. This is the single most important attribute for someone who wants to be a happy and successful person.”
He added, “John Farrell [from “The Postmortal”] stayed that way for far too long. He was too much of a coward to see that. He didn’t have to change physically, so he didn’t change emotionally.”
Addressing the students, Magary said, “You’re too young, too far away. So I implore you to become self-aware now. Don’t be that person who says I’m not going to apologize for who I am. You’re college students. You should be apologizing for yourself all the time. But think of good ideas and execute them.”
A Q&A session followed Magary’s presentation. A student named Cody asked, “How did you come up with the concept of the novel?”
Magary replied by referencing a “60 Minutes” television segment on red wine. The idea was to drink red wine every day to stay healthy. Scientists were working on synthesizing the chemical in red wine in a way that would potentially allow immortality.
After referencing Plato’s “The Apology,” Dr. Paul Creamer, professor of modern languages, asked, “Having written the novel, do you now have a different attitude toward death?”
Magary answered, “I have been terrified of death all my life.” Magary stated that his mother always told him that death would mean blackness forever. Magary added, “If I think of death as natural and completely necessary — frankly something that is good in that way, then I am less terrified of it.”
A woman asked if Magary would get the cure discussed in the novel. Magary answered, “Yeah!” He elaborated that he would stay married to his wife forever “because she is cool.”
A student asked, “How did your idea for the humanistic cult come about? It seems like “The Postmortal” would be post-religion. How did the Church of Man come out in the book?”
Magary said, “I am very skeptical of religion. Religion is an amalgam of real faith and institutional problems.” Magary added that he might not fear death but would find comfort in worshiping.
After the presentation, Magary talked to students, signed copies of his novel, and posed for pictures.
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