BY RONALD HANAKI
SC Staff Writer
One Name, Two Fates, another evening discussion of The Other Wes Moore, was held on October 9th in the Moore Biology Building.
The Other Wes Moore was chosen as the book to be read in ESU’s “One Book, One Campus” series. It tells the story of two boys named Wes Moore who grew up in the cities of New York and Baltimore. The New York Wes Moore became a Rhodes Scholar and an accomplished business leader. The Maryland Wes Moore is now serving a life sentence for felony murder. Their life stories are used to explore why one man was able to succeed in life, and why the other man was not able to do so.
The evening’s discussion was led by Modern Languages professor Dr. Paul Creamer. The outline of his presentation encompassed the following: the tradition of biography, the tradition of autobiography, recent trends in the study of autobiography, and a consideration of The Other Wes Moore.
In contrast to other evening discussions, Dr. Creamer’s discussion was probably the most grounded in literary scholarship. He began by talking about the tradition of biography from pre-literature culture to today. Eschewing a traditional lecture format, Dr. Creamer tried to draw the audience into the discussion by asking them questions. He asked, “Do you enjoy and trust biography as a genre?” His technique was effective as several students chimed in with their answers and opinions.
He went on to discuss the tradition of autobiography from approximately 400 C.E. to today. As he did so, Dr. Creamer noted that it took some one thousand years to move from biography as a genre to autobiography. He then mentioned Andy Warhol’s famous quote that “in the future, everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame.” This led the professor to ask about the question of authenticity in autobiography. He asked, “Can the writer get her or his own self right?”
Dr. Creamer then talked about recent trends in the study of autobiography and finally gave his take on the book. In his opinion, The Other Wes Moore is really two books in one. It is both an autobiography of the New York Wes Moore and a biography of the Maryland Wes Moore. He said that the book was a double helix: two strands of survival that were both held together and separately by each Wes Moore’s story. So there is a sort of double validation through double narration.
Ultimately, the book explores the theme of survival. Dr. Creamer quoted Blaise Pascal who said that “Man finds himself positioned between the gulfs of nothingness and infinity.” He also quoted Albert Camus who spoke of “finding meaning in the alleged absurdity of human life by giving one’s finite self a self-assigned purpose.”
As Dr. Peter Pruim, professor of Philosophy, joined Dr. Creamer at the front of thfe room, these quotes became the starting points to the evening’s discussion. Many students joined the professors in a stimulating discussion of the book’s themes as well as the genres of biography and autobiography.
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