By: Mia Vitale
I never knew Perry Glasser, never took his classes or found myself needing his help in any particular situation and to be quite honest didn’t know what he looked like until I found myself in the Professional Writing offices last year.
At any point in my Salem State career when it came time to look for my classes I gravitated towards the website ratemyprofessor.com, a website that allowed a teacher’s previous students an outlet to let the next group of students know the ups and downs that come with taking their class. As I scrolled through in an effort to get a better understanding of this man I knew nothing about there didn’t seem to be room for any negative comments. Individuals seemed to reflect on their time with him as something the cherished and valued, that beyond being an amazing professor he in almost all instances was an even better person. He was “tagged” being both a caring and hilarious by individuals, respected by all, noted as someone you need to take if you yourself want to be a “real writer”.
So on this particular Tuesday night, April 12, 2017, I find myself waiting to see if the strongly recognized person was as good a writer and reader as they seemed to lead on. Lined up in 123CC were collections of black and red chairs, in meticulous rows, one arm next to another listeners began to gather, they came in singles and doubles and seemed to sit as such. There came teachers and students and others in which I had never seen before, though seemed to either know or have known this man, or like me only knew him from a singular passing a year ago.
As he walked into the room, he began to put down his things and keeping on a hat with the word “facts” written in large bold letters. What an odd hat I thought to myself, what an odd hat to wear to this reading, what types of “facts” was he trying to bring attention to especially in the form of a hat.
Professor J.D. Scrimgeour, introduced Glasser listing his many works and at the same time his recognition in the concentration of Professional Writing, a program he worked to improve in the Salem State English Department. Scrimgeour reminded us that in the back of the room contained a few stacks of Glasser’s works that were available to purchase, thinking to myself, maybe if I like his reading, I’ll buy one of his books. As Scrimgeour wrapped up his opening remarks, he introduced Michael DeFiore, a former student, who spoke about Glasser not as a professor, but as a friend.
As we clapped, DeFiore stepped away from the podium, leaving Glasser to
rise. He thanked both Scrimgeour and DeFiore for the kind words. Glasser then asked the question, “Are you offended by four letter words?”. This left me sitting in the back row questioning not if I was offended, but instead how many offensive four letter words there were in the English language.
He had planned to read to us from a piece he had been working on since his retirement, a section he had “not yet annointed done” but realized he had other less completed pieces to work on. The story was about prostitutes and sailors and New Orleans, Louisiana, a time in which he said he knew nothing about, although he found creating the story to be much more beneficial because as he has grown older he knows next to nothing of the time he is now living in. “The older I get the less I understand”, and he began to read.
“Dramatic and scary instead of funny”, that was the tone of the piece he told the audience he would be reading from. So he spoke, he went on speaking and reading from this piece, leaving me to count the offensive four letter words as they flew out of his mouth.
In 1967 Perry Glasser was nineteen, which is when the excerpt that he read took place. He was enough to be able to tell a story from this time understanding what was going on in the U.S. As he read his final words he began to look up, letting out a large sigh, “Well, nobody left.”
As the time seemed to closely be coming to an end he took a few questions, mainly about his process when writing or the time frame it takes him to complete a work. He told us that there is no true time frame in which he allows himself to finish within. This also has to do with how he makes up the story, while he can have a true idea of what point A and point B are, the process from how a character gets through a particular scene or chanpter can be unknown and even change drastically as the story progresses.
One of the final questions had to do with the hat. This hat had left me with questions so it was only fitting that it made someone else feel the same way. He told us that he worked in a field that required him to understand the “facts”, and unlike other writers, Glasser is an individual who believes that there are no alternate facts, or fake news. What facts are has to do with being “verifiable” and “unarguable”. Fiction on the other hand isn’t shaped by the same rules of factual journalism as fiction contains its own set of alternate facts and can be shaped based on the author itself. Though just when he made you think a little deeper about this hat that was placed upon his head he mentioned with a small smile that it is also there “to keep my head warm”.
When the reading was done and he thanked us for attending it left me with an uncertain feeling, almost of disappointment knowing that he was never my teacher and never would be. I never knew Perry Glasser, and still don’t, although from this evening’s reading, I think I might now know him a little better.