BY MELISSA REESE
Salisbury University’s fall “Writers on the Shore” lineup concluded with guest reader John Surowiecki Wednesday.
Surowiecki has published five poetry collections, including “Watching Cartoons before Attending a Funeral,” “Martha Playing Wiffle Ball in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems” and “Missing Persons.”
His novel “Pie Man” is the recipient of the Nilson Prize for a First Novel. Pie Man is the name of the bakery in the novel.
“Pie Man” explores the life of Adam, who has lived his entire life within the confines of his bedroom. This novel is set after World War II in the 1950s.
“What would it be like if you did indeed spend your entire life in one room?” Surowiecki said.
Surowiecki called Adam a recluse. Adam is interested in films and books, but has little interaction with the outside world.
At first, Surowiecki wanted to write a first-person narrative, but he decided that it would be more interesting to allow other characters to write about their experiences with Adam because Adam remains in his bedroom in the novel. Surowiecki’s favorite character in the novel is Wanda.
“It became a novel of voices,” Surowiecki said. “It became more of written contributions.”
Surowiecki called Adam’s father the voice of reason because he is able to look at things objectively.
Surowiecki said the historical context of the novel drove the story at first, and then the story evolved to a horror story, and, eventually, a love story.
“It starts off as an immigrant story…people from Poland,” Surowiecki said. “Then, it becomes a horror story because the house becomes part of the boy’s personality.”
Surowiecki said that he kept sticky notes all over his desk to remember the personalities and storylines of all his characters.
He said he enjoyed writing so many different characters and giving them each their own voice.
“It’s almost schizophrenic,” Surowiecki said, “but that was the joy of it.”
Surowiecki said he related to Adam. He believes reclusive behavior is becoming more and more prevalent in the U.S.
“I think he’s right,” Surowiecki said. “We have become a nation of hermits, to some degree.”
Surowiecki said that he usually enjoys happy endings, although his poems tend to be darker. Though “Pie Man” ends in death, he still does not consider it that sad.
“I always go for happy endings, but in this one, he dies, so what can you do?” Surowiecki said. “All lives end sadly because they end.”