Behrend Students treated to alumnus Eugene Cross’s story collection - The Behrend Beacon

Behrend Students treated to alumnus Eugene Cross’s story collection

Posted on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Author: Lacey Murdock (staff writer)

Eugene Cross returned to Behrend on Nov. 8 to read from his book of short stories, “Fires of Our Choosing,” but instead of reading just any stories from his book, he treated the audience to some new material of his, a short story called “Coke vs. Pop. vs. Soda.”

Cross previously taught here at Penn State Behrend for five years before moving to Chicago.  Cross was a teacher in the creative writing degree program and is now considered to be one of the “20 best new writers,” according to Narrative Magazine.  In 2009, Cross won the Dzanc Prize for writing workshops that took place right here in Erie; shortly after, in 2010, “Fires of Our Choosing,” his first book of short stories, was published.  

“Coke vs. Pop vs. Soda” was the story of a couple who had been together for over a year and had fallen into a loveless relationship. After the painless breakup, the man starts on an odd adventure where he meets another character that seems to be in a terrible identity crisis. 

  With Cross’s descriptive writing style, the audience felt like they were there, sitting across from this strange man as he cried over not understanding who he was or what was going on. This story was filled with things that happen every day but it also confronted the things that terrify us. This included unsatisfying relationships, grim and purposeless lives, the fear of not having an identity and even a life without happiness. Yet even as Cross describes the couple’s “general disappointment with each other,” he still makes the audience chuckle. 

When questioned after the reading about the strange man’s true identity, Cross did not have an answer. “I still don’t know yet,” Cross said.

“The best kind of stories are the ones that write themselves,” Cross said, and that was exactly what happened when he began to write this story. This self-written story was still in draft form but hopefully soon we will be able to read “Coke vs. Pop vs. Soda again.