Rochester author Jon Chopan speaks to class

Author Jon Chopan
Photo by Jessica Bagdovitz

Professor Brad Korbismeyer gave writer Jon Chopan an alumni award for creative writing. Chopan, was on campus Sept. 7 to lecture as part of the Living Writers Series. Born and raised in Rochester, N.Y., he wrote his first short story in ninth grade because he had a crush on a girl, Chopan said. He said he attended Oswego State because his friend was also attending. He went on to study history and creative writing as an undergraduate, continuing his study of history as a graduate student here, and finally deciding to pursue an MFA in creative non-fiction at Ohio State University. He is now a writer because he loves people, he said.

Jon Chopan’s latest book “Pulled from the River” is a fragmented semi-autobiographical conglomerate of novel, memoir, and meditation encompassing a collection of vignette’s recounting and reflecting on his life in Rochester, New York.

Memories are malleable entities subject to change with each recollection. From the vivid to the vague, Chopan reconstructs his memories with every return in “Pulled from the River,” telling slightly different personal versions of the past. As a result, Chopan’s book defies conventional categorization. It is a fusion of facts and fictions, pasts and presents, the real and the literary. However, these factual ambiguities merely give rise to the truths of his narrative.

For Chopan, truths emerge from the “ridiculous,” as he repeated several times during his talk. The ridiculous ranges from the comic to the tragic, with insight interwoven in the fabric of his memories. This is a primary goal for Chopan, as well as a philosophy of writing that he shared with his audience.

“The writer must make sense of the ridiculous,” Chopan said, particularly when acts from incoherent belligerence to dancing naked in the middle of the road – describing the latter as “an ancient and sacred prayer” – contain fossilized truths of the Rochesterian condition – only for our own to surface upon reading.

Chopan, as narrator and author, writes and leads us from a path with no destination. “I like the not knowing” he disclosed. And at each stage of his 30 years of life he has returned to the same dense forest. Yet, it seems that people have been there as guides each time: whether it was the friend who was attending Oswego, the professor who recommended non-fiction writing, the girl (he liked) who recommended a professor that propelled his writing, or the people of Rochester who gave him life – as a writer and a man. Now Chopan, after getting his first book accepted for publication, is at the edge of the forest again: “I’ve written a book, what the [expletive] do I do next?”