Lev Rosen Returns to Oberlin with Newly Published Novel

Kara Brooks, Arts Editor

On the night of Nov. 8, a modest yet devoted number of students and faculty gathered in King 106 to hear Lev A.C. Rosen, OC ’03, read passages from his work of fiction.

All eyes were on Rosen as the attendees of his reading towered over him in the massive lecture hall. Nevertheless, Rosen appeared comfortable and familiar with how to perform in front of fellow Obies. Diving into his reading, Rosen perhaps proved himself too familiar as an Obie, as he gulped his water into the microphone and spoke too loudly at times.

Raised in New York City, Rosen attended Oberlin and then Sarah Lawrence College, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing. His work has been featured in Esopus Magazine and various blogs, including Tor.com. On Tuesday, Rosen read from his newly published book, All Men of Genius, which was released in September of this year.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Rosen’s book takes place in a Victorian London that combines the familiar with the fantastical.

The premise of the story: Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a prestigious all-male school founded by Duke Illyria that is intended for the most brilliant and up-and-coming scientific minds. When Violet’s father leaves for America, she disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and fulfills her dream of enrolling in the renowned school. Keeping her sex a secret proves difficult with her prank-pulling friend Jack, and Cecily, the young ward of the school’s founder, who starts to develop feelings for Violet’s male alter ego.

Those in attendance periodically chuckled throughout Rosen’s delivery, though he demonstrated great seriousness amidst the fantastical comedy. Before one particular passage, Rosen reached out to the audience and explained the gravity of what he was about to read. He expressed how he could not divulge too much preparatory background, as it was a painful memory of his. The chapter would have to speak for itself.

During the Q&A session following Rosen’s reading, one faculty member asked Rosen who was his intended audience for All Men of Genius. Charismatically, Rosen answered, “I want people who readHarry Potter fan fiction.” He expressed that his new book was intended for those who had now graduated from Harry Potter, into their adulthood, yet were still nostalgic for their past.

The market for fantasy writing is relatively small, especially for adult literature, and thus Rosen demonstrated great skill in this ability to write a book fulfilling the publishing industry’s need.

All Men of Genius is certainly the book Rosen was made to write. Remembering his fantasy-filled application to Oberlin’s Creative Writing Poetry/Prose workshop, it is clear that the subject has long since seen an interest of his.

With the success of his first book, Rosen returned to Oberlin, where he got his start in creative writing, and was finally able to look at his former professors and say, “I was rejected from that workshop.”