Shelf Life - Wacker

Two members of the Moravian community recently published their first books: one a scholarly monograph, the other a novella. Neither they nor their authors could be more different.

Not in the same genre but an achievement in itself is B.A.S.E., a novella by George Wacker ’03, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

The initialed title of George’s book stands for the four pillars of base-jumping, an extreme sport that takes its devotees to high spots (buildings, antennae, spans, and earth) from which they jump with parachutes. George’s protagonist, Christian, a young man of 21, jumps from one of the sport’s most popular sites, Angel Falls in Venezuela. But his chute fails to open, and his life flashes before his eyes.

As are most first books, it is autobiographical, up to a point. The search of a young man for his identity, written by someone of the same age, always can be seen as a metaphor of the writer’s own search for identity. But their circumstances are very different.

George Robert Emerson Wacker grew up in the Poconos and came to Moravian after getting to know the Lehigh Valley through his brother, who worked at KidsPeace. The name on the title page of B.A.S.E. is Geo Re Wacker because of his two middle names: “My mom couldn’t decide on one, so she gave me two,” he says comically.

He already had begun writing at 16, as a reporter for the Wayne Independent in Honesdale. He now has a job with the Easton Express-Times, working in the Allentown bureau and covering the city schools.

George credits his advisor, Joel Wingard, with polishing his professional skills: “I trained to do journalism at Moravian,” he says. The intensive writing practice he learned from Joyce Hinnefeld gave him the impetus to start on the novella last summer.

Christian’s life is more traumatic. In high school, his sister was murdered, which fractured his family and pushed his mother over the edge of psychosis. “This isn’t me,” George says. “I like my family too much. And my sister is alive and well and living in New Jersey.”
George made Christian a base-jumper because of what it said about his on-the-edge existence: “I wanted to know what is the psychology of people who do this.”

His own athletic activities are a little more tame. “I’ve always been a traditionalist,” he says, “and I’ve always been a track guy, myself.”
The book has been published by Xlibris, a Philadelphia house specializing in an up-and-coming format called “print on demand.”

“You know about vanity publishing,” George says. “You used to have to pay between $2,000 and $3,500 to publish your own book. Mine had an upfront cost of a couple of hundred dollars, which I’ve already almost made back. And I don’t have a deluge of a thousand books that I’ll never be able to sell.” Xlibris has direct links to retailers such as Barnes & Noble and, as well as sales through its own website.

While he waits to hit the New York Times best-seller list, George will graduate, after which he wants to keep working at the Express-Times. Unlike a lot of first novelists, he has no plans to quit his day job.

B.A.S.E. by Geo Re Wacker. Xlibris, 2003. 113 pages. $17.84 paperback, $8 e-book.

April 15, 2003

Shelf Life - Skalnik:
Two Moravians publish their first books. James Skalnik, assistant dean for academic advising, a scholarly monograph on a 16th-century French educational reformer.
Shelf Life - Wacker:
Two Moravians publish their first books. George Wacker '03, a novella about a young man's search for identity.
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