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Rita Dove & James Salter
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 4:30 PM
Berlind Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center

(Princeton, NJ) Poet Rita Dove and novelist James Salter will read at the Lewis Center for the Arts on Wednesday, October 19. The readings begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Berlind Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton. The readings are free and open to the public.

Rita Dove. Photo by Fred Viebahn
Photo by Fred Viebahn

Rita Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995 and as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. She has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and, more recently, the 2003 Emily Couric Leadership Award, the 2001 Duke Ellington Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1997 Sara Lee Frontrunner Award, the 1997 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities and the 1996 National Humanities Medal. In 2006 she received the coveted Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service (together with Anderson Cooper, John Glenn, Mike Nichols and Queen Noor of Jordan), in 2007 she became a Chubb Fellow at Yale University, in 2008 she was honored with the Library of Virginia's Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2009 she received the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal and the Premio Capri (the international prize of the Italian "island of poetry").

Ms. Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar, she received her B.A. summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio and her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She also held a Fulbright scholarship at the Universität Tübingen in Germany. She has published the poetry collections The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), Thomas and Beulah (1986), Grace Notes (1989), Selected Poems (1993), Mother Love (1995), On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), American Smooth (2004), a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985), the novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992), essays under the title The Poet's World (1995), and the play The Darker Face of the Earth, which had its world premiere in 1996 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was subsequently produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Royal National Theatre in London, and other theatres. Seven for Luck, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1998. For "America's Millennium," the White House's 1999/2000 New Year's celebration, Ms. Dove contributed — in a live reading at the Lincoln Memorial, accompanied by John Williams's music — a poem to Steven Spielberg's documentary The Unfinished Journey. She is the editor of The Best American Poetry 2000, and from January 2000 to January 2002 she wrote a weekly column, "Poet's Choice," for The Washington Post. Her latest poetry collection, Sonata Mulattica, was published by W.W. Norton & Company in the spring of 2009. She is the sole editor of The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, due to be released by Penguin Classics on October 25, 2011.

Rita Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband, the writer Fred Viebahn. They have a grown daughter, Aviva Dove-Viebahn.

James Salter. Photo by Lana Rys
Photo by Lana Rys

James Salter is a novelist and short story writer, and is regarded as one of the finest living practitioners by his fellow writers, by critics, and by the lucky readers familiar with his work. Michael Dirda, writing in the Washington Post, said that “he is the contemporary writer most admired and envied by other writers”, and Publishers Weekly stated, "the author of some of the most esteemed fiction of the past three decades."

Salter's subject is human desire in its many manifestations: erotic longing, jealousy, ambition, curiosity, obsession, the needs to triumph, to achieve perfection, to experience life, to be loved, to merely belong. Relationships between men and women most often provide the settings for these penetrating studies of desire.

Salter's prose is admired for its concision and beauty. Observation, memory, speculation, meditation and dialogue accumulate and resolve suddenly into beautiful wholes. In the words of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Salter "constantly strives for such illuminations, usually the effect of a final sentence that crystallizes what has gone before."

James Salter was born in 1925 and raised in New York City. He attended West Point, graduated in 1945, and served in the Army Air Force as a fighter pilot. He resigned his commission in 1957 in order to devote his energies to writing shortly after publication of The Hunters (1956), a first novel based on his experiences during the Korean War.

Salter regards The Hunters, and his second Air Force novel, The Arm of Flesh (1961), as stages in a literary apprenticeship that culminated in his first important novel, A Sport and a Pastime (1967). The novel is about a partly imagined, intense love affair in provincial France. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Reynolds Price called it, "as nearly perfect as any American fiction I know." Webster Schott, also writing in the Times, wrote, "A Sport and a Pastime slowly explodes... It's a tour de force in erotic realism."

Salter's next book, Light Years (1975), records the slow uncoupling of a marriage between a New York architect and his wife in their house on the Hudson River. Writer Brendan Gill proclaimed, "Among contemporary novelists, I can think of no one who has written a novel more beautiful than Light Years. James Salter is the master of a mandarin style that is not a whit less virile for being exquisite. With never a word too many or too few, [Salter] pictures the world in all its perishable loveliness."

Solo Faces (1979) tells the story of an American climber obsessed with a mountain in the French Alps, the Dru, thought to be unscalable. Michael Dirda, writing in The Washington Post, called it, "A beautifully composed book that will remind readers of Camus and Saint-Exupery. It exemplifies the purity it describes." John Irving proclaimed Solo Faces, "A terrific novel-- compelling, sad, wise, and kind-hearted. Mr. Salter’s prose is rare and stunning."

Salter's 1988 collection, Dusk and Other Stories, received the PEN/Faulkner Award. Ned Rorem, writing in the Washington Post, ranked his stories with the works of Flannery O'Connor, Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and John Cheever. New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani said that Salter's stories, ". . . can suggest in a single sentence, an individual's entire history, the complex interplay of longing and fear, hope and need, that has brought about the present."

Richard Eder, writing in the Los Angeles Times, called the collection, "Terse, expertly written, resplendent... it will blow your heart out."

Salter's memoir, Burning the Days (1997), recounts his rich and varied life, including his infatuation with poetry as a youth on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, his alienation as a cadet at West Point, his fifteen years in the military, his love affair with and long residency in Europe, and his career as a writer. Also included are Salter's experiences as a screenwriter: he wrote the acclaimed Downhill Racer (1969), which starred Robert Redford; a 1962 documentary short, Team, Team, Team, took first prize at the Venice Film Festival. “He has written three books that everyone should read before they die,” said the U.K. Independent,”A Sport and a Pastime, Light Years, and his recollection, Burning the Days.”

James Salter is married to playwright Kay Eldredge, and divides his time between Bridgehampton, New York and Colorado. He was a visiting guest at the NYS Writers Institute December 4, 1997.

The Lewis Center's Program in Creative Writing is sponsoring the event as part of the ongoing Althea Ward Clark W'21 reading series, which provides an opportunity for students as well as all in the greater Princeton residential community to hear and meet the best writers of contemporary poetry and fiction. All readings are free and open to the public.

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