Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts Program in Creative Writing Announces Spring Reading Series
February 5, 2008
Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts, Program in Creative Writing, announces the spring Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Series. The popular series, which has featured such esteemed writers as Richard Ford, Anne Beattie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Dave Eggers and Charles Wright, will continue its tradition of bringing a dazzling and diverse array of established and emerging novelists, short story
writers, memoirists and poets to Princeton.
The series will begin on February 13th with a reading by fiction writer Etgar Keret and essayist Phillip Lopate. Mr. Keret, an Israeli short story writer and “graphic novelist,” blends the banal with the surreal to probe the paradoxes of life in post-Sharon Israel. He is the author of three collections of stories, The Girl on the Fridge (April 2008), The Nimrod Flipout (2006) and The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories (2004). Phillip Lopate (along with his brother Leonard) brilliantly exemplifies the long tradition of the “New York Man of Letters.” Mr. Lopate, who was born in Brooklyn and is Professor of English at Hofstra University, is an accomplished essayist, memoirist, novelist, poet, film critic and travel writer. In a review of Lopate’s Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan (2004), the Conde-Nast Traveler commented, “The celebrated essayist takes a tour of the city’s ever-changing perimeter, sharing his knowledge of New York’s history, mythology, and plans for the future. Poring over his
informed, readable prose is like taking a stroll with a favorite professor: he is opinionated, casual, and erudite in equal measure.”
On February 20th, poet Natasha Trethewey and fiction writer George Saunders will read from their work. Ms. Trethewey, who was born in Gulfport, Mississippi and teaches Creative Writing at Emory University, has written three collections of poetry including Native Guard (2006), for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. In Native Guard, Trethewey intermingles the private memories of her bi-racial childhood in the Deep South with the public (and tragic) history of the Louisiana Native Guards – a black regiment in the Civil War. The distinguished poet Rita Dove said of Trethewey’s poetry, “Trethewey eschews the Polaroid instant, choosing to render the unsuspecting yearnings and tremulous hopes that accompany our most private thoughts ...” Born in Amarillo, Texas, short story writer and essayist George Saunders grew up on the south side of Chicago and began his career as a geophysical engineer, working for a time in Sumatra with an oil exploration geophysics crew. Now a member of the creative writing faculty at Syracuse University, he has received both a MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim Fellowship. His most recent book, The Braindead Megaphone (2007) – the “braindead megaphone,” is a metaphor for the numbing effect of today’s sensationalist media – is a trenchant collection of essays on literature, travel and politics that deals with the absurdity of consumerism and corporate culture. Often compared to Kurt Vonnegut, Saunders writes stories –many published in the New Yorker – that are a strange and sardonic trip through the American landscape.
Mary Karr and Honor Moore, both poets and non-fiction writers, will read on February 27th. In 1995, Ms. Karr was an emerging poet known for a direct style that reflected her no-holds-barred, Parnassus essay, “Against Decoration,” when her vivid memoir of a turbulent East Texas childhood, The Liar’s Club, became a New York Times bestseller for over a year and was generally named one of the best books of that year. The Liar’s Club, along with memoirs by Tobias Wolff and Frank McCourt, helped finally gain the memoir coequal status with other contemporary literary forms. She has continued to write poetry collections and memoirs that garner high praise, and her third memoir, Lit, will be published this year. Ms. Moore, who is best known for her three volumes of poetry, Red Shoes (2006), Darling (2001) and Memoir (1988), has also received recognition for her biography, The White Blackbird: a Life of the Painter Margarett Sargent by Her Granddaughter (1996). In 2004, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on a memoir, The Bishop’s Daughter, which will be published this
year. Of this memoir, Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, wrote, “The Bishop’s Daughter is an unsparing portrait of a glamorous but elusive father and his daughter’s search for the truth about his secret life and conflicted loyalties.”
On March 12th, fiction writers Amy Hempel and Jennifer Egan will give a reading. Ms. Hempel is one of the finest American writers of short stories. The first story she ever wrote, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” has been widely anthologized since its 1983 publication in TriQuarterly. Hempel’s most recent collection of stories, The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (2006), was one of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year and a finalist for the PEN-Faulkner Award. Often called a
“writer’s writer,” Hempel employs an original minimalist style to explore what it means to survive. Besides writing journalism and short stories, Ms. Egan is the author of three novels, The Keep (2006), Look at Me (2001) and The Invisible Circus (1996). A postmodern take on the gothic novel, The Keep was on the “Best Books” lists of both the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. In a review of The Keep, Francine Prose of People Magazine observed, “Dazzling... Egan gets everything right – from the convolutions of the strung-out male mind to the self-deceptions of a drug addict – and her
skill will keep you marveling at the pages that you can’t help turning.”
Novelist Claire Messud and poet Edward Hirsch will read on March 26th. Ms. Messud, whose mother is Canadian and father of Algerian origin, was born in the United States, grew up in Australia and Canada, and returned to the United States as a teenager. In all of her writing, including her most recent novel, The Emperor’s Children (2006), which is being adapted into a film by Ron Howard, she explores the chasm between subjective and objective reality and the ways in which people struggle to bridge that chasm in their lives. Called a novelist of “unnerving talent,” Messud has created in The
Emperor’s Children what New York Times book reviewer Meghan O’Rourke has described as a “masterly comedy of manners – an astute and poignant evocation of hobnobbing glitterati in the months before and immediately following September 11th.” Edward Hirsch, a true Renaissance man, is a poet and literary critic who published seven collections of poems, four books of prose, and edited Theodore Roethke’s Selected Poems (2005) and a host of critical works. His book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (1999) was a national bestseller. Hirsch has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature and a MacArthur Fellowship. He is the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In his latest and most personal book of poems, Special Orders (2008), he examines what he calls “the minor triumphs, the major failures” of his life thus far.
On April 9th, fiction writers Gary Shteyngart and Rick Moody will read from their work. Mr. Shteygnart, who was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1972 and came to the United States seven years later, is the Class of 1932 Fellow in Creative Writing at Princeton and a lecturer in Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing. He is the author of the highly-acclaimed The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2003). His most recent novel, the wickedly satirical Absurdistan (2006) portrays the adventures of Misha Vainberg, the 325-pound son of the 1,238th-richest man in Russia, as he tries to make his way back to his one true love in the South Bronx. Absurdistan was chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time Magazine, and named book of the year by the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times and many other publications. New Yorker Rick Moody has authored four novels, three collections of short stories and a memoir. His first novel, Garden State (1992), which is about young people growing up in the industrial wasteland of northern New Jersey, received the Editor’s Choice Award from Pushcart Press. His
second novel, The Ice Storm (1994), which relates the dissolution of two families in suburban Connecticut during the Thanksgiving weekend of 1973, was adapted into a feature film directed by Ang Lee. The Boston Globe has called Moody’s writing “sometimes swashbuckling, sometimes laserlike” and gone on to note that this writer can “spin out the absurdity of human behavior in giddy syntactic arabesques, or nail it with a single noun.”
James McMichael and Lucie Brock-Broido will read from their poetry on April 23. Mr. McMichael has written six books of poems and two books of nonfiction. He is best known for his long poem “Four Good Things” (1980), an autobiographical meditation on life, death and real-estate, set in southern California, where he makes his home. Of Mr. McMichael’s poetry, poet and Princeton Creative Writing Program faculty member C.K. Williams has said: “James McMichael has for many years been one of our most innovative poets, with a broad thematic range, and a passionate commitment to the truths of life and art. His poems are at once as capacious as novels, formally inventive, and emotionally profound.” Ms. Brock-Broido, a professor in the Writing Division of Columbia University’s School of the Arts, is the author of three collections of poetry: Trouble in Mind (2004), The Master Letters (1995) and A Hunger (1988). Described by the critic Stephen Burt as an “elliptical poet,” she has received many honors, including the Witter-Bynner prize of Poetry, the Jerome J. Shestack Poetry Prize from the
American Poetry Review, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim fellowship. Publisher’s Weekly had this to say about Brock-Brodio, “With Trouble in Mind, her long-awaited third collection, Lucie Brock-Brodio has written her most exceptional poems to date. There is a new clarity to her work, a disquieting transparency, even in the midst of the wild thickets of language for which she is known…Trouble in Mind is a book that astonishes us afresh at the agility and the uncanny will of language, which Brock-Brodio is not afraid to follow where it may lead her.”
The spring series will conclude with three student readings. On April 30th, a group of students from the Program in Creative Writing spring classes will read from their work. Following this reading, those seniors who have elected to write a creative thesis will read. The May 6th senior thesis reading will feature poetry and translation, and May 7th one, fiction. Many exciting new writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything Is Illuminated (2002), have made their debuts at these end-of-the semester student readings.
All readings are free and open to the public. Unless otherwise indicated, all readings will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ‘32 Film Theater, located in the Lewis Center for the Arts at 185 Nassau Street. A reception and book signing will be held in the lobby of the Lewis Center after each reading. All are welcome. The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational
experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee. For more information about the Lewis Center for the Arts visit www.princeton.edu/art