Thursday, January 21, 2010

A "precociously self-aware writer" and her "gifted explicator."

Among the many noteworthy reviews of Anne Frank by Francine Prose is this one by Janet Maslin in the New York Times.

"If there is a central point about Anne here, it is that she was a precociously self-aware writer rather than a spontaneous, ingenuous diarist. It takes a real writer, Ms. Prose points out, to hide the mechanics of her work and make it sound as if she is simply talking to her readers. Similarly, it takes a gifted explicator to make it sound as if she is presenting her arguments conversationally rather than creating elaborate, research-heavy diatribes to back them up."

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Francine Prose on Miep Gies (1909-2010)

Miep Gies, who risked her life for two and a half years sheltering eight Jews, including Anne Frank, from the Nazis, passed away on January 11, 2010 at the age of 100.

Francine Prose, author of Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, has written a memorial essay in the Wall Street Journal.

Quote: "Even or especially now, she might be the person we think of first during those moments when we ask ourselves if the actions of one person can make any difference."

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Reading Like A Writer

Emily Barton asserts in a New York Times review that Francine Prose's 2006 nonfiction bestseller, Reading Like a Writer, makes a much-needed contribution to the small but influential genre of writers' manuals.

"Useful teaching texts are few. For all the wisdom in John Gardner’s Art of Fiction, his sallies against 1970’s experimentalism are aging poorly, and undergrads seem to dislike his curmudgeonly tone. E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel is likewise yellowing at the edges. Classic reference books like Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and William K. Zinsser’s On Writing Well are thorough sources for writers of both fiction and nonfiction, but their focus on grammar and other supposedly arcane topics makes them slow going. (Maira Kalman’s illustrations for the new edition of The Elements of Style at least illuminate the Strunkian demands with quirky panache.) Eudora Welty's One Writer’s Beginnings, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing are heartening, but perhaps because they’re so personal, the advice to be gleaned from them is scattershot.

"Another difficulty faced by writing teachers is, paradoxically, the lack of interest many students show in reading. And those who do read often lack the training to observe subtle writerly clues. There’s a real need, then, for Reading Like a Writer — a primer both for aspiring writers and for readers who’d like to increase their sensitivity to the elements of the writer’s craft.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Aupres de ma blonde

Don't miss Dr. Allen Ballard-- who kicks off the Fall schedule on Feb. 2-- accompanying himself to Aupres de ma blonde on YouTube. And while you're at it, preview some of the gospel songs on his new CD, "Early This Morning."

UAlbany has a profile of the beloved faculty member on it's "People" page. And if the Philadelphia of Ballard's new novel piques your interest, you may wish to read One More Day's Journey, a memoir of his family's Great Migration from rural South Carolina to the mean streets of the City of Brotherly Love.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Writers Institute Announces Spring 2010 Visiting Writers Series and Classic Film Series

Francine Prose, Walter Mosley, Chang-rae Lee, Lydia Davis, Michael Ondaatje, and Jules Feiffer among Spring 2010 visitors to the New York State Writers Institute....

Albany, NY — The New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany announces its Spring 2010 schedule of visiting writer appearances and film series screenings. Events take place on the UAlbany uptown and downtown campuses and are free and open to the public (unless otherwise noted).

Visiting Writer Series

February 2 (Tuesday): Allen Ballard, novelist

Reading — 7:00 p.m., [Note early start time] Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Allen Ballard, novelist, historian and UAlbany Professor of History and Africana Studies, earned national attention with the publication of Where I’m Bound (2000), a Washington Post Notable Book, and one of the first novels to address the Civil War from the perspective of Black soldiers. His new novel is Carried by Six (2009), an urban thriller about a group of ordinary African American citizens determined to rid their Philadelphia neighborhood of drugs and violence.

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Departments of Africana Studies and History, EOP Program, and Affirmative Action Office

February 4 (Thursday): Francine Prose, novelist and nonfiction writer

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Reading — 8:00 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Francine Prose, novelist and nonfiction writer, is author of Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife (2009), a work of literary history and criticism that celebrates the under-appreciated artistry of the well-known diarist. Prose’s work includes the novels A Changed Man (2005), winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction and Blue Angel (2001), a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer (2006).

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Center for Jewish Studies

February 11 (Thursday): Fred LeBrun, journalist

Reading/Talk — 8:00 p.m. Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Fred LeBrun, one of the defining voices of the Albany Times-Union for more than forty years, has served the newspaper as suburban beat reporter, city editor, arts editor, restaurant critic, and foremost commentator on state politics. LeBrun is also known for his “Hudson River Chronicles,” in which he recounts an 18-day adventure downriver from Mount Marcy to New York Harbor in 1998— a portion of which he repeated in 2009 to commemorate the Hudson 400.

Rescheduled from Fall 2009

Cosponsored by the Women’s Press Club of New York State

February 18 (Thursday): Norberto Fuentes, journalist

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Standish Room, Science Library

Reading — 8:00 p.m. Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Norberto Fuentes, Cuban journalist, Hemingway scholar, early friend and confidante of Fidel Castro, and sometime political prisoner of the Castro regime, is the author of the satirical faux-memoir The Autobiography of Fidel Castro (2004, English translation 2009). Fuentes is also the author of Hemingway in Cuba (1985) and Ernest Hemingway: Rediscovered (1988).

March 4 (Thursday): Lydia Davis, short story writer and novelist

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Reading — 8:00 p.m., Assembly Hall, Campus Center

Lydia Davis, leading artist of the short story form, New York State Writers Institute Fellow, and 2003 MacArthur Foundation fellowship winner, has been called “the best prose stylist in America” (Rick Moody). Her newest book is The Collected Stories (2009), a compilation of stories from four previously published volumes including Varieties of Disturbance, Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2001), Almost No Memory (1997) and Break it Down (1986).

March 11 (Thursday): AUTHORS THEATRE: Women Playwrights of the Early 20th Century

Staged Reading — 7:30 p.m. [Note early start time], Assembly Hall, Campus Center

The Writers Institute will present staged readings of short, rediscovered, early 20th century plays highlighted in the new volume Women Writers of the Provincetown Players (2009) by UAlbany English Professor Judith E. Barlow. Enormously influential in American drama, the Provincetown Players (1915-22) featured a number of notable women among its playwrights including Susan Glaspell, Djuna Barnes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Neith Boyce, Louise Bryant, Rita McCann Wellman, and Alice Rostetter.

March 16 (Tuesday): Jules Feiffer, editorial cartoonist and author

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Reading — 8:00 p.m., Terrace Gallery, 4th Floor, Cultural Education Center, Albany

Jules Feiffer, one of the most influential editorial cartoonists of the last half century, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for work that appeared as part of his long-running strip in the Village Voice. A writer as well as an artist, Feiffer has earned distinction in many genres, including fiction, children’s literature, drama, and screenwriting. His new book is a memoir of his Bronx childhood and early career, Backing into Forward (2010).

Cosponsored by Friends of the New York State Library

March 18 (Thursday): American Place Theatre performance of Three Cups of Tea

Performance — 7:30 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Pre-performance discussion at 7:00 p.m.

$15 general public; $12 seniors and faculty/staff; $10 students

Box Office: (518) 442-3997;

American Place Theatre presents a one-person theatrical adaptation of the uplifting true story of renowned humanitarian Greg Mortenson who, following a failed attempt to scale Pakistan’s K2 (the world’s second highest mountain), went on to found girls’ schools throughout mountainous regions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The program includes pre- and post-show discussions with a teaching artist from American Place Theatre.

Presented by the Performing Arts Center in conjunction with the New York State Writers Institute. Support provided by University Auxiliary Services and Holiday Inn Express.

March 23 (Tuesday): Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher, fiction and nonfiction writer

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Science Library 340

Reading — 8:00 p.m., Science Library 340

Rebecca Goldstein, writer, MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and professor of philosophy, is the author of the new novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God (2010), the humorous tale of a celebrity psychologist and his struggles with fame, truth, illusion, atheism, and belief. Goldstein is also the author of the novels Properties of Light (2000), Mazel (1995), which won the National Jewish Book Award, and The Mind-Body Problem (1983).

Cosponsored by UAlbany’s Center for Jewish Studies

April 8 (Thursday): Chang-rae Lee, fiction writer

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center 375

Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Chang-rae Lee, Korean American novelist whose work explores the modern Asian immigrant experience, received the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for his first novel, Native Speaker (1995), and was named one of the 20 best American novelists under 40 by the New Yorker in 1999. His new novel is The Surrendered (2010), the epic story of a Korean orphan, an American GI, and a troubled missionary wife who meet during the immediate aftermath of the Korean War. His other books include A Gesture Life (1999), a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Aloft (2004).

April 12 (Monday): Authors Theatre: Stephen Adly Guirgis, playwright

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center 375

Reading — 8:00 p.m., Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center

Stephen Adly Guirgis, 1990 UAlbany graduate, is one of the leading playwrights of his generation. His works include “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” (2005), named one of the “10 Best Plays of the Year” by Time and Entertainment Weekly, and “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” (2000) winner of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award.

April 14 (Wednesday): Michael Ondaatje, poet and novelist, and Linda Spalding, fiction and nonfiction writer

Seminar — 4:00 p.m., Rensselaer (RPI) Campus, Troy (exact location TBA)

Reading and McKinney Award Ceremony — 8:00 p.m., Darrin Communication Center 308, Rensselaer (RPI), Troy

Michael Ondaatje, who has received critical acclaim for both his fiction and poetry, is best-known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient (1992), later adapted as an Oscar-winning film.

Sri Lankan by birth, Ondaatje is a four-time winner of the Governor General’s Award in Literature in his adopted home country of Canada. He is married to Linda Spalding, with whom he coedits the literary journal, Brick.

Linda Spalding, Kansas-born Canadian fiction and nonfiction writer, often explores world cultures and the clash between contemporary life and traditional beliefs. Her most recent book is Who Named the Knife (2007), the true story of the murder trial of Maryann Acker, a teenager sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed while on honeymoon in Hawaii. Spalding’s earlier books include the novels The Paper Wife (1996), and Daughters of Captain Cook (1989), and the nonfiction book A Dark Place in the Jungle (1998), about renowned orangutan expert Birute Galdikas.

Cosponsored in conjunction with Rensselaer’s 69th McKinney Writing Contest and Reading

April 22 (Thursday): Walter Mosley, novelist

Seminar — 4:15 p.m., Campus Center 375

Reading — 8:00 p.m. Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown campus

Walter Mosley, award-winning author of 30 books, is one of America’s leading writers of hardboiled detective fiction. Mosley is best-known for a series of eleven mystery novels set in L. A. featuring the African American private investigator Easy Rawlins. Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) received the Shamus Award from Private Eye Writers of America and was adapted as a film starring Denzel Washington in 1995. His latest novel, Known To Evil (2010), is the second in a new series featuring Leonid McGill, a Black criminal-turned-detective who plys his trade in New York City.

Classic Film Series

February 19 (Friday): LOLA

Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Jacques Demy

Starring Anouk Aimée, Marc Michel, Jacques Harden

(France, 1961, 90 minutes, b/w, in French with English subtitles)

With spectacular camera work, Jacques Demy pays tribute to the “Lolas” of Max Ophuls’ 1955 Lola Montes and Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 The Blue Angel in this New Wave reinterpretation of the classic tale of a beautiful cabaret singer and the men in her thrall.


Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Ousmane Sembene.

Starring Sidiki Bakaba, Hamed Camara, Philippe Chamelat

(Senegal, 1987, 157 minutes, color, in Wolof and French with English subtitles)

A group of African soldiers who fought valiantly for France during World War II are detained in a prison camp at war’s end because their French colonial masters have grown uneasy with the equality the men have achieved on the battlefield. Sembene’s semi-autobiographical film received the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.


Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Marco Bellocchio

Starring Lou Castel, Paola Pitagora, Marino Masé

(Italy, 1965, 105 minutes, b/w, in Italian with English subtitles)

A shocking and influential black comedy of the Italian New Wave, Fists in the Pocket features the exploits of a disturbed young man who kills off members of his peculiar family to “save” them from various medical afflictions. In the words of one Italian critic, “When it came out, it ripped the collective film imagination to shreds.”


Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Assia Djebar

Starring Sawsan Noweif, Mohamed Haymour, Zohra Sahraoui

(Algeria, 1977, 115 minutes, color, in Arabic with English subtitles)

In her inventive, experimental debut as film director, major Maghrebi fiction writer Assia Djebar borrows the structure of the nouba, a five-part traditional song, to tell the story of a woman who returns to the town of her childhood fifteen years after the violent War of Independence.


Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda

Starring Arata, Erika Oda, Susumu Terajima

(Japan, 1998, 118 minutes, color, in Japanese with English subtitles)

A deliberately spare, thoughtful work, After Life presents a kind of antechamber to heaven in which the recently deceased are asked to choose a single cherished memory to preserve for all eternity. Stephen Holden of the New York Times called it a “brilliant, humorous, transcendently compassionate film.”

April 9 (Friday): LE JOUR SE LÈVE [DAYBREAK]

Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Marcel Carné

Starring Jean Gabin, Jules Berry, Arletty

(France, 1939, 88 minutes, b/w, in French with English subtitles)

A factory worker kills his rival in love, then barricades himself inside his apartment to weather an armed siege by the police, all the while recalling the events that led to the crime. A masterpiece of “realist” cinema from major French director Marcel Carné.

April 16 (Friday): THE TALES OF HOFFMANN

Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Starring Moira Shearer, Ludmilla Tchérina, Anne Ayars

(United Kingdom, 1951, 128 minutes, color)

A young man’s dreams of past romantic adventures come to life on the screen in this exquisite blend of music, ballet and cinematic effects. Directed by the famous team of Powell and Pressburger (The Red Shoes), and based on the 1881 opera by Jacques Offenbach and the stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann.

April 23 (Friday): LITTLE OLD NEW YORK

Film Screening—7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Directed by Sidney Olcott

Starring Marion Davies, Stephen Carr, J. M. Kerrigan

(United States, 1923, 106 minutes, b/w)

SILENT with live piano accompaniment by Mike Schiffer

An Irish immigrant lass comes to New York City disguised as a boy to claim her dead brother’s inheritance in this charming historical drama set against the background of real events, including the 1807 launch of Robert Fulton’s steamboat on the Hudson River.

For additional information contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at

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