Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Roger Ebert on Kinyarwanda

"I thought I knew something about Rwanda, but I didn't really know very much. I was moved by Hotel Rwanda (2004), but not really shaken this deeply. Not like this.... Here is a powerful film."

Full review by Roger Ebert:  http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20111130%2FREVIEWS%2F111139995

Kinyarwanda will be screened 9/28, 7:30pm at Page Hall, followed by a Q&A with Rwandan star actress Hadidja Zaninka and producer Darren Dean.

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A Rare Privilege for Writers Institute Audiences

Hadidja Zaninka, star of Kinyarwanda, a film that won the Sundance Film Festival's World Cinema Audience Award, will be in attendance at our screening of the film.

She herself has seen the film only once before (despite being the star) because access to the film is strictly limited in Rwanda.

Albany is the first stop on her US road trip.

This is also her first trip out to the US and (the filmmakers believe but haven't confirmed) her first trip out of southern Africa. It was difficult for her to obtain a visa, despite the success of the film which has won many international awards. Obtaining a visa required a direct appeal to the President of Rwanda.

More on the film:  http://www.kinyarwandamovie.com/

More on the event: 
September 28 (Friday)Film screening — 7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus
Written and directed by Alrick Brown
(United States, Rwanda, France, 2011, 100 minutes, color)
In English and Kinyarwanda with English subtitles

Winner of the World Cinema Audience award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, KINYARWANDA is based on the heroic true story of local Muslim clergy who risked their lives to save both Tutsi and pacifist Hutu—Christians as well as Muslims—during the Rwandan genocide. In a four star review, Roger Ebert said, “Here is a powerful film.”

NOTE: The film’s producer Darren Dean and leading Rwandan actress Hadidja Zaninka will answer questions immediately after the screening.

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Rwandan Actress to Visit US for first time

Dear Filmgoers and All Members of the General Public,

We invite you to attend the following FREE event:

KINYARWANDA catered reception, film screening and Q&A with Rwandan actress Hadidja Zaninka and producer Darren Dean
After a prolonged period of uncertainty and a direct appeal to the President of Rwanda, Hadidja Zaninka (pictured here), a young Rwandan Muslim and star of the award-winning film Kinyarwanda, was finally granted permission to visit the US. Based on fact, the film highlights the heroism of Rwanda’s Muslim minority in saving lives during the genocide. The first event of Hadidja’s road trip with American producer Darren Dean will be here in Albany. She will be arriving in the US Thursday and speaking here Friday. This is her first visit to the US. Because access to the film is controlled in Rwanda, she has viewed it only once before. She may choose to sit through it here to have the experience of seeing it with an American audience. The filmmakers have tried to get her an exit visa before to no avail.

September 28 (Friday)

Catered reception – 6:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

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

Written and directed by Alrick Brown

(United States, Rwanda, France, 2011, 100 minutes, color)

In English and Kinyarwanda with English subtitles

Winner of the World Cinema Audience award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, KINYARWANDA is based on the heroic true story of local Muslim clergy who risked their lives to save both Tutsi and pacifist Hutu—Christians as well as Muslims—during the Rwandan genocide. In a four star review, Roger Ebert said, “Here is a powerful film.”

NOTE: The film’s producer Darren Dean and leading Rwandan actress Hadidja Zaninka (pictured here) will answer questions immediately after the screening.

The film is part of the Justice & Multiculturalism in the 21st Century Film Series: Justice & Multiculturalism in the 21st Century is a multifaceted project aimed at engaging conversations about the intersection of social justice and criminal justice in an increasingly diverse society. UAlbany’s School of Criminal Justice and the Writers Institute are partnering to present six films over the next year that will explore these issues. Topics that will be explored during the fall 2012 series are genocide, capital punishment, and terrorism. Each screening will be followed by a discussion. For additional information on the Justice & Multiculturalism in the 21st Century project go to: http://www.albany.edu/justiceinstitute/.

Some additional information:

For more information contact the Writers Institute at writers@albany.edu or 442-5620.


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Junot Diaz reviewed in the New York Times

"Junot Díaz writes in an idiom so electrifying and distinct it’s practically an act of aggression, at once alarming and enthralling, even erotic in its assertion of sudden intimacy...."

Read more of Leah Hager Cohen's review of Diaz's This is How You Lose Her in last Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

Diaz visits on Thursday Oct. 4th.

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Anatomy of a Short Story

The New Yorker's Lee Ellis interviews Paul La Farge (who visits Albany on Thursday) about his short story "Another Life," and what makes it tick.

We posted a link last week to "Another Life," a story of marital infidelity that appeared in the New Yorker in July. Link here.

La Farge:  I knew roughly what was going to happen in “Another Life” before I began, but I didn’t know that it would be divided into two parts, and I didn’t see it until I had written the sentence, “I want another life,” which is what the husband thinks just before he goes off on his adventure.

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/06/this-week-in-fiction-paul-la-farge.html#ixzz27OYZ1ZpC

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Paul La Farge's short story in the New Yorker

If you'd like an introduction to Paul La Farge, who visits us this coming Thursday, Sept. 27, you can read his July 2012 short story about life, death, sexual infidelity, strained literary conversation, writing and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the New Yorker online:

by Paul La Farge

A husband and wife drive to Boston. The husband is sick. He takes extra-strong cold medication just before getting into the car, and all the way to Boston he worries that he is going to fall asleep at the wheel and crash into the median. Or maybe the husband secretly wants to crash rather than go to his father-in-law’s birthday party, which is what he and his wife are driving to Boston for....

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2012/07/02/120702fi_fiction_lafarge#ixzz278PqXYc0

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Silent film set in Coney Island at Page Hall tonight

Film researcher Jason Altman shares some interesting details on the Criterion film website about the making of Lonesome (tonight, Page Hall, 7:30 pm, free with live musical accompaniment).

"Universal’s press book admits that (with the exception of some introductory stock footage of the actual Coney Island, where the film is set) Lonesome was actually shot at 'Venice [California], the Coney Island of the Pacific Coast.'”

"The Venice midway did not have a roller coaster with parallel tracks, which Fejos needed in order to shoot the key scene in the film where Jim and Mary are separated. So one minute the pair are in the arcade in Venice, and the next they get on the Jack Rabbit Racer, which was actually located at a Long Beach amusement park."

"Because cameraman Gilbert Warrenton had to photograph the roller coaster scenes at night, he used the first car of the ride to carry not only a camera but also lights, along with the heavy batteries that powered them. That amount of weight at the front end of the train, as Warrenton told film historian Kevin Brownlow, caused the wheels to repeatedly leave the tracks and come crashing back down."

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Huff Post: Rita Hayworth of the Poetry World

Poetic Justice: Marie Howe Named New York Laureate

by Mark Matousek

Marie Howe is nobody's fool. She isn't a woman with grand illusions about things like awards, career, reputation, or the mawkish vicissitudes of the book world. Still, she's grateful to have been chosen this month to be New York's new poet laureate and determined -- passionately -- not to waste this opportunity to vitalize awareness of poetry in the age of Twitter and Hello Kitty.

Howe has long been a poet's poet, a cult favorite, the Rita Hayworth of the poetry world. Born in Rochester in 1950, Marie was one of 11 Catholic children, the kind of girl who read The Lives of the Saints in the bathtub and dreamt of a visionary life. A protégé of Stanley Kunitz (whom she remembers lovingly here), Howe is equally loved as writer, teacher, and mentor in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence. Her first book, The Good Thief, was selected by Margaret Atwood as the winner of the 1987 Open Competition of the National Poetry Series. In 1998, she published her best-known book of poems, What the Living Do, centered on her brother John's death from AIDS, and in 2008, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. She has received honors from National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships among others.
An interview with Marie Howe follows.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sharing Little House on the Praire with a daughter

Marie Howe writes in Oprah's O. magazine about the pleasures of sharing Little House on the Prairie with her adopted Chinese daughter during their own hard economic times.

Marie Howe will be inaugurated as State Poet tonight in Page Hall.

The Hard-Times Companion

Inspired by the trials and triumphs of a resilient pioneer family, Marie Howe and her daughter find the joyful rhythm in a pared-down life.
Last summer my 8-year-old daughter and I returned to New York City after I didn't get the very lucrative job I'd hoped for in another city. Let's go home, honey, I said, and downsize into simplicity. And so we came back to our tiny fifth-floor walk-up apartment in the West Village, gave away or stored a lot of our stuff, and resettled into a space the size of a very small houseboat. Within two months the economy began to wobble and then falter.

It seemed a good time to read the series I'd known as the Little House on the Prairie books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I'd never read them as a child, had only glimpsed the TV series, and autumn was upon us. We sat on the couch under the lamplight, the book in my lap, my daughter leaning against me, warm and fresh from a shower. Through our two front windows: the worn red bricks of the 19th-century buildings across the street, and beyond them, the gleaming Empire State Building shining over the darkened city.

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Alison Lurie offers comic relief in yesterday's Times Union

State Author Offers Comic Relief

by Paul Grondahl

ALBANY — If novelist Alison Lurie takes out her needles and yarn during the speechifying at the state author and state poet awards on Thursday at a Writers Institute program, take it as a sign that even the honoree is bored.

Knitting was Lurie's silent protest against the gasbags who droned on during English department faculty meetings at Cornell University, where she taught writing and children's literature for nearly 40 years.

More in the TU:  http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/State-author-offers-comic-relief-3878975.php

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Alison Lurie, on being "too clever for her own good"

Alison Lurie, our new official New York State Author who speaks tonight at Page Hall, writes about being "too clever" as a little girl, and about coping with a birth injury that left her with facial atrophy and deafness in one ear.

"All young children, we know, are imaginative and creative; and while they remain young these qualities are usually fostered. The grubby but delightful paintings and naïve verses are extravagantly admired, shown to visitors, tacked to the kitchen walls. But as children grow older, encouragement of imaginative creation is often quietly replaced by encouragement of what have begun to seem more important traits: good manners, good marks, good looks; athletic and social success; and a willingness to earn money mowing lawns and baby-sitting - traits that are believed to predict adult success. Children who seem unlikely to do well along these lines sometimes find that their work stays on the kitchen wall longer than usual; and so it was with me. I was encouraged to be creative past the usual age because I didn't have much else going for me. I was a skinny, plain, off-looking little girl, deaf in one badly damaged ear from a birth injury, and with a resulting atrophy of the facial muscles that pulled my mouth sideways whenever I opened it to speak and turned my smile into a sort of sneer. I was clever, or, as one of my teachers put it, 'too clever for her own good,' but not especially charming or affectionate or helpful. I couldn't seem to learn to ride a bike or sing in tune, and I was always the last person chosen for any team."

More in the New York Times.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Her Brother's Death, a Rebirth

Poet Marie Howe, whose brother died of AIDS in 1989, searches for paradoxical redemption and elusive meaning in death and suffering.

Howe, who helped many find their voice in poetry during the AIDS epidemic, will be inaugurated as New York's official State Poet tomorrow Sept. 20th at 8PM at Page Hall.

Here is a poem about her brother's death, one of many, from her bestselling collection, What the Living Do (1997):

By Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother's body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man
but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I'd say, What?
And he'd say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I'd say, What?
And he'd say, This, sort of looking around.

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Children: A Partly Savage Tribe

"There exists in our world an unusual, partly savage tribe, ancient and widely distributed, yet until recently little studied by anthropologists or historians. All of us were at one time members of this tribe: we knew its customs, manners and rituals, its folklore and sacred texts. I refer, of course, to childhood."

So writes Alison Lurie in a 1990 New York Times essay, "A Child's Garden of Subversion." A scholar of children's literature as well as a Pulitzer-winning novelist, Lurie will be inaugurated as New York's newest official State Author, tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 20 at 8PM in Page Hall on the UAlbany downtown campus. She will share the stage with New York's new State Poet, Marie Howe.

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New York State Poet & Author Inaugurated Tomorrow

Dear Readers, Writers, Teachers, Students and All Members of the General Public,

You are invited to attend the following free event:

NEW YORK STATE AUTHOR AND POET AWARDS AND READINGAlison Lurie, New York State Author 2012-2014 and Marie Howe, New York State Poet 2012-2014
September 20 (Thursday)
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Alison Lurie is celebrated for witty novels that examine middle class American life, particularly in small college towns inspired by Ithaca, New York. For her nuanced understanding and lifelike portrayal of social customs and relationships between the sexes, Lurie is widely regarded as the Jane Austen of contemporary American letters. Over the course of ten novels and half a century she has held a mirror up to people of her own generation as they navigate romance, marriage, parenthood, divorce, reconciliation, and advancing age. Her major novels include Truth and Consequences (2005), Foreign Affairs (1984), which received the Pulitzer Prize, The War Between the Tates (1974), and Love and Friendship (1962).
Marie Howe’s prize-winning poetry seeks answers to perplexing questions about life and death in ordinary moments and day-to-day experiences. As a teacher and poet, she searches for meaning and redemption in suffering and loss. She helped many come to terms with grief during the AIDS epidemic by writing compassionately about the loss of her brother to that disease, and by encouraging those impacted by AIDS to find their voices and be published. Her poetry collections include The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008), What the Living Do (1997), and The Good Thief (1988), which was selected by Margaret Atwood for the National Poetry Series. She also has received the Lavan Younger Poets Prize of the American Academy of Poets.

For more information contact 518-442-5620 or writers@albany.edu, or visit us online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/ . You may also wish to visit our blog at http://nyswiblog.blogspot.com/, or to friend us on Facebook. 

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NYT's Dave Kehr reviews Lonesome

The rediscovered silent film treasure, Lonesome, which will be screened free at Page Hall 7:30pm, 9/21, with live musical accompaniment, is reviewed by silent film enthusiast Dave Kehr in the New York Times:

“Lonesome” came along at a time of great creative ferment in the film world, when the Germans, led by F. W Murnau, were developing the possibilities of long takes and elaborate camera movements (Mordaunt Hall, the film critic for The New York Times, reviewed “Lonesome” in the same Oct. 7, 1928, column in which he covered Murnau’s now lost American film "Four Devils"; the Soviets were extending the possibilities of cutting to new expressive heights in films like Sergei Eisenstein’s "October"; and the French, led by Abel Gance and Jean Epstein, were exploring the superimposition of images, among other techniques, to create a loosely defined school of cinematic Impressionism.
“Lonesome” incorporates all of these techniques — Fejos was clearly a voracious and discerning filmgoer — at the same time it embraces the latest technology. Although completed as a silent and briefly released as one, “Lonesome” was recalled and refitted with three dialogue sequences, in addition to an unusually dense synchronized music and sound effects track.

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Cooperstown Author Lauren Groff's sister wins Beijing Triathlon

Not literary news, but we're posting anyway. Cooperstown author Lauren Groff, who visited us last March, is the sister of world champion triathlete Sarah Groff, who won the Beijing International Triathlon this past Sunday in in 2 hours, 4 minutes and 9 seconds. She also came in 4th at the London Olympics.

More in the Times Union.

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Alison Lurie: The day I threw away fashion

Alison Lurie, Pulitzer-winning novelist, will be inaugurated as NYS Author on 9/20 at Page Hall. A scholar of fashion and avid clothes shopper, Lurie tells The Guardian about abandoning fashion at the age of 60 when fashion abandoned her.

The day I threw away fashion

When she hit 60 Alison Lurie realised that fashion no longer spoke to her. So she got rid of half her wardrobe, stopped colouring her hair, gave up wearing makeup - and felt euphoric
Soon after I reached 60 I was abandoned by Vogue magazine and all its clones. Like former lovers who drop you slowly and politely because they once cared for you, they gradually stopped speaking to me. Without intending it I had permanently alienated them, simply by becoming old. From their point of view, I was now a hopeless case. They were not going to show me any more pictures of clothes I might look good in, or give me useful advice about makeup or hair.   More.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

"Hurry"-- A Poem About a Young Child

Marie Howe, our new State Poet, was inspired by her preschool age daughter to write the following 2008 poem:


By Marie Howe b. 1950 Marie Howe

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
and the gas station and the green market and
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,
as she runs along two or three steps behind me
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.  
Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?
Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,
Honey I'm sorry I keep saying Hurry—
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.  
And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.

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Alison Lurie on the Language of Fashion

"My clothes are making a statement and that statement might be making you feel uncomfortable," Lurie said after she appeared on stage wearing a head scarf and a raincoat. "The unconsciously learned rules of fashion tell you to try to interpret why I am wearing this costume and to make sense of it." (From the Cornell Chronicle, July 1997).

In addition to being a Pulitzer-winning novelist and a scholar of childrens literature, Alison Lurie, our new New York State Author is a recognized authority on the meaning and symbolism of clothing.

You are cordially invited to attend Lurie's inauguration at Page Hall on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 8PM. Head scarf and raincoat optional.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Near-Riot in NYC Book Store for Junot Diaz

An appearance by bestselling writer Junot Diaz, who will visit us on 10/4, caused a near-riot in the Union Square Barnes and Noble yesterday. 1000 people showed up to meet the author in a space that only had capacity for 400. The NYPD was called in to assist with crowd control.

More in Colorlines.com:  http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/09/junot_diaz_nearly_causes_a_riot_in_new_york.html

The Assembly Hall, Campus Center, where he will speak at 4:15 and 8PM has an official capacity of 160. Feel free to weigh in if you think this is poor planning on our part. :)

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Growing up in a thatched hut: Poet Salgado Maranhao

Afro-Brazilian poet Salgado Maranhao, who visits us on October 2, grew up in a thatched hut and learned to read at the age of 16.

Maranhao's life and work is the subject of a new exhibition at Casa das Rosas in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a state-sponsored literary organization and exhibition space that promotes Brazilian poets and poetry. The exhibition runs September 4-23.

Here's a link to Casa das Rosas, translated imperfectly into English.

Here's a link to the official press release from the State of Sao Paulo, also translated imperfectly.

More about Salgado Maranhao in the Institute's press release:

Albany, NY—  A native of Brazil’s dry, impoverished northeast, Salgado Maranhão is a leading contemporary Afro-Brazilian poet, as well as a songwriter for many of Brazil’s most prominent jazz, samba and pop musicians. The son of a black fieldworker (mother) and a member of the white plantocracy (father), Maranhão describes himself as “born both to slavery and the manor house.”
Translated by Alexis Levitin, Maranhão’s first bilingual collection in English and Portuguese, Blood of the Sun [Sol Sangüíne], will be published in September 2012.
Gregory Rabassa, bestselling translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude, called the new translation, “a perfect English rendering of Salgado Maranhão’s deft expression of the tonality of this people and land.”  Writing in World Literature Today, Kaitlin Hawkins said that Maranhão’s new work, “combines his love of jazz with his love of the written word. In verses that pair socio-political thought with abstract and metaphysical subjects, Maranhão’s lines move with the rhythms inherent to a Brazilian jazz ballad.” Antonio Carlos Secchin, one of Brazil’s preeminent literary scholars, said, “Maranhão has reached the high point of his work (so far)… a speculative intelligence and a celebration of the corporality of the world are expressed with great metaphoric vigor.”
Maranhão recently received Brazil’s highest literary award, the Brazilian Academy of Letters Prize, for his collected poems, A Cor da Palavra [The Color of the Word] (2011). An earlier collection, Mural de Ventos [Mural of Winds] (1998) received the prestigious Prêmio Jabuti.  Other collections include A pelagem da tigra [Tiger’s Fur] (2009), O Beijo da Fera [The Kiss of the Beast] (1996), and Os Punhos da Serpente [The Snake’s Fists] (1989). Maranhão has also written lyrics and composed music for an impressive roster of contemporary Brazilian musicians including Amelinha, Elba Ramalho, Ney Matogrosso, Paulinho da Viola, Rosa Marya Colin, Vital Farias, and Zizi Possi among others. A tribute album by various artists, Amoragio, was released in 2006.

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Marie Howe: On adopting a child

Many of Marie Howe's recent poems and writings explore her experiences as the single mother of her daughter Grace Yi-Nan Howe. A single mother, Howe was in her fifties when she elected to adopt Grace from China in 2003.

"Three weeks in three Chinese cities (bicycles, smog, scorpions, SARS, an appendicitis attack), Yi-Nan sobbing throughout the fifteen-hour flight, and we were back in New York, slumped in a cab speeding through the rainy night." More in New York magazine.

Our new State Poet, Howe will be inaugurated along with State Author Alison Lurie on September 20 in Page Hall on the University at Albany downtown campus, 135 Western Ave.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Extremely Disturbing Article About the New Book Industry

An article by North Country historian Lawrence Gooley shared from the Adirondack Almanack:

"Under Bibliolabs’ arm called Webster’s Digital Services, there are more than 34,000 books credited to those authors. And yes, in physical form―a paper block with sheets of printed paper, surrounded by printed covers―these are books. But in Bibliolabs new definition of “book,” there is no expectation of accuracy, research, or … well, it’s better said that there should be no expectations at all. What fills all of those books is stuff from Wikipedia and other free sources found through Internet searches. What a great idea! No vetting, no fact-checking … just bundle it all for sale and call it a book. And when I said, “We report, you decide,” that’s exactly the concept."

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Celebrating Walter Benjamin at UAlbany

The University at Albany will host an international conference Sept. 28-29 on the work of the beloved literary critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), a German Jew who attempted to flee the Nazi regime, but committed suicide on the French-Spanish border after being apprehended by the Vichy authorities.

Wildly popular in intellectual circles after his death, Benjamin is famously uncharacterizable as a thinker and writer.

Turkish novelist Elif Shafak makes an effort to describe him (and to describe his importance to her) in an article in The Guardian last April:

"One doesn't read him to feel better. One reads him to feel. In his universe nothing is as it appears to be and there is a vital need to go beyond surfaces and connect with humanity. To live is to walk upon a pile of rubble, listening to any signs of life coming from under the ruins."

More: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/apr/27/hero-walter-benjamin-elif-shafak

The opening event of the conference is free, open and designed for the general public:  a presentation by quirky novelist and electronic literary artist Paul La Farge, sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.

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That Paradoxical Thing: A Bestselling Poet

Marie Howe's interview with NPR's Terry Gross on Fresh Air in October 2011 briefly elevated her to the paradoxical status of "bestselling poet." For at least a month afterward, her books sold like hot cakes, according to W. W. Norton, her publisher. The program was rebroadcast in April 2012.

"Poetry holds the knowledge that we are alive and that we know we're going to die," Howe told Terry Gross. "The most mysterious aspect of being alive might be that — and poetry knows that."


Marie Howe is New York's new Poet Laureate (2012-14), named by Governor Andrew Cuomo under the sponsorship of the New York State Writers Institute. She will be inaugurated along with State Author Alison Lurie on Thursday, Sept 20 at 8PM at Page Hall on the UAlbany downtown campus.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Disguising Ithaca

Alison Lurie, our new State Author who will be inaugurated at Page Hall on Thursday 9/20, talks to the Gannett new service about disguising her hometown of Ithaca, NY and Cornell University, her longtime employer, in her novels:

“I called it a different name because if I wanted to move the buildings around, it wouldn’t be so difficult,” Lurie said. “And I didn’t want people to say, ‘What professor is this?’ Of course, they did anyway. But I tried so hard not to make it anyone I knew.”


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"An incredibly fluid film...."

Shawn Stone of Metroland reviews the silent film Lonesome (1928), which kicks off our film series  on Friday, September 21st.

Lonesome was suggested to us by our upcoming visitor, film critic J. Hoberman, senior critic of the Village Voice for almost a quarter century, who appears in Albany on December 7th.

From Shawn Stone's review:

"Lonesome, which was made on location in New York City (and on the Universal lot) in 1928, is the simple story of a couple of working-class young people who find each other at Coney Island, fall in love over an afternoon and evening, and then lose each other in the great mass of New Yorkers at play. Until . . .

"It’s an incredibly fluid film: the camera is constantly (but not distractingly) moving, tracking the lives of these two as they go about their day. We meet them before they meet each other; we know that they will meet each other (why else would the camera be following them so closely), but director Paul Fejos’ storytelling is so sophisticated that we are apt to miss a rather obvious point about Mary (Barbara Kent) and Jim (Glenn Tryon) that is right in front of us—and them. And the fact that Mary and Jim and the audience miss this point binds viewers even closer to the story."


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Marie Howe in the TU

Elizabeth Floyd Mair interviews our new State Poet Marie Howe in the Times Union:

"Marie Howe joins a long line of distinguished poets who have held the unpaid post, including John Ashbery, Sharon Olds, Audre Lorde, Robert Creeley and Stanley Kunitz. New York's poet and author laureates promote poetry and fiction writing during their two-year terms by giving readings and talks within the state."

More on Marie Howe here.

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Alison Lurie on Maurice Sendak

Alison Lurie, a scholar and champion of literature for children, and our new State Author, memorializes the late Maurice Sendak in the New York Review of Books:

"Only a few people have been both great writers and great illustrators of children’s books. In the nineteenth century there was Edward Lear, and in the twentieth Dr. Seuss and—perhaps the most gifted of them all—Maurice Sendak, who died in May at the age of eighty-three."


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Russell Banks at the Adirondack Center

Former New York State Author Russell Banks (2004-2006) will read from his acclaimed new novel about the lives of sex offenders at Paul Smiths College on Thursday Sept. 13th.

“Destined to be a canonical novel of its time... it delivers another of Banks’s wrenching, panoramic visions of American moral life, and this one very particular to the early 21st century... Banks, whose great works resonate with such heart and soul, brings his full narrative powers to bear.” (Janet Maslin, New York Times )

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Social Media is Bulls**t

B. J. Mendelson, a UAlbany grad school alum, boasts one of the world's largest Twitter followings (3/4 million Twits). Despite being a Twitter demigod, he is also the author of a new book that questions the value of social media:

Social Media is Bullshit.

Brandon signs his book this evening at the Wolf Rd. Barnes and Noble.

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Best "School Book"

The New York Times asked its staffers to pick their favorite book ever about school settings.

Janet Maslin picked The War Between the Tates by the Writers Institute's newly-appointed New York State Author Alison Lurie.

“The War Between the Tates” is Alison Lurie’s funniest and most sharp-clawed novel. Published in 1974, and describing the step-by-step breakdown of a marriage between two academics, it is set at a place that’s called Corinth University but is instantly recognizable as Cornell. This book’s satirical bite is so sharp that when the Cornell Chronicle ran a piece about Lurie in 1998, the English department chair half-joked that “we professorial types worry that we might be satirized in a sequel” and expressed “gratitude” that her subsequent books had had other targets. Lurie concentrates on hostilities between Brian Tate, a self-satisfied political science professor, and Erica, his maddeningly stifled wife. At 40, Erica has a Radcliffe degree that has earned her the right to sit through faculty dinners and a husband who expects to be doted on. There are also two Tate teens, described tartly by Ms. Lurie as “nasty, brutish and tall.” The year is 1969. The Tates have hit the age of midlife crisis. It is almost inevitable for Brian to get involved with a student and for Erica to be galvanized by feminism as she fights back. Even with Vietnam War is its backdrop, artfully contrasted with the Tates’ form of combat, Lurie does her best strategic maneuvering on the home front. But it’s the depiction of all things Corinth that makes this tale of fraught academia so timeless and dead-on.

More picks in the NYT.

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