Friday, September 27, 2013

"The Short Story of Lydia Davis's Man Booker Prize"

Published May 23, 2013:  Lydia Davis was awarded the Man Booker International Prize yesterday. It’s hard not to be pleased when someone wins a prestigious literary award for writing stories as short as this one:

Often I think that his idea of what we should do is wrong, and my idea is right. Yet I know that he has often been right before, when I was wrong. And so I let him make his wrong decision, telling myself, though I can’t believe it, that his wrong decision may actually be right. And then later it turns out, as it often has before, that his decision was the right one, after all. Or, rather, his decision was still wrong, but wrong for circumstances different from the circumstances as they actually were, while it was right for circumstances I clearly did not understand.
More on the New York Times blog:

Lydia Davis meets with the general public on Tuesday, October 1st at UAlbany.

More about her event here:

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Silent Film with Live Piano Tonight!

September 27 (Friday)
 Film screening — 7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus
Directed by Robert Siodmak
(Germany, 1930, 74 minutes, b/w, silent with live piano accompaniment by Mike Schiffer)

The flirtations of a summer Sunday at the beach in Weimar Germany provide the principal content of a film that helped launch the careers of some of 20th century Hollywood’s most influential filmmakers, including Robert Siodmak (THE KILLERS), Billy Wilder (SUNSET BOULEVARD), Fred Zinnemann (FROM HERE TO ETERNITY), horror movie screenwriter Curt Siodmak (THE WOLFMAN), and B-movie king Edgar G. Ulmer (DETOUR). Blending documentary footage and fictional storytelling, the film features the camera work of Eugen Schüfftan, better known for Fritz Lang’s spectacular METROPOLIS (1927)

A review in The Believer by Jessica Winter, former senior editor of Oprah's O. magazine:

The German silent film People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag, 1930) bills itself as “a film without actors.” But it’s not without stars—future stars, that is, of the behind-the-camera variety. Billy Wilder, who wrote the spare screenplay, would become one of the preeminent writer-directors of midcentury Hollywood: he made Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard and, in the space of just over one glorious year, Some Like It Hot and The Apartment. The codirectors were Robert Siodmak—who later helmed the sharp Burt Lancaster noirs The Killers (1946) and Criss Cross (1949)—and Edgar G. Ulmer, whose eclectic, super-low-budget résumé would eventually span melodramas, musicals, horror, and the grimy noir masterpiece Detour (1945). The assistant cinematographer was Fred Zinnemann, future director of High Noon (1952) and From Here to Eternity (1953). You can trace the DNA of a golden age in American cinema back to this quasi-documentary snapshot of a weekend in Berlin circa 1930.


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Thursday, September 26, 2013

How to Win a Pulitzer Prize

Gilbert King went from writing about Mr. Potato Head to crafting an award-winning story about racial injustice.

More in The Writer from Susan Kershner Resnick:

Last year, I sent out a request on Facebook asking experienced writers to share advice with my undergraduate writing students. A few snarky responses appeared first: Go to law school; get comfortable with a life of poverty. Then Gilbert King weighed in.

“Work. Read. Work. Think. Work. Write. Work. Connect. Work. Pitch. Same as always,” he wrote.


Gilbert King visits Albany today:

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Rejected by 35 Publishers, Gilbert King

“I also want beginning writers to know that you need some good luck to be successful. This book was rejected by 35 publishers, mostly because my first book didn’t sell very well.”

Gilbert King, Niskayuna native and Pulitzer-winning author of Devil in the Grove, talks to Jack Rightmyer of the Gazette about writing, Thurgood Marshall, boyhood dreams of being a baseball player, and more.

Article in the Gazette:

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Devil in the Grove to be a Major Motion Picture

Devil in the Grove, by Gilbert King (who visits Albany today), will be a Hollywood film from Lionsgate studios, which reportedly sees the film as a high priority.

Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, the co-writers of Ridley Scott's forthcoming biblical epic, Exodus, will write the script. Allison Shearmur, who produced The Hunger Games, is producing.

Read more in Deadline Hollywood:

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Karen Russell, Young Novelist, Wins $500,000 MacArthur Grant!

Karen Russell, who visited us in Feb. 2011, is among the 2013 winners of a half a million dollar MacArthur Fellowship (announced today).

From the MacArthur website:  "Karen Russell is a fiction writer whose haunting yet comic tales blend fantastical elements with psychological realism and classic themes of transformation and redemption. Setting much of her work in the Everglades of her native Florida, she depicts in lyrical, energetic prose an enchanting and forbidding landscape and delves into subcultures rarely encountered in contemporary American literature."

See more at:

More about Russell's visit to Albany with Julie Orringer:

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Gil King, Finalist for 2013 Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Gilbert King, who visits us tomorrow to discuss his 2013 Pulitzer-winning book, Devil in the Grove, which was just named a runner-up for the 2013 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

More about King's visit:

About the prize:  The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, inaugurated in 2006, is the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize invites nominations in adult fiction and nonfiction books published within the past year that have led readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view. Both awards carry a $10,000 cash prize.


The 2013 winners include Adam Johnson (fiction) for The Orphan Master's Son, which he presented at the Writers Institute in 2012:

Also among the finalists is Louise Erdrich, who visited us back in 1987.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Gilbert King in the Times Union

"The black women of the town would make him bag lunches to bring to court. The black men would stay up and guard him while he slept. Long before becoming a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall was a charismatic and courageous criminal defense attorney. He believed that the best way to fight Jim Crow laws in the South was to go into the region's courtrooms, despite continuous death threats, to represent falsely accused black defendants."

Elizabeth Floyd Mair of the Times Union profiles and interviews Gilbert King, who visits the Writers Institute this coming Thursday, about his Pulitzer-winning book on an early battle in the legal career of a young Thurgood Marshall, Devil in the Grove.

More in the TU:

Picture:  Thurgood Marshall in 1936 at the beginning of his career with the NAACP.

More about our events with Gil King:

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gilbert King, Pulitzer Winning Author, to Visit Next Week

Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Devil in the Grove (2012), a nonfiction account of an early case in the legal career of Thurgood Marshall, America's first African-American Supreme Court Justice, will read from and discuss his work on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany's uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the same location. The events are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute in conjunction with CELEBRATE AND ADVANCE, a weeklong celebration culminating in the inauguration of UAlbany's 19th President, Robert J. Jones, Ph.D.

Gilbert King, Niskayuna native, received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (2012), a meticulously researched, elegantly written account of the future Supreme Court Justice's role in defending four black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Florida in 1949. Of the four defendants, one was murdered by a white mob before he could stand trial, and two were murdered by the local county sheriff after they had been exonerated by the U. S. Supreme Court.

The Salon reviewer said, "King recreates an important yet overlooked moment in American history with a chilling, atmospheric narrative that reads more like a Southern Gothic novel than a work of history." The book was also named a "Best Book of 2012" by the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and Library Journal.

In writing Devil in the Grove, King obtained access to two heretofore unpublished and unpublicized sources of information: the confidential files of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the unedited files of the FBI. In previous, more comprehensive biographies of Marshall, the Groveland case had been treated as little more than a footnote to a distinguished legal career. King's research, however, brings back to life the shock and drama of a courtroom battle that established important legal precedents on the road to ending Jim Crow laws in the South.

King's relative rise from obscurity has generated a fair amount of interest in the writing community and on the internet. Especially remarked upon is the fact that, after the announcement that he had won the Pulitzer Prize, the surprised author informed a New York Times interviewer, "I'd just gotten a notice from my publisher that the book had been 'remaindered.'" Another ironic detail of King's biography is that he flunked English at Niskayuna High School and had to attend summer school after his junior year, according to an interview with Paul Grondahl of the Times Union.

A featured contributor to the Smithsonian magazine history blog, King is also the author of The Execution of Willie Francis: Race, Murder, and the Search for Justice in the American South (2008), an account of the wrongful conviction and death sentence of a 17-year-old black boy in Louisiana in 1946. The Counterpunch magazine reviewer called it, "...almost certainly the best book on capital punishment in America since Mailer's The Executioner's Song."

King's appearance is sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute in conjunction with "Celebrate and Advance," a weeklong celebration at UAlbany culminating in the inauguration of the new University president, Robert J. Jones. For additional information on all inauguration week events go to: .

For additional information on Gilbert King's appearances, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at

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Enthralling theater and television....

“Enthralling theater and television… This is dramatized legal history of the best kind,” said New York Times reviewer Ginia Bellafante of Friday's film, Thurgood, 7:30 p.m. at Page Hall, 9/20.

Bellafante approaches this piece of filmed theater skeptically at first, but is wildly enthusiastic by the end of her review:

"As a form the teleplay is mired in its own noble pedantry, which is why the arrival of “Thurgood” on HBO on Thursday initially seems dubious — especially so, perhaps, because it is a one-man enterprise even more heavily prone to the sensibility of tutorial."

Full review here:

Full Classic Film Series schedule here:

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

National Book Award Longlist for Nonfiction Announced

Gretel Ehrlich, who visited the Writers Institute this past March, and Jill Lepore, who came in 2005, are among the finalists for the National Book Award in nonfiction.

Full list here:

Ehrlich received the nomination for Facing the Wave (2013), a book that she presented here at the Institute. The book is an account of  Ehlich's travels in Japan in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A student of Japanese poetry for much of her life, Ehrlich felt compelled to return to Japan to bear witness and record the stories of survivors.
More about Ehrlich (with video of her Albany visit):

Jill Lepore visited in September 2005 to discuss her book about a slave uprising in colonial Manhattan, New York Burning.  Her new book is Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, about the personal ordeals of Benjamin Franklin's unschooled sister.

More about Lepore's visit:

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

National Book Award Poetry Longlist Announced

Three past visitors to the NYS Writers Institute appear on the National Book Award's longlist for the award in poetry.

They include Lucie Brock-Broido, for Stay, Illusion; Andrei Codrescu for So Recently Rent a World, New and Selected Poems: 1968-2012; and Frank Bidart for Metaphysical Dog.

See Frank Bidart speak at the Institute on Youtube in 2008:

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Poet Philip Levine wins $100k Prize

Former United States poet laureate Philip Levine has been awarded the Academy of American Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement. The award, which comes with a $100,000 prize, is given annually for “outstanding and proven mastery of the art of poetry.”

Here are some links:

Levine visited the Writers Institute in 1996: A video about the visit aired in 1999 on "The Writer," a series coproduced by the Writers Institute and WMHT.

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Sydney Lea on Poetry

"Poetry can achieve something that's far less available to other modes of human discourse: it can present several thoughts, emotions, impulses, some in apparent flat contradiction of one another, in a single vessel, without seeming merely muddled." --Sydney Lea
Sydney Lea, Vermont Poet Laureate (2011-14) by order of Governor Peter Shumlin, visits tomorrow to share the campfire circle (so to speak) with official New York State Poet Marie Howe. The afternoon event is at UAlbany. The evening event is at the State Museum.


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Marie Howe on Poetry

"Poetry knows that we are living and dying at the same time. It resurrects us. It brings us to our senses. " --Marie Howe

Marie Howe, New York State Poet (2012-14) by order of Governor Andrew Cuomo, under the auspices of the NYS Writers Institute, visits tomorrow to share the pulpit with Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea. The afternoon event is at UAlbany. The evening event is at the State Museum.

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Poetry for Farmers and Retired Roofers

Elizabeth Floyd Mair has a wonderful interview with Vermont poet laureate Syd Lea (who visits Tues.) in Sunday's Times Union:

Q: You've written that if you picture an audience in your mind at all as you write, it's your Vermont hill farm neighbors, who, you note, would never elect to read a word of your poetry. Why write for them?

A: I have a feeling that too much poetry since the era of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot sends this message, whether subliminally or not: "Hey, you can't come in here; you haven't learned the language that we insiders use." One of the reasons I so admire Robert Frost is that any reader — from a first-grader to a graduate student to a farmer to a labor organizer — can get something out of his poems. Those poems are scarcely simple-minded; indeed they are profoundly complex. But complexity is not the same as complication.

Imagining that my beloved 90-year-old neighbor — not a farmer, but a retired roofer — might read a poem of mine and get something out of it too — keeps me from erring toward mere complication.

Read more here:

Read more about Lea's visit:

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Friday, September 13, 2013

A Poem by Sydney Lea, Who Visits Tuesday, Sept. 17

Bestselling food writer Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma), calls Sydney Lea “as fine a companion on the page as American writing about nature has to offer.” Indeed,  Lea is widely regarded as the Robert Frost of his generation.

Lea visits this Tuesday to share the lectern with poet Marie Howe.

More about their visit here:

Much of Lea's poetry is inspired by the natural world and rural Vermont settings. Here's an example, "Cooking by Waters:  An Non-Elegy," which appears on his website. The poem was first published in the Hudson Review, Autumn 2008.

The birch’s skin curls up like an ancient letter.
The sweet smoke makes my breathing harder.
On a streamside fir three goldfinches teeter.
Late sun makes a tumult along their feathers.
In an hour the hermit thrush will have begun.
I accept the bittersweet gift of the weather in fall.
The air’s so clear the only haze is inward.
How did I learn these names and calls?
I can’t be sure. They simply gathered.
Read more of the poem here: (click on "Sampler").

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Two Poets Laureate in Conversation this Tuesday 9/17

Marie Howe, New York State Poet (2012-2014) and Sydney Lea, Vermont Poet Laureate (2011-2014) will read from their work and discuss the role of poetry in society on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. in the Huxley Theatre, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center in downtown Albany. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the poets will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the University at Albany uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and Friends of the New York State Library.

Marie Howe and Sydney Lea, reigning state poets of New York and Vermont, will present a joint reading and discuss the role of poetry in today's society.

Appointed State Poet (2012 – 2014) by Governor Andrew Cuomo under the auspices of the NYS Writers Institute, Marie Howe is the author of three collections of poetry: 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. The Rochester native and New York City resident is also the past recipient of the Lavan Younger Poets Prize of the American Academy of Poets. In 1995, she coedited the bestselling anthology, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (with Michael Klein), which helped many AIDS victims "find their voices" as poets and storytellers. She currently teaches at NYU where she is launching a Fall 2013 course entitled "Poetry Everywhere," an immersive production class which seeks to put poetry in unexpected New York City public spaces.

Howe is widely admired for poetry that seeks answers to metaphysical questions in ordinary day-to-day experience. In her work, little incidents and inconsequential memories help to shed light on the nature of the soul and the self, as well as the meaning of life, death, love, pain, hope, despair, sin, virtue, solitude, community, impermanence and the eternal. Playwright Eve Ensler said of her most recent collection, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, "These poems made me gasp. Each one a revelation, a lifeline, a domestic galaxy. This is the poetry of our times, a guide to living on the brink of the mystical and the mundane."

Appointed Poet Laureate by Governor Peter Shumlin under the auspices of the Vermont Arts Council, Sydney Lea is the author of eleven collections of poetry, including I Was Thinking of Beauty (2013); Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives (with Delaware Poet Laureate Fleda Brown, 2013); Pursuit of a Wound (2000), a Pulitzer Prize finalist; To the Bone: New and Selected Poems (1996), a co-winner of the Poet's Prize; and Prayer for the Little City (1991). The American Book Review said of To the Bone, "It's past time that this poet's memorable best work should be known and praised and analyzed and loved as well as Frost's is."

Much of his work focuses on the mystery of the natural world and the physical details of life in a rural setting. He recently published the essay collection, A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters, and Wildlife (2013). The Wall Street Journal reviewer said, "Sydney Lea is a fisherman, a hunter, a philosopher, a trainer of bird dogs, an interpreter of the past and a collector of stories. This abundance of experience shows up to good effect.... He writes memorably. His stories ring true."

The founder and long-time editor of the influential literary magazine, The New England Review, Lea is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Fulbright Foundations.

Lea is a dedicated environmental activist and serves currently as President of Downeast Lakes Land Trust, an organization dedicated to creating a million-acre wildlife preserve on the border between Maine and the province of New Brunswick. He also serves as President/Treasurer of the adult literacy organization, Central Vermont Adult Basic Education.

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



Related Media

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Marie Howe's Mary Magdalene Poem

Here's one of the best loved poems by official New York State Poet Marie Howe, who visits this coming Tuesday, 9/17. Like many of Howe's poems, it is inspired by Christian tradition and Catholic experience:


by Marie Howe

“Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out” —Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.
The second — I was different from you: whatever happened to you could not happen to me, not like that.
The third — I worried.
The fourth – envy, disguised as compassion.
The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,
The aphid disgusted me. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The mosquito too – its face. And the ant – its bifurcated body.

Poem continues on the eclectic spirituality website, Patheos, which Newsweek in 2011 called one of "21 Ways To Be Smarter in 2011". Read the rest of the poem:

Read more about Marie Howe's upcoming visit to UAlbany here:

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Major Crime Fiction Convention in Albany, Sept. 19-22

This year's Bouchercon (the Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention), the world's largest crime fiction convention, will be held at Empire State Plaza in Albany, September 19-22.

Celebrity mystery writers in attendance will include Sue Grafton, Anne Perry, Tess Gerritsen, Steve Hamilton, and others.

Crime fiction fans and writers from all over the world will gather in downtown Albany to celebrate their genre.

The Bouchercon website:

There is a fee to register.

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New Sci-Fi Mystery Set in Albany in 2019

The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza will host a book launch party for a new futuristic mystery by Frankie Bailey, Professor in the School of Criminal Justice and frequent Writers Institute programming co-conspirator,  Saturday, September 14, 2013, 3 – 5:30 PM (you're invited!).

Here's the Booklist review by Michele Leber, "In 2019, a serial killer is on the loose in Albany, New York. Two women in their twenties have been murdered by having phenol injected into their hearts, and when Broadway actress Vivian Jessup, known as the Red Queen for her role in Alice in Wonderland, is killed in the same manner, Albany PD detective Hannah McCabe and partner Mike Baxter struggle to connect the dots in what has become an even higher-profile case. In the near future, everyone has an ORB (smartphone successor?), a drug named Lullaby can erase memories of crime victims (but causes a problem when used by a witness), and a threader (blogger successor?) with inside knowledge plagues the police. What has not changed is that crime solving requires hard work and good instincts. McCabe shows she has what it takes to succeed at her work and to win readers. University of Albany criminal justice professor Bailey, author of the Lizzie Stuart mysteries, leaves some intriguing questions unanswered in this strong start to a projected series."

There’ll be food, drink, a door prize, and volunteers who have agreed to read scenes from the book.

Book House event link:

Frankie Bailey's website:

Professor Bailey cooked up our Food, Crime, and Justice Film Series which features "The Garden" on October 11th, and Exterminating Angel on November 1, followed by a Q&A with William Kennedy and Donald Faulkner.  More:

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Lethem on Front Page of NY Times Book Review

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem (who visits today) was reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review last Sunday by Yiyun Li.

Longtime readers of Jonathan Lethem will not be surprised to learn that New York City is the setting of his new novel, “Dissident Gardens,” though center stage this time is not the author’s native Brooklyn or the Upper East Side but Queens — specifically, Sunnyside Gardens, the planned community complex built in the 1920s. Readers may, however, be either disappointed or relieved to find no superheroes, no aliens, not even a Tourette’s-afflicted self-appointed private detective. No genre-bending this time, the novel seems to say: spanning 80 years and three generations, it realistically portrays an enchanted — or disenchanted — garden of American revolutionaries.

More in the NYTBR:

More about Lethem's visit today:

Full series:

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Booker Prize Shortlist!

Two of the six finalists for the Booker Prize are past visitors to the New York State Writers Institute, Ruth Ozeki and Colm Toibin.

The finalists are announced here:

More on Ruth Ozeki's 2004 visit to Albany:

More on Colm Toibin's 2001 visit:

Toibin came in part to research The Master, his novel about the life of literary giant Henry James who grew up partly in Albany. He visited Lincoln Park, where James's grandparents owned a mill house that straddled a now-buried stream.

Also on the list is Jhumpa Lahiri, who (we promise) will visit us one of these days. Her uncle, Kajal Lahiri, is Distinguished Professor of Economics, and Health Policy, Management & Behavior at the University at Albany.

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The Joys of Plagiarism

Jonathan Lethem, who visits tomorrow, is the author of a widely circulated essay, published originally in Harper's, and subsequently in The Best American Essays 2008, edited by the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik, that justifies the act of plagiarism:

"Consider this tale: a cultivated man of middle age looks back on the story of an amour fou, one beginning when, traveling abroad, he takes a room as a lodger. The moment he sees the daughter of the house, he is lost. She is a preteen, whose charms instantly enslave him. Heedless of her age, he becomes intimate with her. In the end she dies, and the narrator — marked by her forever — remains alone. The name of the girl supplies the title of the story: Lolita."

"The author of the story I’ve described, Heinz von Lichberg, published his tale of Lolita in 1916, forty years before Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. Lichberg later became a prominent journalist in the Nazi era, and his youthful works faded from view. Did Nabokov, who remained in Berlin until 1937, adopt Lichberg’s tale consciously? Or did the earlier tale exist for Nabokov as a hidden, unacknowledged memory?"


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Jonathan Lethem on Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Jonathan Lethem who visits the Writers Institute tomorrow, was on "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross yesterday.

For Novelist Jonathan Lethem, Radicalism Runs In The Family

On why he decided to write a book about his family
"I knew that I had a kind of legacy: I grew up in a family of protesters. I never really had gone there. I wanted to touch it; I wanted to think about it. ... I was ready to think about my grandmother's weird, lonely, imperial existence in Sunnyside, Queens. And so those urges and those interests led me into the thicket."


More about Lethem's visit:

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An American Family Disillusioned with America

Ann Levin of the Huffington Post reviews Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem, who visits Albany

Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, "Dissident Gardens," is a tour de force, a brilliant, satiric journey through America's dissident history from 1930s-era communism to today's Occupy movement.

Its central character is Rose Zimmer, a staunch member of the American Communist Party whose affair with a black policeman draws the wrath of party apparatchiks. After getting booted from the party, she turns her energy to community organizing in Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, a housing development built in the 1920s to provide well-designed, affordable apartments with communal gardens to the urban working class.

More in the Huff Post:

More about Lethem's visit to Albany on 9/11:

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Times Union Announces Writers Institute Fall Season

Jonathan Lethem launches New York State Writers Institute season

Acclaimed author to read from latest novel "Dissident Gardens"
Michael Janair, Times Union
Updated 10:50 am, Friday, September 6, 2013
Jonathan Lethem is a serious writer who has blended genres (sci-fi and mainstream literary) and garnered major awards: a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2005; the National Book Critics Circle award for "Motherless Brooklyn" in 1999; and World Fantasy Award for best collection of short stories for 1996's "The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye."

His latest novel, "Dissident Gardens," is a multigenerational family tale about communists and radicals living in Queens, from the 1930s to the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, and is the biggest canvas Lethem has every worked with. Central to the novel is the tale of two women struggling to follow their dreams: the mercurial Rose, known as the Red Queen of Sunnyside, Queens, who torments anyone within reach; and her daughter Miriam, who, much to her mother's chagrin, embraces Greenwich Village counterculture.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Jill Lepore on Journalists vs. Academics

In the Chronicle:

"One reason journalists write well is that journalists write for money: They write for readers. Historically, under the system of scholarly publishing—academic journals and university presses—scholars write for nothing. They have been able to afford to do this because they are paid salaries by the universities that employ them."


Lepore visited the Institute in 2005:

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The Bard of Brooklyn

TIME magazine proclaimed Jonathan Lethem "The Bard of Brooklyn" in a 2003 review of his acclaimed novel, The Fortress of Solitude.

"one of the richest, messiest, most ambitious, most interesting novels of the year."

Read more of Lev Grossman's review in TIME:,9171,483318,00.html

Lethem opens our Fall 2013 series Wednesday, 9/11:

See the full series here:

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Lethem's New Novel Reviewed in Elle Magazine

"This novel's powerful and polarizing cultural, political, and racial energies are animated by a typically Lethem-esque cast of zanies, communalists, sexual adventurers, innocents, druggies, dreamers, and do-gooders -- cosmopolitans all -- whose lives collide and clash with gut-busting humor, heart, and hubris, which Lethem delivers in his seductively vertiginous prose."

Lethem's new novel is reviewed in the September 2013 issue of Elle (not available yet online).

Lethem visits us Wednesday, September 11th:

Here are some more reviews:

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Remembering Elmore Leonard, with Video

See a 2001 episode of "The Writer" featuring the late crime fiction genius Elmore Leonard (1925-2013), based on his visit to the New York State Writers Institute in September 2001, two days before the catastrophe of 9/11.

"The Writer" series was a coproduction of the NYS Writers Institute and PBS television station WMHT.

Former Institute videographer Hugo Perez, director of "The Writer," introduces.

More on Leonard's visit to Albany:

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stories About Women in Science

Janet Maslin reviews Andrea Barrett's Archangel, a new collection of short pieces of historical fiction about the struggles of women scientists.

"This is a book full of strong women..... [Barrett's] stories work as both fiction and as philosophy of science. And she need do no grandstanding to advance her belief in unstoppable progress. But this book does offer a powerfully human sense of the struggle it takes for new ideas to dislodge old ones.

Barrett visited the Writers Institute in 2007:

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Alison Lurie on the Magic of Knitting in the New Yorker

Alison Lurie, New York State Author (2012-14) by appointment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, under the auspices of the NYS Writers Institute, contributes a piece on knitting to the New Yorker blog:

"As a child, I thought of knitting as a kind of magic, in which a one-dimensional object became two-dimensional or even three-dimensional. While you watched, a very long piece of string somehow turned into a hat or a sock or a mitten, something with shape and weight, an inside and an outside. Appropriately, this transformation was accomplished with long shiny sticks, like the magic wands in fairy tales. "

"It wasn’t only the materials that, for me, were transformed. The people who could perform this magic seemed, in everyday life, to be everyday humans. But when they picked up their wands they turned into sorceresses or fairy godmothers, mistresses of a secret art."

More in the New Yorker:

More on Alison Lurie:

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Heaney Obituary in the Associated Press

"He was a wonderful raconteur. There was so much local enthusiasm for his work...." --NYS Writers Institute Director Donald Faulker, quoted in the AP obituary for Seamus Heaney (with contributions from Bethany Bump of the Schenectady Gazette).

More here:

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