Monday, September 29, 2014

Praise for John Lahr's new book

John Lahr, who visits the Writers Institute this Wednesday, Oct. 1st,  receives high praise from some notable admirers for his new biography, Tennessee Williams:  Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (2014).

More about Lahr's upcoming visit:

‘Splendid beyond words. It would be hard to imagine a more satisfying biography.’Bill Bryson
‘Could this be the best theater book I’ve ever read? It just might be. Tennessee Williams had two great pieces of luck. Elia Kazan to direct his work and now John Lahr to make thrilling sense of his life’John Guare, author of Six Degrees of Separation, House of Blue Leaves, Atlantic City

This is a masterpiece about a genius. Only John Lahr, with his perceptions about the theater, about writers, about poetry and about people could have written this book. What a marvelous read, with brilliantly detailed research.’Helen Mirren

‘John Lahr’s magnificent biography…gathers material from a vast array of sources, including Williams’s diaries, poems, letters and the recollections of countless friends and colleagues,to trace how the personal and the creative lives interweave throughout the whole span of Williams’s oeuvre. The result is at once sensitive and magisterial, and it fulfils the ultimate test for a literary biography by convincing you that the works cannot be understood without it. Once you have read it, it becomes part of their meaning.’John Carey, lead review, Sunday London Times

‘This is by far the best book ever written about America’s greatest playwright. John Lahr, the longtime drama critic for the New Yorker, knows his way around Broadway better than anyone. He is a witty and elegant stylist, a scrupulous researcher, a passionate yet canny advocate… Hebrings us as close to Williams as we are ever likely to get.’J.D. McClatchy,Wall Street Journal

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Gillibrand's Event on Saturday

Here's Dennis Yusko's article in the Times Union on this past weekend's wonderful event with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Ballroom of the UAlbany Campus Center:

Speaking at a book-signing in the University of Albany's Campus Center Ballroom, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand received hardy applause Saturday when she pledged to keep fighting to have military lawyers — not superiors — hear allegations of sexual abuse among service members. The author of "Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World" told nearly 300 people who bought her book that some victims of sexual assault in the military don't report the crimes because they do not trust military brass to properly investigate and punish suspects.

Gillibrand, 47, said removing military leaders from decision-making roles was crucial for objective investigations. She said she is committed to ensuring victims weren't blamed.

"That second betrayal is the thing they cannot overcome," the senator said.

Gillibrand spent more than an hour at the book signing and reading, which was sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. She answered questions from Marion Roach Smith, author of "The Memoir Project, A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text on Writing & Life." Seated and separated by a coffee table, the women discussed some of the major themes from "Off the Sidelines": female empowerment, politics, family.

More in the TU:

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The House Tour

Alison Lurie, who visits us on Thursday, September 18, is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who applies her wit and insight to the meaning of ordinary architecture in her new book,  The Language of Houses (2014).

The book is reviewed by Kathleen Hirsch in the Boston Globe:

Lurie serves as able guide on an opening overview of basic architectural themes: style, scale, materials. Concepts such as formal and informal, open and shut, darkness and light, as well as the influences of foreign and regional idioms, become the building blocks on which she proceeds into her discussion of dwellings. We learn that the simple, unadorned, home intended to convey “green” values, often uses “old bricks and boards that in fact cost more than new ones,” while a suburban McMansion’s pricey entrance is coupled with cheap siding and exposed ductwork out back. She chronicles the evolution of the Colonial meeting house into Gothic worship sites that are mini-theaters with their raised altars, lavish pipe organs, and stage lighting. Gender differences abound: In homes and offices, men prefer what she calls “prospects”; women, “refuge.”

More in the Globe:

More about Lurie and upcoming events:

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Alison Lurie's new book in the Wall St. Journal

The Language of Houses by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and reigning NYS Author Alison Lurie (who visits us on Thurs. 9/18) is reviewed in the Wall St. Journal:

Le Corbusier may have decreed that the house should be "a machine for living," but Alison Lurie knows architecture carries a far greater moral charge than such minimalist efficiency implies. In "The Language of Houses," she takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the social and psychological significance of private and public structures: schools, churches, government buildings, museums, prisons, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and of course homes. She makes a powerful argument that how we choose to order the space we live and work in reveals far more about us, our place in the world and our preoccupations than we know. Architectural design is both a mirror and molder of human experience.... The Language of Houses is a mine of adroit observation, uncovering apparently humdrum details to reveal their unexpected, and occasionally poignant, human meaning.

More in the Wall St. Journal

More about Lurie's visit:

More on the upcoming Visiting Writers Series:

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Author Sherry Lee Mueller presents "Working World" 9/19

"Working World is an essential guide to international careers for a new generation of Americans eager to see, feel, and change their world." --  John Zogby, founder of the Zogby Poll

The University at Albany School of Public Health will host Sherry Lee Mueller, coauthor of Working World, 2nd edition (2014). The book explores "how the idea of an international career has shifted: nearly every industry taking on more and more international dimensions, while international skills -- linguistic ability, intercultural management, and sensitivity -- become ever more highly prized by potential employers."

Date: Friday, September 19, 2014

Time: 12:00 noon – 1:15 PM

Location: School of Public Health Auditorium
George Education Center
UAlbany East Campus
1 University Place
Rensselaer, NY 12144

RSVP: Please register and confirm your attendance by emailing by Monday, September 15th

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"I, the Worst of All," Opens Classic Film Series

"Engrossing, enriching, and elegant!" - Boston Globe
"Passionate, riveting, magnificent! One of the year's best!" - New York Post
"An erotically charged impassioned work! Assumpta Serna is luminous!" - Village Voice
September 19 (Friday)
Film screening — 7:30 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus
Directed by María Luisa Bemberg | Argentina, 1990, 105 minutes, color, in Spanish with English subtitles. Starring Assumpta Serna, Dominique Sanda, Héctor Alterio

Based on a biography by Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, this film tells the story of the embattled 17th century nun, Sor Juana, who would come to be regarded as the mother of Mexican literature.
Screened in conjunction with an appearance by distinguished translator Edith Grossman (see September 23 Visiting Writers Series listing), who presents her new collection of works by Sor Juana.
More about our upcoming visit with Edith Grossman, translator into English of Sor Juana, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz, Don Quixote, and numerous classics of Spanish literature:

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Edith Grossman

Latin American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) famously said that he preferred his novels in English translation by Gregory Rabassa (who visited the Writers Institute in 2006) and Edith Grossman (who will visit the Writers Institute on Tuesday, September 23, 2014).

Here is an excerpt from Edith Grossman's speech about translating Marquez at the 2003 PEN Tribute to the late Columbian author (1927-2014) whose work had a transformative impact on global literature:

"Ralph Maheim, the great translator from the German, compared the translator to an actor who speaks as the author would if the author spoke English. A sophisticated and provocative analogy, for it takes into account something that is not always as clear as it should be, at least to many reviewers, whose highest endorsement for a translation tends to be that it is “seamless.” If I may attempt to translate the damnation barely concealed in their faint praise, I think they really mean that the translator has, with proper humility, made herself or himself “invisible,” a punishing goal that is desirable only if we are held personally responsible for the Tower of Babel and all its dire consequences for our species."

Full text here:

More about Grossman's visit:

Complete schedule of events:

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Monday, September 8, 2014

William Gibson, The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, coming to Troy, NY

The Guardian celebrates the 30th birthday of the science fiction novel Neuromancer by William Gibson, scifi author and technology prophet (according to many). Gibson visits RPI under the cosponsorship of the New York State Writers Institute, on Sunday, November 9th.

More about Gibson's upcoming event:

From the Guardian:

On its release, Neuromancer won the "big three" for science fiction: the Nebula, Philip K Dick and Hugo awards. It sold more than 6m copies and launched an entire aesthetic: cyberpunk. In predicting this future, Gibson can be said to have helped shape our conception of the internet. Other novelists are held in higher esteem by literary critics, but few can claim to have had such a wide-ranging influence. The Wachowskis made The Matrix by mashing Gibson's vision together with that of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander is a facsimile of Molly Millions, the femme fatale in Neuromancer. Every social network, online game or hacking scandal takes us a step closer to the universe Gibson imagined in 1984.

More in the Guardian:

Full schedule of upcoming events:

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NYS Poet Marie Howe in the Huffington Post

"This morning I stumbled upon the poetry of Marie Howe, and once again I'm humbled by the power of words on a page, and a writer's ability to bestow meaning to feelings that would otherwise remain forever trapped inside me. In a recent podcast interview, the poet Marie Howe was speaking of the power of words to reveal the human condition, and how the older she gets, the more of herself she unmasks through her writing. She later said, 'to be able to move through your life transparently would be a relief.'"

More in the Huffington Post:

Reigning New York State Poet Marie Howe visits the Writers Institute on Tuesday, October 21st with fellow poets Edward Hirsch and Kimiko Hahn.

For a full schedule of events, visit our webpage:

For more about NY State Poet Marie Howe:

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Alison Lurie in National Geographic

Acclaimed novelist Alison Lurie, who opens our Fall 2014 Visiting Writers Series, is interviewed in the August 17 issue of  National Geographic:

Acclaimed Novelist Alison Lurie Thinks Buildings Say a Whole Lot About Us

Your house can tell others whether you’re happy or well organized or friendly—even what your politics are.

A critic once remarked that Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alison Lurie writes so simply that a cat or a dog can understand her. It was meant as a compliment and taken as such. In her new book she turns her lucid gaze on a subject baffling to many of us: architecture.

In this candid interview she talks about what buildings tell us about their owners' aspirations and politics, why she built houses for fairies as a child, how she feels about being compared to Balzac and Jane Austen, and what her own home in upstate New York reveals about her.

More in National Geographic:

More about Alison Lurie's events in Albany:

More about the Fall 2014 Visiting Writers Series:

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Visiting Writers: Kirsten Gillibrand! William Gibson! Richard Norton Smith!

New York State Writers Institute Fall 2014 Visiting Writers Events Schedule

We are pleased to announce an exciting schedule of visiting writer appearances for Fall 2014.​

All events are free and open to the public, and hosted at UAlbany, unless otherwise noted.

For more details, times and locations, please visit our website at

Sept. 18:  Pulitzer-winning novelist and reigning NYS Author (2012-14) Alison Lurie talks about her new nonfiction book, The Language of Houses (2014), about the expressive power of everyday architecture, including homes, restaurants, schools, hospitals, prisons and more.

Sept. 23:  Edith Grossman, one of the most celebrated translators in any language, known for her bestselling translations of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Don Quixote, presents her new collection of the works of Sister Juana, the embattled 17th century nun and “Mother of Mexican Literature.”

Sept. 27:  US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand presents her new book on women’s empowerment, Off the Sidelines (2014). Admission charged (except students with valid ID). Contact The Book House for tickets, which include book purchase: 489-4761.

Oct. 1:  John Lahr, Senior Drama Critic for the New Yorker (1992-2012), Tony Award winning playwright, and son of Wizard of Oz “Cowardly Lion” Bert Lahr, presents his acclaimed new biography of troubled playwright Tennessee Williams.

Oct. 9:  Pulitzer-winning journalist David Finkel, author of the bestseller The Good Soldiers (2009), about being embedded with US troops in Iraq, presents his sequel to that book, Thank You For Your Service (2013), about those same soldiers adjusting to post-war life at home.

Oct. 15:  American Shakespeare Center’s Much Ado About Nothing. Admission charged. Contact the PAC box office for tickets:  (518) 442-3997

Oct. 16:  Two first-time novelists and rising stars of Black historical fiction, Tiphanie Yanique (Land of Love and Drowning) and Jacinda Townsend (Saint Monkey) will share the stage.

Oct. 21:  Major American poets in conversation— Edward Hirsch, MacArthur Fellow, President of the Guggenheim Foundation, and author of the surprise bestseller How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, presenting his magisterial reference volume, A Poet’s Glossary (2014); Kimiko Hahn, American Book Award winner, presenting her new volume Brain Fever (2014); and Marie Howe, the reigning New York State Poet (2012-14).

Oct. 24, Nov. 1, 6 & 13:  Events connected with the life and work of Lemon Andersen, Tony award winning member of the Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, child of heroin addicts, and three-time felon, who found purpose and redemption in the art of poetry. We screen Lemon: The Movie on Oct. 24 and Nov. 1st. Lemon visits UAlbany on Nov. 6th. And a dramatization of Lemon’s life story is presented on Nov. 13th.

Oct. 28:  Actress and playwright Najla Said, daughter of Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, presents her memoir, Looking for Palestine:  Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family (2013).

Nov. 7:  Major American composer of film music David Shire, winner of 2 Grammy Awards for Saturday Night Fever, and the Oscar for Norma Rae, discusses his score for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, following a 40th Anniversary screening of that film.

Nov. 9:  William Gibson, one of the most influential living writers of science fiction, author of Neuromancer (1984), which helped define the pop culture of the Computer Age, will present his new far-future novel, The Periperhal (2014), about cybersecurity, drone warfare, video gaming and lots of other things, at RPI’s EMPAC Concert Hall.

Nov. 11: Two young novelists share the stage—Angela Pneuman, former UAlbany grad student and an exciting new voice in Southern American literature, presenting her first novel, Lay It on My Heart, and Julie Orringer, author of the bestselling Holocaust novel, The Invisible Bridge.

Nov. 18: Neuroscience writer and developmental psychologist Susan Pinker, author of the international bestseller, The Sexual Paradox,  presents her new book, The Village Effect: How Face to Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier and Smarter (2014).

Nov. 20:  Eminent historian of the American presidency and frequent PBS NewsHour commentator Richard Norton Smith presents his definitive biography of Nelson Rockefeller, On His Own Terms (2014).

Dec. 2:  Joseph O’Neill, author of the bestselling novel Netherland, presents his new 2014 novel The Dog (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize).

Dec. 5:  Author Betty Medsger and filmmaker Johanna Hamilton present their award-winning 2014 documentary 1971: The Film, based on Medsger’s book, The Burglary (2014), about eight ordinary citizens who broke into FBI offices and revealed the existence of COINTELPRO, an illegal program of spying on law-abiding Americans (the burglars’ identities have been kept secret until now). Medsger also broke the original story in the Washington Post in 1971.

For additional details on our visiting writers and a listing of Classic Film Series events, please visit our website at



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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Colin Powell recalls Joe Persico in today's Gazette

Gloversville native Persico's work, friendship recalled

Author died Saturday at 84

Bill Buell, Schenectady Gazette

 — Colin Powell didn’t need a second meeting. As soon as he and Joseph Persico shook hands for the first time, something told the general he had found his man.“We had gone through numerous candidates and no one had clicked,” said the former U.S. secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was looking for a collaborator to write his autobiography in 1993. “I was actually getting a bit desperate. Then my agent said, ‘We have one more guy, this Persico guy,’ so I said, ‘OK, let’s meet him.’ Well, we hit it off pretty well. He became my collaborator, and it was one of the best choices I ever made in my life.”

More in the Gazette:

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Joe Persico on YouTube at the NYS Writers Institute

Watch an interview with Joe Persico at the Writers Institute in 2004 on our YouTube channel:

Best-selling nonfiction writer Joseph Persico authored 11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour: Armistice Day, 1918 (2004, Random House), which recounts the final bloody days and hours of the First World War. The book details how Allied commanders, in pursuit of military glory, sacrificed the lives of thousands of soldiers in senseless attacks on German positions, though fully aware that nation had already surrendered. Persico's books, some of them bestsellers, have included My Enemy, My Brother: Men and Days of Gettysburg (1977), Piercing the Reich: The Penetration of Nazi Germany by American Secret Agents during World War II (1979), The Imperial Rockefeller: A Biography of Nelson A. Rockefeller (1982), Murrow: An American Original (1988), Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey from OSS to CIA (1990); Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial (1994), and Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage (2001). Persico collaborated with General Colin Powell on My American Journey (1996), which follows Powell's life from his birth in Harlem through his distinguished career in the U.S. Military, including his rise to influence at the Pentagon, as well as his role in the Vietnamese, Panamanian and Iraqi conflicts. A graduate of UAlbany and Guilderland resident, Persico served on the commission that oversaw the design of the new National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and penned the words that appear on the monument, "Here we mark the price of freedom."

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More on Joe Persico in the Times Union

Two community treasures lost: An appreciation

Joe was an acclaimed historian and the author of 12 books. You may have seen him as a "talking head" expert in History Channel documentaries or as a guest on "Face the Nation" and "Morning Joe." His books had reached the best-seller list and "Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial" was made into a TV movie. The Gloversville native was among a troika of the region's most famous authors alongside Albany natives Andy Rooney and Bill Kennedy.

Yet he was always willing to write a blurb, celebrate literary successes of friends and offer pragmatic advice to writers like myself. He called me "young fella" even after I turned 55 this summer. He said there were no shortcuts to success. He had a small sign in a book-lined study at his Guilderland apartment that was a kind of mantra: "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

He worked hard to the end.


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Mourning Joe Persico, One of the Finest Writers in the Region

Joseph E. Persico, acclaimed historian and biographer, dies at 84

Ex-Rockefeller aide's work noted for its humanity
Paul Grondah, Times Union

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