Friday, January 30, 2015

Turbo-charged, hyperkinetic: Peter Carey

Australian cyber-thriller Amnesia (2015, U.S. edition) by Australian-American novelist Peter Carey, who visits the Writers Institute this coming Tuesday 2/3, is reviewed in The Guardian:

"Peter Carey's fiction is turbo-charged, hyperenergetic.... Like many of Carey’s books, Amnesia generates an aura of the fantastical but is completely grounded; it is high-spirited but serious, hectic but never hasty.... a deeply engaging book. It responds to some of the biggest issues of our time, and reminds us that no other contemporary novelist is better able to mix farce with ferocity, or to better effect."

More about Peter Carey's visit:

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Celebrating Motherhood as a Choice-- Katha Pollitt

Connie Schultz of the Washington Post reviews Katha Pollitt's new book on abortion: Pro. Pollitt visits the Institute on Jan. 29th.

Schultz writes:  Katha Pollitt may not appreciate my starting this review with her description of her own experience of motherhood, but this is my attempt to broaden her audience beyond the predictable cast for her small, powerful book. “People think of pregnant women as weak and vulnerable, but when I was pregnant with my daughter I felt as if I could put my hand in fire and it would only glow,” she writes in “Pro.” “I never felt alone: There were two of us, right there. I didn’t think of my child as an embryo or fetus. . . . I thought of her first as a funny little sea creature of indeterminate sex, and later, yes, as a baby, even though she was only a baby in my thoughts.”

To state what should be obvious, Pollitt, like most other women who support abortion rights, celebrates motherhood as a choice. The poet and columnist for the Nation is also one of the most eloquent champions for women’s reproductive freedom, and her latest book is a manifesto.

More in the Washington Post:

More about Pollitt's upcoming visit:

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Women Should Be 52% of Everything-- Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt, who opens our Visiting Writers Series on January 29th is a regular visitor to the NYS Summer Writers Institute in Saratoga.

Her last visit to UAlbany, however, was in 1992. Here are some quotes from her interview on that occasion with the late Tom Smith:

"I would be in favor of equal representation of women in Congress even if women voted identically with men on every issue, because it's a fairness issue. I would be in favor of women being 52% of everything as well, from police officers, to doctors, to college professors and in government too. That's an equality and justice issue."

"I think people are shaped by economic, social and cultural forces. I don't believe in the essentials of virtue, but it is interesting that there is the [widespread] notion that women are more virtuous. This belief that women are more virtuous than men never leads to the obvious question-- why aren't they in charge then?"

More about Pollitt's upcoming visit:

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Katha Pollitt in the Times Union

Katha Pollitt, one of the most influential feminist writers and thinkers of the present generation, opens our Visiting Writers Series on Thursday, January 29.

Pollitt is interviewed in the  Times Union by Elizabeth Floyd Mair, about her new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights [2014].

Q: Tell me about how you want to reframe the discussion [of abortion]?

A: I want to put women, in their full humanity, back at the center. Right now, the discussion is all about the fertilized egg/embryo/fetus. I want us to see the abortion decision as part of normal life in a female body — one in three women will have had at least one by menopause. I want us to see abortion rights and access as a good thing for society. What is the point of forcing women to bear children against their will? Children should be born when their parents are in a good position to raise them, and our whole society benefits when women and men can realize their dreams.

More in the TU:

More about Pollitt's upcoming visit:

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The National Book Critics Circle Awards and Us

The National Book Critics Circle Awards are remarkably relevant for the NYS Writers Institute this year.

Toni Morrison, who was in residency here at the time of the Institute's founding, will receive the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

Institute Writing Fellow Lynne Tillman is a finalist in the category of Criticism for her collection, What Would Lynne Tillman Do?

Ian S. MacNiven, who visited on Nov. 25, 2014, to present his new book Literchoor Is My Beat: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions, and John Lahr, who visited Oct. 1, 2014 with his new book, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, are both finalists for the award in Biography.

MacNiven receives his nomination for a book that escaped the radar of the mainstream media (but not us!).

Other finalists in various categories who have visited the Institute in recent years include Gary Shteyngart (Autobiography for Little Failure), Marilynne Robinson (Fiction for Lila), Chang-rae Lee (Fiction for On Such a Full Sea), and Elizabeth Kolbert (General Nonfiction for The Sixth Extinction).

Full list here:

Picture: Ian MacNiven

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

William Wellman Film Festival in the Times Union

Amy Biancolli blogs our upcoming William A. Wellman Film Festival in the Times Union:

A mini-festival of five movies from the long-running, wide-ranging career of Hollywood heydey director William A. Wellman forms the core of this spring’s classic film series offered by the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany, which has announced its slate of free movies and related events for the upcoming season.

The run of Wellman films opens with rat-a-tat gangster saga “The Public Enemy” on Friday, Jan. 30, and concludes on Friday, May 1, with a reading and discussion by the director’s son, William Wellman Jr., an actor and author of the forthcoming biography “Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel.” “Wings,” Wellman’s soaring, silent 1927 Oscar winner (the first ever) depicting World War I fighter pilots, will screen on Friday, April 24. Also in the festival: “The Public Enemy,” “Nothing Sacred” and “Beau Geste.”

Besides the helpings of Wellman, other films in the springtime lineup at Page Hall include Tanya Hamilton’s 2010 Black Panther drama “Night Catches Us,” Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” (screened in conjunction with an April 13 Writers Institute appearance by Shakespeare & Company founder Tina Packer) and the classic 1939 iteration of Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” from another legendary Hollywood Bill, William Wyler.

In the TU:

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What the Fly Saw in Publishers Weekly

UAlbany Criminal Justice Professor Frankie Bailey's new crime novel, What the Fly Saw (2015), is reviewed in this week's Publishers Weekly:

"The murder of funeral director Kevin Novak, found dead with an arrow in his chest and a skeleton clutched in his arms, propels Bailey’s appealing second near-future mystery featuring Albany, N.Y., detective Hannah McCabe (after 2013’s The Red Queen Dies). Kevin’s family reports that he was coping badly with the sudden death of his best friend, and he was seen acting skittish toward a self-proclaimed psychic, Luanne Woodward, whom he had recently met. In addition, Kevin’s son is showing disturbing signs of irrationality, the minister of Kevin’s church is evasive, and someone serves an arsenic-laden pie with fatal results after a séance. Hannah and her detective partner, Mike Baxter, retrace Kevin’s steps, uncovering evidence that the seemingly steady husband and father was enmeshed in a crisis with significant repercussions for Kevin’s circle. Other deaths, ostensibly from drugs, pose complications for Hannah that promise to carry into the next book, which readers are sure to look forward to. Agent: Josh Getzler, Hannigan Salky Getzler Agency. (Mar.)"

PW link:

Frankie's website:

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Robert Stone on "The Writer" in 1996

Robert Stone, celebrated author of Dog Soldiers who died last week, was featured on a 1996 episode of "The Writer," a former collaboration between PBS station WMHT and the New York State Writers Institute:

More about Stone's visit to the Writers Institute and UAlbany:

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Monday, January 12, 2015

New Spring Series!

You are invited to attend our Spring 2015 series of free events.

The Visiting Writers Series will feature  social critic Katha Pollitt, major novelist Alice McDermott, celebrated New Yorker proofreader Mary Norris, rising literary stars Yelena Akhtiorskaya and Elisa Albert, two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey, major American poet Alicia Ostriker, prize-winning Caribbean author Caryl Phillips, Shakespeare authority and stage actress Tina Packer, a celebration of local civil rights crusader Barbara Smith, and many other events!

The Classic Film Series will feature young prize-winning director Tanya Hamilton (Night Catches Us), theater and film producer Ron Simons (winner of Tony Awards for for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder; Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike; and the 2012 Porgy & Bess), prize-winning documentary filmmaker Jason Osder (Let the Fire Burn), and William Wellman, Jr., son and biographer of legendary Hollywood director William A. Wellman, whose career spanned four decades, from the Silent Era to the 1950s.

We hope to see you soon!

Best regards and Happy New Year,

The New York State Writers Institute

For more information, visit our website at and our blog at , or call us at 518-442-5620.

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Robert Stone (1937-2015), Author of Dog Soldiers

Robert Stone, who visited the New York State Writers Institute and UAlbany in October 1996, passed away at the age of 77 on January 10th.

Stone was the author of the classic Vietnam War novel, Dog Soldiers, winner of the National Book Award.

AP obituary:

New York Times:

Institute Director Don Faulkner said in 1996:

"Through works such as Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise, novels which are as politically and culturally astute as they are brilliant, to his bitter social satires Children of Light (about Hollywood) and Outerbridge Reach (about midlife crises, middle class values, and sailing), Stone proves his bond of fealty to the writers he respects the most: Dostoevski and Conrad, Hemingway, Dos Passos, and Graham Greene. A reader will find all of the big themes established by each in Stone's work, but they will be found in unique scale, uniquely Stone. He's an American master, of storytelling, of the novel, and of insight into our culture."


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Bill Remembers Mario on Time Warner Cable News

William Kennedy sat for a interview on Friday 1/9 about the legacy of former Governor with the New York State of Politics program of Time Warner Cable News.

"It was Mario Cuomo’s second week in office when he sent a handwritten letter to an English professor at the University at Albany. That letter kicked off what would become a life-long friendship between William Kennedy and the former governor. So, when Kennedy pitched his idea for the New York State Writer’s Institite a year later, Mario Cuomo pushed the idea into state law. We talked to Kennedy at the University at Albany about the former governor."

Here's the link:

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mario Cuomo's Legacy Lives on at the Institute

NYS Writers Institute Director Don Faulkner is interviewed about Mario Cuomo's legacy on Time Warner Cable News:

“It's clearly one of his legacies. He gave us the power to do these things he gave the state this whole opportunity to have access to all these writers,” said Faulkner. “And as we've expanded our archive, it'll bring in more and more people across the state. It's a vast resource as it's developed over the years and it's a testament to him.” -

See more at:

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Bill Remembers Mario

In an appearance yesterday on NBC television affiliate WNYT 13, William Kennedy reflects on his friendship with Mario Cuomo who died on January 1st, 2015.

“He was the best orator we've had since FDR and Martin Luther King,” said Kennedy.


Picture: Cuomo signs legislation creating the New York State Writers Institute in 1984. William Kennedy stands behind him, flanked by State Senator Tarky Lombardi (left) and Assemblyman William Passannante (right).

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015)

The New York State Writers Institute mourns the passing of Mario Cuomo, former New York Governor and a very dear friend of the Institute, who signed into law the legislation that created our organization in 1984.

Cuomo came to the Institute to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2009, his first public appearance in Albany since leaving the Governor's mansion in 1994. On that occasion, he shared the stage at Page Hall with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (pictured here).

More about his visit here: 

The New York Times obituary:

More photos from the 25th Anniversary here:

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