Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tyehimba Jess on The Book Show

Tyehimba Jess
Our friend Joe Donahue at WAMC interviewed Tyehimba Jess during Jess's visit to the Writers Institute in September. That interview is now available on The Book Show's podcast at:

Jess was our guest on September 14, 2017. More information.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Kurt Andersen on The Book Show

Kurt Andersen
Joe Donahue moderated a live taping with guest Kurt Andersen on Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Campus Center Ballroom at the University at Albany.

Andersen has recently published two books: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (2017) and You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) (2017).

The interview is now available as a podcast on The Book Show at WAMC.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Thank you, Alice Green

Thank you, Alice Green, for writing a very kind letter to the editor, published in the Times Union on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017.
For those of you visiting from out of town, Alice Green is the founder and executive director of The Center for Law and Justice, a not-for-profit community organization, and a longtime activist fighting against racism and issues of criminal justice.
We were pleased to see her at several of the Telling the Truth seminars earlier this month.

Headline: Grondahl's astute leadership a light

Text: How fortunate we are to have Paul Grondahl in our Capital Region community. For years, he has served us as a top-notch journalist, exploring and closely examining the human condition of people around the world and in our own community.
He now serves as the executive director of the New York State Writers Institute at the University of Albany. There for only a few months he has already given new life and meaning to the institute. The recent symposium, "Telling the Truth in a Post-Truth World," is a perfect example. Under his capable, astute and creative leadership, the symposium was a smashing success — well attended and deeply informative and engaging.
We need Grondahl's honest, intelligent and responsible approach to providing truthful information more than ever during this dark period in our country.
Alice Green
Center for Law and Justice

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Congratulations Joachim Frank on winning the Nobel Prize!

Congratulations to Joachim Frank for winning the Nobel Prize today! See story published in today's Times Union.

Frank was on the faculty at the University at Albany during his time at Wadsworth Center in Albany before moving to Columbia University in 2001.
Joachim Frank, of Columbia University, is hugged by his wife Carol Saginaw, in their New York City apartment, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

From the Times Union archives, here is a story by NYS Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl on Frank published on page A1 on March 12, 2001.

State scientist finds key to deadly hepatitis C
Times Union 3/12/2001 Page: A1
Byline: PAUL GRONDAHL Staff writer

State research scientist Joachim Frank has provided the first glimpse into a kind of fatal hijacking that occurs at the molecular level of the hepatitis C virus. Frank's discovery unlocks a mystery of chronic liver disease, which results in the deaths of 10,000 Americans annually. His findings were published Friday in the prestigious journal Science.

``On the incremental scale of basic research, this is a pretty big step,'' said Paul Masters, chief of virology for the state Health Department's Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research in Albany, where Frank's research team is based.

Masters likened Frank's breakthrough to seeing the moon -- after blithely gazing at its glow in the heavens for decades -- suddenly with the clarity and detail offered by a high-powered telescope.

``This discovery brings us closer than we've ever been to understanding how this very insidious virus initiates infection and it gives us a target for coming up with anti-viral therapies,'' Masters said.
Existing drugs often fail in treating hepatitis C virus, which leads in the majority of cases to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis or cancer in the organ that filters poisons from the bloodstream.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that hepatitis C virus infection costs $600 million annually in the United States in health care and lost wages.

``Dr. Frank's research epitomizes the quality of scientific research conducted in New York state and illustrates how cutting-edge basic science can address a problem of pressing public health importance,'' said Dr. Antonia C. Novello, the state health commissioner.

Using a state-of-the-art $1 million cryo-electron microscope, a drop of clear liquid with cells from a rabbit and the genetic material frozen at 321 below zero Fahrenheit, Frank and his team have refined a pioneering process akin to creating a genome mosaic.

The researchers generated thousands of images of cells from every conceivable angle. They next visually reconstructed the molecules on a high-powered computer with cutting-edge software Frank developed named SPIDER, magnified the molecules a million fold and discovered an astonishing sequence.

With a spinning, moving 3-D computer model visualization, Frank -- who writes short stories and novels in his spare time and possesses the soul of a poet -- has demonstrated how good health can be gone in 60 seconds.

``The movie lasts about a minute and shows how the hepatitis C virus essentially hijacks very complex molecular machinery for its own purposes and disables the mechanisms that were there,'' Frank said.
To the casual observer, the scientific breakthrough looks something like an eel-like wrapping itself around and strangling a writhing Pokemon figure.

Or, to use Masters' analogy, the hepatitis C virus ``shows up without a ticket, doesn't have to wait in line and gets in ahead of everybody else.''

Frank's research is funded by a seven-year, multimillion-dollar ``genius'' grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and another $1.25 million from the National Institutes of Health.

Frank has developed an international reputation for work that has been called ``a scientific tour de force.'' His research focuses on the ribosome and how it works at the molecular level. Ribosomes are protein-building factories. There are millions of these hard-working, blue-collar ribosomes in a typical human cell.

Frank's Science article describes this heretofore unobserved molecular commandeering action on a specific ribosome sub-unit called the 40S sub-unit.

In typically modest fashion, Frank put his name last among the Science paper's authors, preceded by his Wadsworth team members Christian Spahn, Robert Grassucci and Pawel Penczek. He also credits first his Yale University co-investigators, Jeffrey S. Kieft, Kaihong Zhou and Jennifer Doudna.

Frank, 60, a state researcher since 1975, is a German emigre who became an American citizen in 1997. His thin, angular face is topped with flaxen, silvery hair and he speaks in a soft, meandering way heavily salted with a German accent.

He lives in Albany, is active on civic issues and wakes before dawn to garden. A voracious reader, Frank is a former president of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild who meets regularly with local writers to discuss poetry and fiction, while weathering their criticism of his own short stories and novels.

``Joachim is modest, works very hard and doesn't blow his own horn much,'' Masters said. ``This work is technically mind-boggling and it takes a particular kind of genius.''

First published in the Albany Times Union March 12, 2001

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Video: Madeleine Thien

Here is a nicely-produced video of Madeleine Thien speaking on her novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing.

Madeleine Thien and Peter Ho Davies will discuss their novel on Tuesday, October 3, 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., Thien and Davies will lead an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library on the UAlbany uptown campus.

Free and open to the public, the events are cosponsored by the NYS Writers Institute, NYS Office of Cultural Education, and the Friends of the New York State Library.

Video produced by John Kenney of the Montreal Gazette.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

NPR Audio: The Unconventional Poetry Of Tyehimba Jess

Listen to an interview with Tyehimba Jess by NPR's Dan Wanschura, first aired July 15, 2017.

Tyehimba Jess, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for poetry, will read from his work and discuss its origins as part of a celebration of spoken word poetry, which will also feature readings by UAlbany students, at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 14 in the Main Theatre of the Performing Arts Center, on UAlbany’s Uptown campus.

Earlier that day at 4:15 p.m. Jess will hold an informal seminar in the Recital Hall in UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center. More details

Free and open to the public, the events are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, UAlbany’s Student Association, Division of Student Life, and The Writing Center of the English Department.

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Interview: James Hart, author of "Lucky Jim"

Author James Hart did not want to harm anyone else in the writing of his heartbreaking memoir "Lucky Jim," (Cleis Press, 238 pages, $17.95), which he will read from Thursday at the State Museum, part of the New York State Writers Institute fall programming.

"But I also knew I needed to be completely honest," said Hart, who grew up in Troy, "and that was going to be tricky. Many of the people in my story were famous. I love and care about a lot of them."

One of the most important people in his life he did not want to harm was his ex-wife, singer Carly Simon. They were married for 20 years.

"I called her early on in the writing of the book," he said in an interview. "I was terrified that my words were going to hurt her and she said, 'I don't care. Just write the truth. That's all I wanted from you from day one.' "

The book, which was released in April, begins on a train platform in Hudson. Hart had just spent the day with his severely handicapped son, Eamon, at a camp for disabled children, and now he was returning to New York City, where he lived. Simon was standing on the same platform with a mutual friend of Hart's, who introduced the two of them.

"I was single at the time, and I knew she was somebody, an actress maybe. I was stunned by her beauty right away," he said. "There were 20 other people at the Hudson train station staring at her as well. They were staring at the celebrity Carly Simon. They knew who she was, but I was looking at her as a beautiful woman."

Hart writes honestly about his love for Simon and the happiness they had together, but he also writes about his many addictions and his increasing struggle to confront his sexuality.

"Carly has read the drafts of the book all along. I know it's difficult for her to read about her then-husband exploring the gay world with crack and cocaine. That's not something Carly would be rushing to read, but she understands that's the story. The two of us were so right together and so wrong, so perfectly matched and so perfectly unmatched."

Hart admits that he and Simon had options. "I suppose I could have stayed in the closet and maintained some sort of deep relationship with Carly, but that would have been extraordinarily unfair to both of us. We really tried hard to keep our lives together, but in the end Carly and I couldn't live that kind of lie."

In the writing of this book Hart came to realize how the various parts of his life were connected in ways he had never thought about before.

"Despite all my psychological defenses, I've been attracted to honesty my whole life," he said. "As a young man, my trip to the seminary to become a priest was a search for honesty and discovery. I've had to do a lot of 12-step work on myself, not because I wanted to, but because I had to in order to survive."

Hart writes about a lot of personal pain in this book. His early life was filled with brutal violence on a daily basis delivered by his alcoholic father. His son suffered from a seizure disorder that brought about many physical challenges every day that made loving him difficult, and Hart is unsparing in writing about the degradations he brought on himself with alcohol, drugs and sex.

When Hart met Simon, he was an insurance salesman, an everyman. When they were married, he entered the elite world of Martha's Vineyard with its fame and celebrity. He met the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Bill and Hillary Clinton, film director Mike Nichols and author William Styron.

"Carly and I didn't have a thousand celebrity friends. We had 10 celebrity friends. We weren't searching for celebrity friends," he said. "The truth is a lot of celebrities are people you really don't want to hang out with."

Hart believes fame and celebrity was not the great gift of his life; it was his son.

"On a daily basis, Eamon displayed a terrifying grace, even though he was physically broken. I didn't want to go there. He forced me to find the ways to love him, and he found the ways to love me."
The word "lucky" in the title refers to the many mentors and friends who have helped to save and shape him into the man he is today. "Mike Nichols and Bill Styron didn't have to be my friend, but they were. They didn't need me. Bill Kennedy has also been a close friend of mine since 1974, long before he was the famous writer. He's helped a lot in my development as a writer. He's very rare. Once you're his friend, he never lets a friend go. He's an incredibly positive guy, and he has a great deal of humility."

Hart said he is looking forward to his reading on Thursday.[Editor's note: James Hart visited the NYS Writers Institute on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.]

"It's kind of a homecoming for me," he said. "So much of my life was spent in Albany. My son lived there through the years. I have many good friends there. I can't imagine a place I'd rather do a reading at. It's like reading to my family."
Jack Rightmyer is a regular contributor to the Times Union. 

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