Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Writers Institute Announces Its Spring 08 Series; A New Faculty Member; Some Words From Norman Mailer; A Take on Upcoming Films

The Writers Institute is set to launch a new series for the spring of 2008 with celebrations of theatre, poetry, film, and fiction.

The series in Albany starts off on February 7 with the 12th Annual Burian Lecture on Theatre with Michael Mayer, director of the stunning Spring Awakening, along with many traditional accomplishments, important revivals of Chekhov and Arthur Miller among them. Later in the season we will be workshopping a new play-in-process by renowned science writer Dava Sobel, on Copernicus.

Writers to follow include the powerful novelist Susan Choi; novelist and critic - indeed the best public literary critic of our times - James Wood; and the series goes on with at long last a surfeit of poetry - readings by Marie Howe, Campbell McGrath, Li-Young Lee, and Frank Bidart.

Richard Price, Russell Banks, Nicholas Delbanco, and Cristina Garcia extend the offerings in fiction. In what we expect to be a regular feature of our spring series, we have worked with PEN American Center's program, World Voices, to being to the Institute a bevy of internationally renowned writers.

Among our extra-curricular activities are four programs at the Associated Writing Programs Conference in New York City (Jan 30 - Feb 2), and our much-awaited inauguration of a new State Author and State Poet for the State of New York (March 3rd in Albany, with Governor Eliot Spitzer).

This is a heckuva lot of good stuff! Take advantage.


The Institute proudly welcomes to its faculty novelist and poet (and screenwriter, critic, translator, and travel writer) James Lasdun. We are lucky to have him. James, who has taught in our seminar program before, is among the best and the brightest. He recently taught at Columbia, Princeton, and the New School, and will be teaching a seminar (or two) with us in the spring term. More on that in postings to come.


A note of interest from our archive:

An interview with Norman Mailer on May 1, 2007, purposely couched in our broader posting. The aeronautics engineer speaks.

On being asked about the difference between fiction and nonfiction:

I'd say that it's all fiction. I'd say that one of the great swindles that civilization has been pulling on itself is that there are two literary forms - fiction and nonfiction, and that there really is a profound separation between them. And, as far as I'm concerned, nonfiction is fiction. Because you never get it right - in those times which I've really tried to get it absolutely right, when all was done...and I have much more contempt and respect for facts than most nonfiction writers, because I think that most facts are skewed, warped, and twisted in one form or another, whether outright lies or almost correct. And they get put together in these rickety structures which are then called history until somebody else comes along and casts it down for a new structure, and so forth. So, in that sense, it's fiction. Whereas in fiction, what you're doing is dealing with things that are not facts, but you're trying to move truthfully among several imaginations when you're writing. And that makes for some very interesting structures, which I think have more tensile strength, and - how should I put it - when you twist them, they tend to twist back, whereas with history, once you twist it - once you demolish a fact in history - it's gone. The history is savaged. It was a serious fact, and now it's seriously wrong.


The spring Classic film Series opens with one of the least-seen most important films of our time: Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, a cinema landmark by one of the significant of African-American filmmakers.

Along the way, we will bring in documentarist Perry Miller Adato, whose work includes the film Paris: The Luminous Years, and we will bring in four more documentarists during February: Sheila Curran Bernard, Bernadine Mellen, Christiane Badgley, and Penny Lane. See the Institute calendar for details. Among the other films of note, the Institute recognizes a master of Bollywood, Indian, cinema with a screening of Sholay, directed by the recently deceased Ramesh Sippy.

Other films of note include Clando, by the Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno; an unearthed chestnut, Dragonwyck, a gothic film with Vincent Price about the Van Rensselaer family; a film preceding Richard Price's visit, Mad Dog and Glory; and our bi-annual silent screening with Mike Schiffer's piano accompaniment, a film not screened at the Institute heretoforeL Charlie Chaplain's City Lights.

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