Friday, October 22, 2010

For Women, Poetry is Not a Luxury....

Writing of Sapphire's Push in the Women's Review of Books in 1996, Gayle Pemberton invokes Audre Lorde who passed away in 1992 during her term as State Poet under the auspices of the New York State Writers Institute.

"For women, then, poetry is not a luxury," wrote Audre Lorde. "It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought."

"Claireece Precious Jones, the protagonist of Sapphire's remarkable novel Push, is a living embodiment of Lorde's dictum. Precious, as she prefers to be called, learns to survive a life of horrific trauma by learning to read and write. Through her own poetry she gives voice to her soul, revealing a fortitude and an indomitable human spirit rarely equalled in any fiction."

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sapphire on Katie Couric

Sapphire, who visits the Writers Institute this coming Tuesday, October 26, spends 45 minutes with Katie Couric discussing her life and work last year on the CBS interview program, @katiecouric. A major American poet, Sapphire is also the acclaimed author of Push, an international bestseller that was adapted as the Oscar-winning film, Precious.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brilliant and bizarre....

In the journal Kinoeye: New Perspectives on European Film, James Kendrick reappraises the silent 1922 "horror documentary," Häxan, to be screened this Friday, 10/22.

"The single, persistent question with which viewers are often left after viewing Benjamin Christensen's 1922 film Häxan (The Witch) is, what is it? Part illustrated exploration of the history of witchcraft, part grisly horror film, part burlesque comedy and part condescending reappraisal of the ignorant past, Häxan is nothing if not utterly unique, a compelling oddity that still retains its often shocking effectiveness and, despite being left out of many conventional film histories, is one of the most artful and influential of all silent films." More.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shaker Heritage

In a Times Union interview with Elizabeth Mair, Ilyon Woo (who visits the Writers Institute and the Albany Shaker site this Thursday) explains how she became passioniately interested in the Shakers as a young child:

"Well, my parents have been design-obsessed always. My father's an architect, and my mother's a concert pianist. They've always been into visiting these quirky, interesting historical places. Especially ones that feature interesting design. So they started taking me to Shaker villages -- which were really mostly museums -- when I was a very young girl. They would of course look at all these beautiful things that the Shakers made and marvel over all these inventions. But for me -- maybe because I was traveling there with my family -- I couldn't help wondering what it was like to actually live there. That, for me, and not the design, is where the obsession began." More.

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Little House on the Prairie for Adults

Jeannette Walls (author of The Glass Castle) published a "true life novel" in 2009, Half-Broke Horses, based on the oral histories of her grandmother who grew up in a muddy dug-out on the Texas prairie at the turn of the 20th century. Favorably reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, the novel has been widely described as Wilder's Little House with a lot more grit and hardship.

It also helps answer a riddle, according to Liesl Schillinger of the Times: "Anyone who devoured Walls’s incandescent 2005 memoir, The Glass Castle, has wondered: How did such untamed characters come to exist in America, in the not-so-distant 1960s and ’70s? Walls’s new book, Half Broke Horses, a novelistic re-creation of the life of her maternal grand­mother, Lily Casey Smith, in the first half of the 20th century, told in her grandmother’s voice, gives a partial answer to that perplexing question." More.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lydia Davis triumphs with Madame Bovary

New York State Writers Institute Writing Fellow Lydia Davis is receiving raves the world over for her new translation of Madame Bovary (2010).

Writing in the New York Times, Kathryn Harrison says, "It is a shame Flaubert will never read Davis’s translation of 'Madame Bovary.' Even he would have to agree his masterwork has been given the English translation it deserves. " More.

For an account of Davis' heroic struggle with Flaubert's work, read Sam Harris in New York: "Knee-deep in 'Bovary.'"

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Dawn of Color Film

Here's the Chicago Reader's capsule review of the 1926 silent The Black Pirate (to be screened with live piano accompaniment at Page Hall this Friday, 10/15):

"Two-strip Technicolor—in which red orange and blue green exposures of the same action were fused into a single length of celluloid—was being used in silent films as early as 1922, but this rousing 1926 swashbuckler was the first full-length two-strip feature." More.

You can also read about the rocky beginnings of color film on the website of The American Widescreen Museum:

"Since the print was actually two strips cemented back to back, the side facing the projector's arc lamp would heat up and expand more than the side towards the lens. This caused the film to 'cup' and replacement reels were constantly being supplied while the folks back in the lab 'ironed' the cupped reels flat."

Also, its nice to know that the Fairbanks family is still in the business of swashbuckling three generations on....

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The Nobel Peace Prize

Kwame Anthony Appiah, who will visit the New York State Writers Institute on Thursday, November 11, successfully nominated Chinese author Liu Xiaobo of China for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize last week. The text of Appiah's letter of nomination may be found here.

The President of the PEN American Center, the American branch of the world's oldest human rights organization, Appiah was one of several thousand individuals privileged to submit nominations worldwide. Qualifications for nominators are posted on the website of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Appiah will speak in Albany about his new book, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (2010).

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The Women behind "The Woman Behind Little Women"

The American Library Association's Booklist magazine named Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, the "Best Video of 2009." The film also took "Best Documentary" at the Reel Women Festival in Los Angeles.

Mary McNamara of the L. A. Times said, "[The] documentary gives life and texture to a woman of extraordinary talent and determination who became as great a celebrity in her day as J.K. Rowling is in ours.... More than that, the film captures the intellectual foment of the time, which, though revolutionary in many ways, did not extend to a woman becoming a novelist or essayist under her own name unless she was writing for children."

Harriet Reisen and Nancy Porter-- the women behind The Woman Behind Little Women-- will be making public presentations on Thursday, October 14th and Friday, October 15th (the latter will be a 3 hour long seminar on historical writing and filmmaking for general audiences, 9AM-12PM, entirely FREE and open to the public.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sartre in the Age of Obama

Acclaimed Jean-Paul Sartre biographer Annie Cohen-Solal-- who speaks today at the University Art Museum about her book on Leo Castelli-- delivered the Sartre Society's keynote address last November, with a paper entitled "Sartre Reconsidered in Light of the Obama Era."

"Why did I submit a paper to the North American Sartre Society this year?... I did it because of Memphis and Martin Luther King, Jr. I did it because of Barack Obama. Then, I did it because of my own debt to Sartre, as being someone educated as a colonized Jew in Algeria, who managed to decipher my own cultural identity through Franz Fanon and Sartre. Finally, I did it because of the links that I always felt existed between African American leaders or intellectuals and Sartre. Because I decided it was now time for me to proceed in that direction."

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Annie Cohen Solal on Charlie Rose, Sept. 15, 2010

Charlie Rose interviews Annie Cohen Solal, French author who will be visiting the University Art Museum this coming Tuesday, October 12, about her new biography of her friend Leo Castelli, the New York art dealer who helped to create and shape the Pop and Minimalist movements in American art.

View the interview here.

Rose previously interviewed Cohen Solal in 2001 about Painting American, her book on the rise of American art in New York City, and how it came to displace Paris as the center of the art world. Cohen Solal conducted much of her research for that book as cultural attache of the French Embassy under the tutelage of Leo Castelli.

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Paul Grondahl on Hugo Perez in the TU

Paul Grondahl contributes a profile of Hugo Perez in yesterday's Times Union, featuring photos of Hugo with Hunter Thompson and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (pictured here)....

"You may not have known his name, but you couldn't have missed Hugo Perez at Writers Institute readings at the University at Albany between the mid- to late-1990s.

He was the dark-haired, bespectacled and stylishly dressed young man, often sporting a vest and fedora. He stood silently behind a video camera, hour after hour, still as a statue. He focused, zoomed and panned on Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood and a parade of literary luminaries."

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NOT Science Fiction

Among other things, Sigrid Nunez talks in the Times Union about the absence of futuristic technology in her novel.

"Be forewarned; Nunez does not consider her tale to be science fiction. 'Because I'm not interested in changes in technology, I didn't see it as a futuristic novel. Political polarizations, extreme weather changes -- we have all of that now,' she says in a phone interview, adding of her fictional near-apocalypse: 'It was a What if?.'"

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sowing Seed

Watch Seed, Hugo Perez's 15-minute scifi short about America's genetically modified future on ITVS (Independent Television Service).

"The year is 2022. After a decade of world famine and food riots, the Mendelian Corporation now bioengineers the world’s entire commercial supply of genetically modified seeds...."

Perez visits the Writers Institue tomorrow, Friday 10/8. Note room change for 4:15 event (Recital Hall, PAC). Evening event still in Page.

Also check out Hugo's July 2010 interview on the ITVS "Beyond the Box" blog in which he mentions that there is a feature length version of the film in the works.

And speaking of scifi, read Hugo's September 2010 interview with William Gibson, author of Neuromancer and the father of "Cyberpunk" fiction, here.

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William Kennedy on Mario Vargas Llosa

From the New York Times Book Review, read William Kennedy's 1982 review of newly-crowned Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa's novel, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977, English translation 1982).

"Vargas Llosa once said he didn't like novels with a moral, and he hasn't imposed one here, though any book which is so well wrought, which defines a world with such unarguable accuracy, is moral; and what's more, it made me laugh out loud. Perhaps it carries an antimoral - that soap opera is good for you. It is a work that celebrates story: story that gives pleasure to a large number of people, story also as a pleasure principle for the writer."

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Reinventing the Apocalypse

Writing on the Bookslut blog, Guy Cunningham argues that Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez (who visits the Writers Institute today) reinvents the "Post-Apocalyptic Novel."....

"Salvation City repudiates its own genre -- because the 'apocalypse' of this post-apocalyptic novel isn’t the end of the world. And it’s this that separates Nunez’s novel from The Road or Stephen King’s The Stand (which also centered on the aftermath of a flu outbreak). Cole is interested not in surviving, but in living. And as a result, his story is really about a young man’s efforts to navigate two homes: that of his parents -- secular, intellectual, tumultuous -- and that of Pastor Wyatt and Tracy in Salvation City -- religious, focused on homeschooling, serene. It’s to Nunez’s credit that this conflict is far more engrossing than the apocalypse that sets it in motion."

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Castelli Book Makes Second Cut for Prix Femina

Annie Cohen-Solal's new biography of New York art dealer Leo Castelli has made the second cut for the Prix Femina, a prestigious French prize honoring literature written by women. The winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 3rd.

Cohen-Solal will visit UAlbany, October 12 (Tuesday) at 7PM [NOTE EARLY START TIME]. The event is in the University Art Museum, Fine Arts Building, Uptown Campus and is cosponsored by the Art Museum.

BTW: That's Andy Warhol's "Leo Castelli 1975" on the right.

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