Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Art in Science

Theoretical physicist Alan Lightman speaks about the importance of art in science on MIT TechTV.

Lightman, who visits this coming Thursday, was born in Memphis Tennessee in 1948, son of Richard Lightman, a movie theater owner, and Jeanne Garretson, a dancing teacher and volunteer Braille typist. From an early age, he was entranced by both science and the arts and, while in high school, began independent science projects and writing poetry.... More.

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The Maldive Shark

Robert Pinsky discusses Herman Melville's brilliance as a poet last week in Slate.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate, Pinsky will participate again this year at the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs (which he does every year).

Herman Melville (1819-1891) lived at various times during his boyhood and adulthood in the Capital District, in both Albany (where he attended Albany Academy) and Lansingburgh.

Pinsky discusses "The Maldive Shark":

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be....


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Young Writers Institute, July 1-7, 2012

A student writes about her experiences at the Summer Young Writers Institute:

“Assuming that I would be my usual apathetic, antisocial self, my mother’s one rule for when I would be at the New York State Summer Young Writers Institute was, 'Be outgoing.'"

"I suppose that if I were anywhere else but a writing camp filled with 35 other students who were more or less just like me, I would have had a painfully hard time. Every minute that I
have spent here was precious. I have never been surrounded by like-minded people who were just as enthusiastic and passionate about writing as I was, and it was a beautiful and heartwarming sensation learning that everybody around you — faculty and peers alike — felt the same way you did...." — SABRINA HUA, July, 2010.

Read the 2010 student anthology.

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Wikileaks Lawyer vs. U.S. Attorney General

In a chance encounter at a Sundance screening of Slavery By Another Name (which will be shown 2/3 at UAlbany's Performing Arts Center) Jennifer Robinson, the attorney for Julian Assange of Wikileaks, ran into U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder and had a tense exchange.

Robinson writes about her experience today on Salon.com.

Doug Blackmon, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book upon which the film is based, and Sheila Curran Bernard who wrote the screenplay, will be on hand for you to encounter after the UAlbany screening.

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Looking into the void....

Alan Lightman visits this coming Thursday to present his new novel about God, Mr. G:

"As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe."

"Not much was happening at that time. As a matter of fact, time didn't exist. Nor space. When you looked out into the Void, you were really looking at nothing more than your own thought. And if you tried to picture wind or stars or water, you could not give form or texture to your notions."

"Those things did not exist. Smooth, rough, waxy, sharp, prickly, brittle--even qualities such as these lacked meaning. Practically everything slept in an infinite torpor of potentiality. I knew that I could make whatever I wanted. But that was the problem. Unlimited possibilities bring unlimited indecision. When I thought about this particular creation or that, uncertain about how each thing would turn out, I grew anxious and went back to sleep. But at a particular moment, I managed . . . if not exactly to sweep aside my doubts, at least to take a chance."

Read more from Alan Lightman's Mr. g.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Nigerian Authors Look West

Yinka Ibukun of the Associated Press writes about Nigeria's impressive literary diaspora.

Featured authors include Teju Cole, who visits February 10 (Friday), as well as three past visitors to the Institute: Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

"The chaos of Nigeria's largest city of Lagos gets boiled down to prose as a narrator notes 'how unpretty' its sprawl looks, with 'its unplanned houses sprouting like weeds.' Another author describes the madness of the commute, how six roads meet and 'there is no traffic light.'"....


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Reconsidering Gertrude Stein

Institute Writing Fellow and UAlbany Professor Lynne Tillman reconsiders Gertrude Stein in the New York Times Book Review this past Sunday:

"Approaching Gertrude Stein’s writing critically is tricky. Because she strove to reshape literary conventions — syntax, language usage, narrative order and the sense of making sense — any comment on her choices may already be rebuffed in her poetics and practice. Stein is a trickster. This may be why, as I read 'Ida' and 'Stanzas in Meditation,' both reissued in corrected, authoritative editions from Yale University Press, I remembered a Jonathan Richman lyric I’ll paraphrase as 'Pablo Picasso never got called a jackass.'"


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Science and Religion

Karen Quamme of the Columbus Dispatch finds Alan Lightman's unholy mixture of science and religion a delight:

"The novel might be too imaginative for readers who want to stick to the facts and too blasphemous for those who want their religion undiluted, but those who find science, poetry and religion a palatable mix will be delighted." More.

Alan Lightman visits this Thursday, 2/2.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saved by Jane Eyre

When Margot Livesey was 9 years old, growing up motherless and lonely in Scotland, a book on her father’s shelf caught her eye: Jane Eyre. Livesey’s discovery of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece was transformative. The promised friend between the covers, a character whose indomitable spirit has consoled and inspired readers for over a century and a half, allowed ­Livesey to understand that “life is change.” “Like Jane’s, my life had changed for the worse,” Livesey wrote in an essay a few years ago, “and like hers, it could also change for the better. Time would, irrevocably, carry me to a new place.”

Read more in the New York Times.

Margot Livesey reads at the Albany Public Library on Tuesday, March 20.

Cosponsored by the Friends of the Albany Public Library.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Two Minute Standing Ovation at Sundance

Sam Pollard, director of Slavery by Another Name, received a two-minute standing ovation earlier this week at the Sundance Film Festival competition according to Cherie Saunders of the Eurweb Electronic Urban Report:

"Sundance audiences are embracing the work (with one woman so overcome with emotion during a post-screening Q&A with Pollard that she was unable to speak)." More.

The film will be screened on 2/3 with a talkback by the screenwriter, Sheila Curran Bernard, and the Pulitzer-winning author of the book, Doug Blackmon.

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Photography vs. Writing

Teju Cole, who visits 2/10, talks with India Realtime about why photography beats literature:

"I probably get a deeper satisfaction of having taken a very good photograph than of having written something very good, a very good story. Maybe it’s because the element of magic is so present in a good photograph – luck and magic, but also hard work and being ready and all that.

In the case of literature, so much of what’s on the page is you really making an effort to put it there. So people can give you the credit for what you’ve written down and praise you for writing that sentence.

But in the case of photography, although it also takes a lot of preparation and work, it can give the illusion of chance, of magic: How did you make it happen? How did you happen to be there? And maybe that’s a reaction I’m much more at home with."


Featured photo is from Teju Cole's website. See more of his work on Flickr.

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The Most Interesting Unsolved Problem of Science

Physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, who visits 2/2, is interviewed in the most recent issue of The Atlantic:

Q: "Mr. g" [the character of God in the novel] spends quite a while experimenting with consciousness, adding cells to an organism to see when it becomes conscious. What intrigues you about consciousness

A: For me, consciousness is the most interesting unsolved problem of science, and, in fact, we may never know what it is about a particular arrangement of neurons that gives rise to consciousness. Our consciousness, like the air we breathe or like the passage of time, is central to our existence as intelligent beings.


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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Woman of the World

"Margaret Fuller, a woman of great talent and promise, had the misfortune to be born in Massachusetts in 1810, at a time and place in which the characteristics of what historians have termed 'true womanhood' were becoming ever more rigidly defined. Well brought-up women like herself were to be cultured, pious, submissive and genteel. Fuller, by contrast, was assertive and freethinking. She was also — and to some extent, still is — a difficult person to like. "

The Lives of Margaret Fuller by Pulitzer winner John Matteson (who visits on March 22nd) is reviewed by Mary Beth Norton in the New York Times.

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If You Read Only One Book....

NPR reviewer Lucia Silver said last May, " If you only read one book this summer, make it A Moment in the Sun."

The book's author is America's most influential independent filmmaker, John Sayles, who grew up in Schenectady, and who visits the Writers Institute on Monday, Feb. 27th. Two films by Sayles will also be screened as part of our Classic Film Series.

"Sayles has managed to create a work that is both cinematic and literary in its scope and style — a blend so entrancing that you could polish off its 955 pages in one long weekend...."


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Fast Forward to the Year 2100....

"Fast-forward to the year 2100. Computers, writes physicist and futurist Michio Kaku [who visits 2/21] in Physics of the Future (Doubleday, 2011), will have humanlike intelligence, the Internet will be accessible via contact lenses, nanobots will eliminate cancers, space tourism will be cheap and popular, and we’ll be colonizing Mars.

We will be a planetary civilization capable of consuming the 1017 watts of solar energy falling on Earth to meet our energy needs, with the Internet as a worldwide telephone system; English and Chinese as the contenders for a planetary language; a unified culture of common foods, fashions and films; and a truly global economy with many more international trading blocs such as we see today in the European Union and NAFTA.

Kaku’s vision of how the exchange of science, technology and ideas among all peoples will create a global civilization with greatly weakened nation-states and almost no war is epic in its scope and heroic in its inspiration."

Read more in Scientific American. Visit the Institute schedule for details of Kaku's visit.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing for Documentary Film

The UAlbany website has an interview with Sheila Curran Bernard about writing for documentary films, and on being one of a handful of filmmakers among thousands selected for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about documentary writing. One is that documentaries aren’t written, because people tend to think of film writing in Hollywood terms, where a fictional screenplay is completed before the cameras start to roll. How do you script real life or real interviews? So there’s a notion that documentary filmmaking is about showing up and shooting, or perhaps finding visuals to go with information. If there’s a writing credit, people think it refers only to traditional narration."


She speaks with Pulitzer winner Doug Blackmon about Slavery by Another Name, their new film, on Friday, 2/3.

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The Mind of God

Alan Lightman, who opens our series on Thursday, 2/2, interviewed on CBS News yesterday:

"In my novel Mr g, God is the narrator and tells the story in the first person. After living with the voice of God for the year that I worked on the book, with the power to create time and space, matter and energy, animate matter and consciousness, now and then I had tiny flashes of what it feels like to be all powerful."

"I had not expected this feeling, but I always try to inhabit the minds and bodies of the characters I create, and in this case I was attempting to imagine what it would be like to be God -- in a literary sense of course." More.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Mary C. Henderson (1928-2012)

Mary C. Henderson, who delivered the Burian Lecture at UAlbany in 2004, receives an obituary in yesterday's New York Times:

Mary C. Henderson, a scholar of the theater whose interests as a historian and curator spanned centuries and as a Tony nominator and critic were up to the minute, died on Jan. 3 at her home in Congers, N.Y. She was 83.

Read more.

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National Book Critics Circle Award Nominees

Teju Cole, who comes Friday 2/10, is among the nominees for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Also featured is James Gleick, who visited this past March. Other past participants in the Visiting Writers Series who make the list are Diane Ackerman and Yusef Komunyakaa.

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Predicting the Weather in 2012

Physicist and media personality Michio Kaku, introduced as "one of the greatest minds of our time" in this January 3, 2012 CNN broadcast, gives his weather predictions for 2012.

Among them: An increasing likelihood of strange weather, including freak snowstorms, droughts and tornadoes, not to mention solar flares that knock out the Internet.

And here's an explanation of the reasons why global warming produces freak snowstorms that Kaku contributed to CNN last January.

Kaku visits the Writers Institute on Tuesday, February 21st in the Campus Center Ballroom to talk about his new book Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Slavery Film at Ford's Theatre

Slavery by Another Name, written by Visiting Writer Douglas Blackmon, and written by UAlbany professor Sheila Curran Bernard, will be screened on January 30th at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC (where President Lincoln was assassinated).

Blackmon and Bernard join us for a talkback after the Albany premiere on Friday, February 3rd in the Performing Arts Center on the uptown campus.

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The Most Un-Korean Person in the World

Adam Johnson, who visits Tuesday, February 14 to talk about his thriller-romance set in North Korea, talks to the L. A. Times about his background.

"A gregarious, linebacker-sized guy of mixed Northern European and Native American extraction, dressed in a white guayabera shirt, jeans and electric-green running shoes, he describes himself as 'probably the most un-Korean person in the world.' He was born in South Dakota but grew up in the Arizona suburbs of Tempe and Scottsdale, an only child and latchkey kid, raised mostly by his clinical psychologist mother after his parents divorced. 'As a kid I just wandered the neighborhoods and alleys of Arizona on my bicycle. And I think I had a pretty big interior life, I had a big imaginary life. One of the things I loved to do was open trash dumpsters. I would go through the alleys and open the trash dumpsters and just look at what people threw away and find treasures and try to figure out who lived in those houses.'"

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A Capricious God

"[Shalom Auslander] is scabrously funny, especially on faith and meaning, but his stories have a habit of breaking down. This is partly because his great subject, God's capriciousness, is a closed loop and as such can be difficult to frame as narrative. 'Pascal's last words were: May God never abandon me,' he observes early in the novel. 'A moment later, God did.' In such a universe, it's not that bad things happen to good people, but that everything that happens is ultimately defined by its own meaninglessness, by the futility of being alive."

Read more of David Ulin's review in the L. A. Times.

Shalom Auslander visits the Writers Institute on March 1st.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

The Search for Earth's Twin

Michio Kaku, who visits February 21, talks about earthlike planets on "big think."

Dr. Kaku addresses the following question:

"A recently discovered planet named Kepler 22b apparently has a very, very similar composition to Earth, although I don’t think they have it exactly figured out yet. What do discoveries like this mean and what is the possibility of many other earth-like planets being out there?" See the video interview.

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Russia's Peculiar "Internal Passports"

Masha Gessen, who visits March 8, writes in the NYT about the peculiar institution of "internal passports" in her native Russia:

MOSCOW — As of last Friday, I am an undocumented person in my own country. I cannot open or close a bank account, receive medical care at a state clinic, buy a cellphone, return a purchase to a store or enter into a contract, which my job requires me to do several times a day. All of these operations and many more require a valid internal passport, a peculiar document that may be the most significant vestige of the U.S.S.R. in modern Russian society. More.

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Teju Cole in India with Oprah

From the WSJ's Scene Asia, Jan. 18:

"[The Jaipur Literature Festival] attracts rising stars as well. Teju Cole, whose debut novel Open City found its way onto many critics’ best-of-2011 lists, sees the festival as a way to meet readers and inspire new ones. “You turn up to a city that you’ve never been to before, sometimes a town, and if it’s a well-organized festival, there’s an auditorium full of people, many of whom have actually read your book,” says Mr. Cole. “You are out there advocating for your work, in a sense advocating your vision of the world, in a very direct way.”

“I find that quite enjoyable,” he says. “I am participating in the life of my book.” More.

Teju Cole visits Albany February 10th.

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Alan Lightman in Nature

"When a physics heavyweight is mentioned in the same breath as Salman Rushdie and Italo Calvino, it is tough for a reviewer. Few venture into air that rarefied and make it out alive. But when the book is Mr g, a creation myth by physicist Alan Lightman, it is worth the risk."

Read the review by Pedro Ferreira in the science journal, Nature.

Lightman visits the Institute Thursday, February 2nd.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Clip

The Hollywood Reporter posts an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip about the making of Slavery By Another Name, which premieres at Sundance on 1/23, before coming to a theater near you (the UAlbany Performing Arts Center) on 2/3.

"The documentary Slavery by Another Name will have its premiere Monday, Jan. 23, at noon at the Temple Theatre as part of the official 2012 Sundance Film Festival competition program. Sam Pollard, who was a longtime editor on Spike Lee’s films, directed the project, which takes a hard look at the many ways involuntary servitude continued for African Americans long after the abolition of slavery."

"THR here hosts an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip that features Pollard, executive producer Douglas Blackmon and several of the descendants whose stories are told in the film."

See the clip.

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From Absurdity to Atrocity

Sam Sacks in the WSJ reviews The Orphan Master's Son, an epic novel about North Korea by Adam Johnson, who visits February 14th.

"We don't know what's really going on in that strange place [North Korea], but a disquieting glimpse suggesting what it must be like can be found in this brilliant and timely novel."


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Writing in the Attic

Here's Janet Maslin on Shalom Auslander (who visits March 1st) in Wednesday's New York Times:

"He brings to mind Woody Allen, Joseph Heller and — oxymoron here — a libido-free version of Philip Roth."


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Workshop Spotligh on Peter Fernbach: "The moon pours coffee to the hearts of kids..."

Peter Fernbach participated in the Fall 2011 Advanced Poetry Community Workshop, with Rebecca Wolff, here at the New York State Writers Institute.  He says of his experience, "Valuable criticism is hard to come by: even writers, English teachers, and workshoppers get their cliche on. But, I thought we, as a group, were able to remain open enough to varying approaches and styles to keep the criticism both formalistically appropriate and stylistically sensitive."  Pete works at SUNY Adirondack and one day may very well may have a PhD from UAlbany.  Pete Fernbach reads his work this Friday, January 20 at 8pm as part of the YES! Reading Series at the Social Justice Center, 33 Central Ave, Albany, NY 12210.
Here, a poem in iambic pentameter composed for the workshop:
The cage, the stage, the mess; who cares today?
When guns are run behind the house and war –
A willing gate beneath the feet of exiles.
I’ll find a day to massacre them all!
Soft petals from the sink; what thoughts can come
Behind the old counter? Hail stones, red lights –
The moon pours coffee to the hearts of kids
Splayed on the street amid the strain, the mess.
Translation is a frozen guilt, right here,
Over the cake left from the holiday:
“And how is the consistency of lime
For naught did I in hate, but all in honor.
Unlike the broken treasures on the street?”
Moussaka, Lupus, Occidentalis
The race is run, my days are done –Exeunt!

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Who Needs Plot?

Teju Cole, who visits Friday, Feb. 10, discards plot in his acclaimed first novel Open City, and the critics don't miss it.

Here's John Knight of The Millions:

“Every work begins as an obvious metaphor,” John Berger writes. “The metaphor allows [the artist] to imagine the familiar world from above, and his own liberation from it.” Most novels move beyond metaphor toward something resembling a plot; Teju Cole’s Open City (out this week in paperback) does not. Rather, it is itself a single metaphor: aimless wandering as a reading experience. More.

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Physics, Poetry, Planetarium Shows

Alan Lightman, bestselling novelist and theoretical physicist who opens the Spring 2012 Visiting Writers Series on February 2nd, has applied his talents to number of genres, including musical adaptations of his bestselling novel Einstein's Dreams, as well as poetry, fables, essays, nonfiction and that least-studied of all literary genres: the planetarium show.

Below is a Library Journal review by Sue Russell of Lightman's book-length narrative in verse, Song of Two Worlds (2009):

"Here, novelist (Einstein's Dreams) and physicist Lightman has created a vivid and moving first-person narrative in verse. The two worlds of the title are the two sections of the book: 'Questions with Answers' and 'Questions without Answers,' with the former representing scientific inquiry and the latter the intuitive capacity that allows us to respond to great art. But this work is no simple intellectual exercise--it is the story of a man who is exiled within his own country, whose intelligence and aloneness keep him perpetually knocking at the door 'naked ... wearing only my questions....'"

And here's an article that discusses a planetarium show designed by Lightman for the newly renovated Charles Hayden Planetarium in Boston (which reopened in Feb. 2011).

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Writers Worth Seeing This Spring

Michael Janairo of the Times Union posted yesterday about upcoming literary events.

It's mostly (but not exclusively) about us.

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You Tubing the Revolution

Masha Gessen, Russian journalist who visits on March 8th, writes about a Russian filmmaker, Pavel Bardin (pictured here), who is creating a compilation of filmed statements by ordinary Russians for publication on YouTube. Article.

MOSCOW — Every night last week, writers, artists, actors, ad men, office managers and assorted others climbed the stairs to the fifth floor of a converted factory building in Moscow to make a statement. Pavel Bardin, a well-known young film director, had set up a camera in a conference room there. Everyone who came in — some by invitation, some having found out about the filming from friends or Facebook — wrote his or her name and vocation on a length of masking tape, and named his or her reason for planning to attend what would be a giant protest on Saturday, the 24th.

Each person followed a simple formula: make an I-statement consisting of just the subject and verb, then expand in a sentence or two. “I love.” “I know.” “I fear.” “I want.” “I can.”

As in, “I love my children…” “I know how to talk to people…” “I fear violence…” “I want to be proud of my country…” “I can imagine a different future…” More.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

A Present for Martin Luther King's Birthday, 1986

From the New York Times, Dec. 29, 1985:

When Toni Morrison, author of the best seller ''Tar Baby'' and winner of a National Book Critics award for ''Song of Solomon,'' accepted the Albert Schweitzer Professorship of the Humanities at the State University of New York at Albany, she expected to lead the proverbially quiet life of an academic - teaching writing and writing fiction. Instead she found herself deeply involved in the theater, as a playwright.

Her drama, ''Dreaming Emmett,'' commissioned by the New York State Writers Institute at SUNY-Albany and directed by Gilbert Moses, will have its world premiere Saturday at the Market Theater there. It will be produced, in conjunction with the Writers Institute and SUNY's Capital District Humanities Program, by the Capital Repertory Company, a resident theater founded by Peter Clough and Bruce Bouchard. More.

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HBO Loves Literary Fiction

Novels by February 2011 visitor Karen Russell, November 2012 visitor Tom Perrotta, and October 2003 visitor Jennifer Egan are under development for HBO series.

Read articles about the forthcoming adaptations: Swamplandia!, The Leftovers, and A Visit from the Goon Squad.

And let's not forget Bored to Death, by March 2006 visitor Jonathan Ames, cancelled after its third season in December 2011.

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A Few More Minutes with Andy Rooney

Friends of our late friend Andy Rooney, cultural critic, political commentator and Albany native son, gathered yesterday at Lincoln Center to talk about the man and his legacy.

"Friends and colleagues from across the TV spectrum joined Andy Rooney's four children this morning at Rose Hall, bidding farewell to the CBS News essayist, who died November 4 following complications from minor surgery...." More.

(Memorial service program pictured right).

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jewish Author Builds Mosque in Cambodia

Together with his family, author and theoretical physicist Alan Lightman (who visits February 2nd) has created a charitable foundation to improve the lives of women and children in the third world.

From the Associated Press, May 2008: "American Jewish family builds mosque in Cambodian village"

When residents of this poor Cambodian village need something built, they call on the Lightmans.

The Jewish-American family's latest gift: A mosque.

"We never had such a beautiful mosque in our village," said 81-year-old Leb Sen, a toothless, village elder with a wrinkled face. "The young people said to me that I am very lucky to live long enough to see one now."

Flashing a broad grin, Leb Sen brought his palms together and bowed repeatedly in gratitude toward his American donors - Alan Lightman, his wife, Jean Greenblatt Lightman and their daughter, Elyse.

Alan Lightman, a 59-year-old humanities professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said building the mosque was not part of his family's original plan to improve education in the village, about 70 kilometres northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

"It's too much to comprehend. We never imagined that we would build a mosque in a remote village in Cambodia," said Lightman, author of the bestselling novel "Einstein's Dreams." More.

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Open City on Every "Best of 2011" We Can Think Of

Teju Cole's Open City, has been featured on innumerable “Best of 2011” lists in major publications and media outlets, including the New Yorker, New York Times, NPR, Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times, Atlantic, GQ, Guardian, New Statesman and TIME magazine.

Teju Cole visits Friday, Feb. 10th.

The book has been described by many critics as Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man for the new millennium.

James Wood offers a lengthy review of the book, a tale of the wanderings of a Nigerian ex-pat through the streets of Manhattan, in the New Yorker in February 2011 (In a December issue, Wood also names Open City one of the five best books of 2011).

"At these moments, and, indeed, throughout Open City, one has the sense of a productive alienation, whereby Cole (or [his narrator] Julius) is able to see, with an outsider’s eyes, a slightly different, or somewhat transfigured, city. It is a place of constant deposit and erasure, like London in the work of Iain Sinclair (or in Sebald’s Austerlitz), and Julius is often drawn to the layers of sedimented historical suffering on which the city rests. There is, most obviously, the gaping void of Ground Zero: 'The place had become a metonym of its disaster: I remembered a tourist who once asked me how to get to 9/11: not the site of the events of 9/11 but to 9/11 itself, the date petrified into broken stones.' " More.

Reviewer James Wood visited the Institute in February 2008.

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What Are You Reading Now?

Bestselling author Ellis Avery tells the Miami Herald about the pleasures of Margot Livesey's new book, The Flight of Gemma Hardy (2012).

Livesey visits the Writers Institute and the Albany Public Library on Tuesday, March 20th.

"...[W]hat’s breathtaking is how Livesey makes the blessings that come Gemma’s way at the end strike us just as rawly as her suffering did in the beginning.”


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"Fug You" in the New York Times

Last May at the Writers Institute, Ed Sanders presented his then-unpublished memoir, an eyewitness account of the birth of the American Counterculture, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the F**k You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side.

Capo Press published Fug You in December 2011.

Here's a review from Ben Ratliff in the New York Times:

"As a poet Mr. Sanders operates on joy, velocity, humor and catharsis, forcibly mushing bodies of knowledge together; he describes his literary persona in the ’60s as an 'anarcho-Egypto-Bacchic.' As a prose writer he’s pretty much the same, with extra mugging and contextualizing...." More.

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New Film About AIDS in Africa

Sheila Curran Bernard, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, and UAlbany Assistant Professor of History and Documentary Studies, is the cowriter of a new film about AIDS in Africa, Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS.

The film premiered in South Africa on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011 and premieres in the U.S. and Nigeria in 2012. It will be broadcast to nearly 300 million viewers throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and will reach millions more through a public/private distribution network.

Curran Bernard is also the script writer for SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, based on Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the abuse of black laborers in the United States from the end of the Civil War through the middle of the 20th century. As part of the New York State Writers Institute Classic Film Series, Blackmon and Curran Bernard will answer questions immediately following the screening of SLAVERY on Friday, Feb. 3rd.

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Blackmon Leaves the Wall St. Journal

Douglas Blackmon, Pulitzer-winning author who visits the Writers Institute on February 3rd, is leaving the Wall St. Journal, where he is Senior National Correspondent, in order to head a presidential policy institute at the University of Virginia, where he will also be a lecturer in media studies.

In Albany, Blackmon will discuss his new discuss his new documentary film, Slavery By Another Name, based on his 2008 book. The film is one of only 16 documentaries (out of thousands of entries) selected for the upcoming 2012 Sundance Film Festival competition.

Link here to New York Times article on his departure.

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Bob Boyers Wins Sidney Award

NYS Summer Writers Institute Director Robert Boyers receives a Sidney Award for one of the "Best Essays of 2011" from New York Times columnist David Brooks for an essay about the peculiar physical magnetism of his late friend, the writer and "ladies' man" Charles Newman (pictured here), who died in 2006. The essay appeared in the online literary magazine, AGNI.

"The most beautiful man I ever knew was Charles Newman, the founding editor of the journal TriQuarterly, a gifted novelist and man of letters. When I met him in the late 1970s he was almost forty, the possessor of a large, intelligent, perfectly ordered face in which there was no discernible trace of turbulent emotion. His hair lifted softly above an unruffled forehead, and though, as I later learned, he had recently been through a period of stress and agitation, his eyes were radiant with competence, unencumbered. What might have been taken for indifference in another countenance in his was clearly the conviction of a sumptuous sufficiency. His beauty was carried lightly, as if he had never known the need to tend or promote it.... More

For the Times obituary, click here.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Andy Viglucci (1927-2012)

Paul Grondahl contributes an obituary of Albany journalist and Writers Institute friend Andy Viglucci in today's Times Union:

ALBANY — Andy Viglucci was a newspaperman's newspaperman.

His dad worked in the circulation department of the Knickerbocker Press and later operated a newsstand on lower State Street that sold a dozen dailies, cigarettes and sundry items while exuding an aura of excitement that caught the son

"All Andy ever wanted to do was work for a newspaper," recalled William Kennedy who met Viglucci in 1952 when both worked on the staff of the Times Union.

Viglucci battled daily deadlines as he plied his craft for more than 50 years from Albany to San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was the longtime editor-in-chief of the San Juan Daily Star a 40,000-circulation English-language daily. He earned renown for writing fierce editorials that stood up to the powerful and smoked out corruption on the Caribbean island. The paper won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1961. More.

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Is Life Possible?

Physicist and author Alan Lightman (who kicks off the Visiting Writers Series on February 2) contributes an essay to the December 21st issue of Harper's about the burgeoning interest among physicists in the "multiverse theory," the theory that there are an incalculable number of universes.

He also addresses the mathematical impossibility of the fact that life exists, the rejection of intelligent design by the scientific community, and the possible explanation provided by multiverses. The more universes, the more likely that a mathematical fluke like life can come to be "by accident." Click to read the essay.

Lightman's essay received a 2011 Sidney Award bestowed by New York Times columnist David Brooks for the year's best American magazine essays.

Lightman will talk about his new novel, Mr. g: A Novel About the Creation, a playful exploration of the "grand ideas" of cosmological physics and the Creation stories of human religion.

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Summer Writers Institute 2012

The New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore will be in session July 2-27, 2012.

Teaching faculty will include Elizabeth Benedict, Frank Bidart, Peg Boyers, Henri Cole, Mary Gaitskill, Allan Gurganus, Amy Hempel, Margot Livesey, Phillip Lopate, Campbell McGrath, Claire Messud, James Miller, Rick Moody, Victoria Redel, Joanna Scott, Danzy Senna, Darin Strauss and Rosanna Warren.

Visiting Writers will include Paul Auster, Russell Banks, Ann Beattie, Mary Gordon, Richard Howard, Siri Hustvedt, William Kennedy, Jamaica Kincaid, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Ondaatje, Caryl Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Katha Pollitt, Francine Prose, Charles Simic, Mark Strand and Chase Twichell.

Visit the Skidmore website for more information and an application. Scholarship applications are also available.

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