Friday, August 31, 2012

Our New Alison Lurie Page

Visit our new page for Alison Lurie, who will visit us on Thursday, September 20th to be inaugurated as New York's newest "Author Laureate," serving as New York State Author 2012-14 by executive order of Andrew Cuomo under the aegis of the New York State Writers Institute.

"Alison Lurie, is celebrated for witty and satirical novels that examine middle class American life, particularly in small northeastern college towns inspired by Ithaca, New York (where she has lived since 1961), and on the campuses of colleges inspired by Cornell University (where she taught from 1968 until her retirement as the Frederic J. Whiton Professor of American Literature in 1998)."

"For her nuanced understanding and lifelike portrayal of social customs and the relationships between the sexes, Lurie is widely regarded as the Jane Austen of contemporary American letters. Over the course of ten novels and half a century she has held a mirror up to people of her own generation as they navigate their lives."   More.

Picture from The Guardian.

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Marie Howe, New NY State Poet, reads a poem

Here's a video clip of our new State Poet Marie Howe reading her poem "Star Market" during her last visit to the Writers Institute in 2008. Howe will be inaugurated and will read from her work at UAlbany on September 20th.

The poem was first published in the New Yorker in January 2008.

The Star Market

The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday.
An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout
breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps.

Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and
hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them:
shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay, as if the Star Market

had declared a day off for the able-bodied, and I had wandered in
with the rest of them—sour milk, bad meat—
looking for cereal and spring water.

Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car
in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have
been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept

out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands
and knees begging for mercy.

If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought,
could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talking about us in New Orleans

Don't they have more important things to think about?

The Times-Picayune in all-suffering New Orleans carried the AP news story about our new poet and author laureates, Alison Lurie and Marie Howe, appointed by executive order of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and serving under the aegis of the New York State Writers Institute at the University at Albany.

You are invited to attend the awards ceremony on Thursday, September 20:

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

State Author and Poet to Open Fall Writers Series

Alison Lurie, New York State Author 2012-2014 and Marie Howe, New York State Poet 2012-2014

September 20 (Thursday)
Reading — 8:00 p.m., Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, Downtown Campus

Alison Lurie
 is celebrated for witty novels that examine middle class American life, particularly in small college towns inspired by Ithaca, New York. For her nuanced understanding and lifelike portrayal of social customs and relationships between the sexes, Lurie is widely regarded as the Jane Austen of contemporary American letters. Over the course of ten novels and half a century she has held a mirror up to people of her own generation as they navigate romance, marriage, parenthood, divorce, reconciliation, and advancing age. Her major novels include Truth and Consequences (2005), Foreign Affairs (1984), which received the Pulitzer Prize, The War Between the Tates (1974), and Love and Friendship (1962).
Marie Howe’s prize-winning poetry seeks answers to perplexing questions about life and death in ordinary moments and day-to-day experiences. As a teacher and poet, she searches for meaning and redemption in suffering and loss. She helped many come to terms with grief during the AIDS epidemic by writing compassionately about the loss of her brother to that disease, and by encouraging those impacted by AIDS to find their voices and be published. Her poetry collections include The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008), What the Living Do (1997), and The Good Thief (1988), which was selected by Margaret Atwood for the National Poetry Series. She also has received the Lavan Younger Poets Prize of the American Academy of Poets.

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NYS Writers Institute and Governor Cuomo Announce...

Governor Cuomo Announces State Poet and Author

Albany, NY (August 29, 2012)
Governor Cuomo today announced the appointments of Marie Howe to serve as the 10th New York State Poet and Alison Lurie as the 10th New York State Author. Ms. Howe and Ms. Lurie will serve from 2012 to 2014.

"Marie and Alison represent the rich talent and diversity that New York has to offer," Governor Cuomo said. "Both of them have inspired New Yorkers all across the state, and their works are major assets to us all. They are truly deserving of this honor, and hopefully their great work will now reach a new and even wider audience."

Donald Faulkner, Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Walt Whitman Award for State Poet of New York, said, "Seldom have I encountered a poet with such a sense of honesty, intimacy, and candor in her work. Marie Howe writes with refreshing openness about love, loss, and redemption. Hers is a voice that will continue to grow in its magic and sheer bravery."

William Kennedy, Executive Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Edith Wharton Award for State Author of the State of New York, said, "Alison Lurie is a wise and masterful teller of tales that often center on marital strife, domestic disorder, and academic absurdity–comedies of manners of our time but with a deeply human strain. She is a superior prose stylist with a wickedly satirical talent."

For full press release go to

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Keenaghan on Emerson on Pacifica Radio

UAlbany English Prof Eric Keenaghan will discuss Ralph Waldo Emerson's politics today (3PM EST) on Pacifica Radio/NPR affiliate KPFA Berkeley, CA. He writes:
Dear Colleagues:

Recently I recorded an interview with C.S. Soong for "Against the Grain," a program on Pacifica Radio/NPR out of Berkeley that usually interviews activists and intellectuals. My interview's topic is on Emerson [pictured here] and reading and politics. The interview will be broadcast on Monday afternoon, on air and online. (Details below.) This all came about because the host read my non-specialist essay in the The Other Emerson (U of Minnesota P, 2010), co-edited by two (now former) members of our department, Branka Arsic and Cary Wolfe.

It is heartening because it has reminded me that non-academics can, and sometimes do, read our work. And some of them are better poised for helping us disseminate our ideas and voices than the usual academic routes.


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Friday, August 17, 2012

Playing Dress Up at Edith Wharton's "The Mount"

A number of writers and actors dressed up as members of Edith Wharton's inner circle at her Lenox estate, The Mount, for a fashion photo shoot by legendary photographer Annie Liebovitz. The pictures will appear in the September issue of Vogue.

Among the writers were Junot Diaz (who will visit us in October 2012) as Walter Berry; Jonathan Safran Foer as architect Ogden Codman, Jr.; and Jeffery Eugenides as Henry James. The issue also features an essay by past Institute visitor Colm Toibin about Edith Wharton and her complicated love triangle with Morton Fullerton and Henry James.

Photo: supermodel Natalia Vodianova as Edith Wharton.

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Books vs. the iPad

William H. Gass, who visited the Institute in September 1995, and author of the much-reprinted essay, "The Defense of the Book" is a new convert to electronic literature:

"Devotees of the old-fashioned printed book who are distressed by the onrushing digital future — and there are more of them out there than you might think — cherish William H. Gass’s 1999 essay, “A Defense of the Book.” Personally, I own multiple copies, including its original appearance in Harper’s magazine, its reappearance in Mr. Gass’s collection, A Temple of Texts, even a slightly strange limited edition done in cardboard. Nothing has ever summed up so well the book’s virtues as an object."

More in the New York Times: 

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Doris Kearns-Goodwin's Lincoln on Big Screen

Doris Kearns-Goodwin, a repeat guest at the Institute, is the author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which will coming to theaters in November 2012 as a movie directed by Stephen Spielberg, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln [pictured here].

"And contrary to the rumors that often follow the There Will Be Blood star's methodology, the director says that his lead wasn't pretending to be Lincoln for months at a time. 'Daniel was always conscious of his contemporary surroundings,' Spielberg says. 'Daniel never went into a fugue state. He did not channel Lincoln. All that stuff is just more about gossip than it is about technique."

More about the film in Entertainment Weekly.

Kearns-Goodwin last visited us in 2009 to share the stage with former Governor Mario Cuomo and celebrate the New York State Writers Institute's 25th Anniversary.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Technology in Fiction

"It isn’t hard to make a case against including technology in fiction. First, technology can be awkward to write about. Also, to read about. The jargon is clumsy: download, reboot, global positioning device. It’s embarrassing, really. So I understand an author’s impulse to avoid littering pages of otherwise lyrical prose with the bleep-boop-beep of tech speak. For this reason, authors often forgo current technologies when they want their characters to communicate with one another, or to reveal important, plot-forwarding information. I get it. What could be less romantic than a text message?"

More in The Millions.

Allison K. Gibson's article in The Millions on the problems of writing about technology in fiction mentions the work of two notable visitors to the Writers Institute:  Jonathan Lethem (until recently, an editor at Writers Institute partner Fence magazine) and Jennifer Egan.

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James Franco's film of "As I Lay Dying"

Actor/director James Franco, who briefly investigated enrolling in the UAlbany English Department Ph.D. program a couple of years ago (he ended up going to NYU instead, skipping classes, not handing in work, getting poor grades, and annoying a lot of professors), has begun filming his own adaptation of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

From the LA Times:

"Are you feeling like a William Faulkner character? Head to Mississippi, where open call casting sessions for the film adaptation of "As I Lay Dying" begin this week. Don't be surprised if you think you see James Franco; the Oscar-nominated actor adapted the novel for the screen, and will be directing."  More.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sexing the Classics

Jo Page, who visited the Institute in March, ponders the forthcoming Fifty Shades of Grey versions of literary classics in Metroland column "Reckonings" this week:

"You’d think with all the sex there is in the world of literature—Poe with his necrophilia, Hawthorne with his adultery, Mailer and Miller and Updike and Roth with all manner of erotic expressiveness—that we wouldn’t need to go looking for more titillation. But maybe we do...."


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Teju Cole visits W. G. Sebald's grave in the New Yorker

Nigerian author Teju Cole, who visited us last February, tells of his pilgrimmage to W. G. Sebald's grave in the most recent issue of the New Yorker.

"Finally, coming around the chancel, I saw S.’s gravestone: a slab of dark marble, a slender marker shaded by a large green bush. There he is, I thought. The teacher I never knew, the friend I met only posthumously. Some water had trickled down the face of the slab, making the “S” of his name temporarily invisible, as well as the second “4” in 1944 and the “1” in 2001. The erasures put him into a peculiar timelessness. Along the top of the gravestone was a row of smooth small stones in different shades of brown and gray. There was a little space on the left. I picked up a stone from the ground and added it to the row. Then I knelt down."   More.
More about Teju Cole here.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Against the Sci-Fi Boys' Club

Fantasy author Damien Walter writes about why the male culture of science fiction needs to open its doors to women.

He highlights a number of female masters of the genre including Margaret Atwood (who visited the Writers Institute in November 2005), Alice Sheldon, Madeline Ashby and Tricia Sullivan.

"There's a logical fallacy in this club's claims that it welcomes women members, which is rather like the rhetoric of the well-schooled military officer. Of course they want women in the army. It's just, well, a soldier must be physically strong, naturally violent and preferably have a todger so you can pee standing up. Any woman who fulfils those criteria is more than welcome to take the king's shilling!"  More in The Guardian:

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Excessive Exclamation Points !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ben Yagoda writes about the use, misuse and meaning of the exclamation point in email in an op-ed piece in the New York Times:

"My 21-year-old daughter once criticized my habit of ending text-message sentences with a period. For a piece of information delivered without prejudice, she said, you don’t need any punctuation at the end (“Movie starts at 6”). An exclamation point is minimally acceptable enthusiasm (“See you there!”). But a period just comes off as sarcastic (“Good job on the dishes.”). "  More.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Is Dave Eggers the Norman Mailer of the 21st century?

Pico Iyer wonders whether Dave Eggers (who visited the Institute in 2004) is the Norman Mailer of the 21st century.

Mailer visited last in 2007, shortly before he died. He also served as New York State Author under the auspices of the Writers Institute 1991-93.

Eggers' visit:

Mailer's last visit:

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On Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac Today....

Charles Fort, writer, son of Albany, questioner of scientific certainties, the "Hermit of the Bronx," had his birthday celebrated on today's edition of The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor on NPR.

"Charles Fort was born [August 6, 1874] into a fairly prosperous family of Dutch immigrants who owned a wholesale grocery business in Albany, New York State. He was the eldest of three brothers - the others being Clarence, and the youngest, Raymond. Their mother died within a few years of Clarence's birth and Fort's father married again during Fort's teens."

"Beatings by his tyrannical father helped set him against authority and dogma, as he declares in the remaining fragments of his autobiography Many Parts. Escaping home at the age of 18, he worked as a reporter in New York City before hitch-hiking through Europe "to put some capital into the bank of experience." In 1896, aged 22, he contracted malaria in South Africa and returned to New York where he married Anna Filan (or Filing), an English servant girl in his father's house."


Garrison Keillor visited the Writers Institute (the largest crowd we have been privileged to host) in September 2003:

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