Friday, March 29, 2013

Central Park Five Screening in Albany

Sarah Burns, daughter of  major  documentary  filmmaker Ken Burns) and her husband David McMahon will present a Q&A following a screening of their new film, Central Park Five, winner of the New York Film Critics Circle Award. 

Sarah Burns and David McMahon codirected and cowrote the film with Ken Burns. Based on Sarah's book of the same name, the film documents a miscarriage of justice of epic proportions-- the wrongful conviction of five Harlem teenagers in the rape and beating of a white jogger in Central Park in 1989.

The event is cosponsored by UAlbany's School of Criminal Justice, PBS television station WMHT, and the New York State Writers Institute.

More about the event:

More about the film on the PBS website:

Picture:  Sarah Burns

Read More......

James Salter Wins New Literary Award

James Salter, who visits Albany on April 4, has won a new $150,000 literary award established at
Yale University.

"Yale University rained glory and gold on nine writers today (March 4), as it announced the winners of the Windham Campbell Prize, a new literary award worth $150,000 for each recipient.

The most prominent winner, James Salter, is best known for "A Sport and a Pastime," an erotic novel which has attained literary cult status in the half-century since its publication. Among his peers, Salter, 87, is widely regarded as the dean of American fiction writers. Knopf will publish Salter’s sixth novel, “All That Is,” in April.

The awards honor "outstanding achievement" for emerging and established writers of fiction, nonfiction and drama."

More in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

More about Salter's visit:

Read More......

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chinua Achebe Dies

Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, giant of world literature, who visited the Writers Institute on October 15, 1998, has died.

Though he never received the Nobel Prize, his 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, is the world's most widely read African novel.

See an excerpt from his talk here in Albany on YouTube:

Read a BBC obituary here:

Read the New York Times obit here:

NPR obit here:

Photo: Video still,  Achebe at the New York State Writers Institute.

Read More......

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Writer on the Edge-- Nathan Englander

"Author Nathan Englander says there is a thin line between the work of his craft — obsessively, compulsively tweaking and writing and rewriting — and full-on madness. For him, that line is publication. In the months since his latest collection of short stories was published, Englander has been traveling, meeting people who feel they know him because they read his book. He's comfortable with that."

Nathan Englander visits UAlbany tomorrow:

Read more of Leigh Hornbeck's profile of Englander in the Times Union:

Read More......

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gretel Ehrlich in the Times Union

Elizabeth Floyd Mair, who will introduce Gretel Ehrlich at her Writers Institute events tomorrow, 3/12, interviews Ehrlich for the Times Union.

Like Ehrlich, Elizabeth Floyd Mair spent long periods of time in Japan and is an avid reader of Japanese literature.

Q: When you went to Japan after the tsunami, how much of a plan did you have?

A: I never really have an agenda. I just knew I wanted to talk to people who had "faced the wave." I wanted to talk to fishermen, I wanted to talk to rice farmers, I wanted to talk to Buddhist priests and Shinto priests whose temples had become unofficial evacuation centers and morgues. I wanted to see how the people there worked together or not to survive, and take the temperature of the survivors.

I think you have to go with, as the Buddhists say, a "truly opened eye" — an open heart — and let the place tell you where to go. A lot of it is just you happen onto things.

Read more:

More about Ehrlich's visit:

Read More......

Ehrlich visit marks 2 year anniversary of Tohoku tsunami

Gretel Ehrlich, notable poet and nature writer who visits the Writers Institute tomorrow, is the author most recently of Facing the Wave (2013), an account of her travels in Japan in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Today's anniversary of the Fukushima catastrophe is being marked in the press throughout the world.

Here are a few links:

Winner of the 2010 Thoreau Prize for excellence in nature writing, Ehrlich is the author of numerous works about her explorations of diverse environments, including western China, Wyoming and—in particular—the “high Arctic.”

More on Ehrlich's visit:

Read More......

Gretel Ehrlich on PBS NewsHour at UAlbany Tuesday

Nature writer Gretel Ehrlich, who visits UAlbany tomorrow 3/12, speaks on the PBS NewsHour about her new book Facing the Wave (2013), an account of her travels in Japan after the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

"There were moments when the grief aspect of emptiness just seemed so heavy that it was falling like rain, that it was just a deluge of sorry," she said. "I met a fireman who lost his wife, his two children, his mother and his father and was just wondering why he was alive and how he was going to begin again." Her poem "Emptiness Fall" reflects on that grief:

Emptiness Falls
Beginning. Again. But how?
Tonight's perfect moon-slice means
we are half here half gone.
Down deep sea urchins fatten on corpses
and the Missing roll on amnesia's tides.
All summer the body rains sweat and
emptiness falls from the standing dead.
Cedar. Rice field. Pine.

More on the NewsHour blog:

Read More......

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Husband Interviews Wife in Daily Beast

Anthony Swofford, author of the bestselling Marine Corps memoir Jarhead, interviews his wife Christa Parravani in today's Daily Beast.  Parravani visits UAlbany and the New York State Museum downtown today.

Tony: You just said that she feared being “too much” and she’s a big figure in Her. If in your twin dynamic she was too much, were you too little? You make it clear that there were obviously competing psychologies going on from birth. Tell me more about that.
Christa: We never allowed ourselves to be the same. Identical twins are like that, always trying to carve out individuality. It was as if the world wasn’t a big enough place for us to be similar, and that forced us into trying to be opposite. We were fiercely competitive. It was simple at first when we were children. Cara liked vanilla ice cream, so I liked chocolate. I liked pink, so she liked blue. It really was that severe. Cara loved to sing, so I couldn’t sing—

Tony: She had a good point. I’ve heard you in the shower.
Christa: Ha. Ha.

More of the interview:

More about Christa's visit:

Read More......

Books about duos, pairs, twins

Christa Parravani's favorite books about "duos" (pairs, twins, twosomes, etc.)....

"After living life as one half of a pair, photographer Christa Parravani nearly buckled under the crushing loneliness of being twinless. Her long-suffering twi...n sister, Cara, died of a heroin overdose at age 28—she had been violently raped and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for several years. Christa's debut memoir, Her, captures the transcendent closeness of the twin relationship as well as her own anguish and descent into depression upon facing the world alone. Combining Cara's diary entries with her own chronicle, Her is a survivor's testament of grief and sisterhood. Brooklynite Parravani shares her favorite books about the intense bond of duos."

Christa Parravani visits UAlbany today to present her new memoir about her deceased twin (just named's "Debut of the Month," March 2013).

See her book picks at

More about her visit today:

Read More......

The Excruciating Details of Death by Starvation

J. Hoberman reviews Hunger, screened tomorrow, Friday, 7:30 at Page Hall:

"Perhaps because of McQueen's experience making video installations, Hunger is a compelling drama that's also a formalist triumph. The opening close-up of prisoners rhythmically banging their cups is held long enough to establish the movie as something percussive, deliberate, cool, and object-like. McQueen is not just remarkably sensitive to duration, structure, and camera placement, he brings those issues to the forefront without mitigating the power of the situation being represented. In a way, the movie is also an installation—as intensely visceral as it is rigorously detached."

Read More......

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Christa Parravani's Photography

Acclaimed first-time author Christa Parravani (who visits UAlbany tomorrow to present her new memoir, Her, about the life and death of her identical twin, Cara) is also an accomplished photographer.

View her internationally exhibited series, "Kindred," featuring dual portraits of herself and Cara in surreal settings, on her website at

Represented by the Michael Foley Gallery in New York City and the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, Parravani’s photography has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and Europe. Her widely-exhibited 2006 photography series, “Kindred,” shot prior to Cara’s death, featured both twins posing and interacting in a variety of dreamlike settings. The Center for Photography at Woodstock said of “Kindred,” “The landscapes become the medium for the telling of [the twins’] fractured relationship…. Here, identity is malleable and the past and the present merge to create an all encompassing reality. The photographs explore underlying themes of childhood, narcissism, sexual confusion, and family romance that identify a singular path, individuality, and separate lives…. Parravani is the author of the images and the subject at the same. She is both the viewer, the viewed, and inserts a large amount of control over the image while also losing control by making herself vulnerable.”

Parravani has taught photography at Dartmouth College, Columbia University, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Anthony Swofford (author of Jarhead and Hotels, Hospitals and Jails: A Memoir), and their daughter.

Read More......

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Very Traumatizing to Write This Book"

"It was emotionally draining and sometimes very traumatizing to write this book. Particularly since I didn't know how to write a book — this is my first book — I had to write things over and over again to get them right. And some of those things were the ones that were the hardest emotionally."

Read more of Ellizabeth Floyd Mair's interview with Christa Parravani (who visits on Thursday) in the Times Union:

Read More......

Marie Howe: The Poetry of Eating

"This waiter came in, and we were served 10 courses, or something, of the most extraordinary food. It was like, ‘This course is comprised of April breeze on pond water,’ and ‘This next course will be summer night, half-moon, ocean water.’ And every single bite was exquisite. By the end, I was drunk on food. I was drunk on love. We were in love with the waiter. We were practically licking him. I was in love with the world because of food. I have never known anything like it in my life.”

Read more of our own New York State Poet laureate Marie Howe's restaurant review of The French Laundry in the New York Times:

Read more about Marie Howe here:

Read More......

Reading Tonight at the UAlbany Art Museum

Tuesday, March 5, 7 pm, University Art Museum, Uptown Campus
Reading by fiction writers Scott Hutchins and Edward Schwarzschild. Edward Schwarzschild's short story will appear in the Day After Day exhibition catalogue.

Edward Schwarzschild teaches writing and literature in UAlbany's Department of English and holds a joint appointment as a fellow at the New York State Writers Institute. He was selected as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow, teaching courses in contemporary literature and American writing and visual arts in Zaragoza, Spain. Schwarzschild is the author of the novel, Responsible Men, named a "Best Book of the Year" by The San Francisco Chronicle and a finalist for the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His latest book, The Family Diamond, is a collection of stories about family, love, and loss, set in and around Philadelphia.

Scott Hutchins is a former Truman Capote fellow in the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University. His work has appeared inStoryQuarterly, Five Chapters, The Owls, The Rumpus, The New York Times, San Francisco Magazine and Esquire, and was recently set to music. He is the recipient of two major Hopwood awards and the Andrea Beauchamp prize in short fiction. In 2006 and 2010, he was an artist-in-residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. His novel A Working Theory of Love was published in October 2012 by the Penguin Press.

Read More......

Christa Parravani in the Schenectady Gazette

"Her. That’s what Christa Parravani’s identical twin sister, Cara, used to call her. The two shared almost everything: looks, fears, interests, hopes. And when Cara died of a heroin overdose in 2006, at the age of 28, Christa’s world was ripped apart. Grief-stricken, she spiraled into a self-destructive depression. Like Cara, she abused drugs and attempted suicide. Unlike Cara, she survived. Parravani tells her harrowing story in her new memoir, “Her,” which goes on sale Tuesday and was named Amazon’s 'Featured Debut' for March."

"In Her, Parravani credits Guilderland High School and the guidance of caring teachers with helping her and Cara succeed and cultivating their interest in the arts."
For more highlights of Sara Foss's profile of Christa Parravani (who visits UAlbany on Thursday), visit

Read More......

Friday, March 1, 2013

On loving and losing a twin...

Christa Parravani's new memoir of her deceased twin Cara was just named Amazon's "Featured Debut" for March 2013, as well as a "Best Book of the Month."

Also a noted photographer, the Guilderland High School graduate posed in a series of photos with Cara shortly before her death. One of them (featured here) graces the cover of the book.

Parravani visits the Institute this coming Thursday:

Read More......

The Accursed coming in March....

New book of gothic horror forthcoming next week from NYS Summer Writers Institute stalwart Joyce Carol Oates:

Starred review in PW--

Oates has published more than enough books to take risks, and her newest is exactly that: first drafted in the early 1980s, then set aside, the novel is, in addition to being a thrilling tale in the best gothic tradition, a lesson in master craftsmanship. Distilled, the plot is about a 14-month curse manifesting in Princeton, N.J., from 1905 to 1906, affecting the town's elite, including the prominent Slades of Crosswicks and Woodrow Wilson, the president of Princeton University. After Annabel Slade is strangely drawn out of the church during her wedding, an escalating series of violence and madness based in secrets and hypocrisy is unleashed in the community. This story has vampires, demons, angels, murder, lynching, beatings, rape, sex, parallel worlds,, Antarctic voyages, socialism, sexism, racism, paranoia, gossip, spiritualism, and escalating insanity. Oates uses the Homeric ring structure, and her mysterious narrator takes frequent tangents, offering backstories, side stories, footnotes, and a hilarious, subtly satirical chapter on the different-colored diaries and lacquered boxes providing his "sources." The story sprawls, reaches, demands, tears, and shrieks in homage to the traditional gothic, yet with fresh, surprising twists and turns. Oates weaves historical figures throughout, grounding the narrative in a quasi-familiar reality without losing a "through the looking-glass" surrealism. The cause of the curse is not much of a surprise, but the way it's broken is both traditionally mythic and satisfying. Oates has given us a brilliantly crafted work that refreshes the overworked tradition. The author's rage at social injustices and the horrific "cures" for invalids boil beneath the surface; she's skilled enough to let them fuel the fury without erupting into fire. Take on this 700-page behemoth with an open mind, and hang on for the ride. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins and Assoc. (Mar.)

Read More......

Toni Morrison Talking to Google

Our former office mate Toni Morrison teaches Google Inc. about creativity.....

NEW YORK (AP) — Novelist Toni Morrison, speaking Wednesday to dozens of Google employees holding laptops and smartphones, shared her vision for how she would turn the search engine leader into a literary character.

"It's like a big, metal, claw-y machine in 'Transformers,'" she said, to much laughter, during a lunchtime gathering at Google's Manhattan offices. "When they're threatened, they turn into a little radio, they turn into a little car. And then after you pass them by they come up again.

"They can be anything and everything."

Read More......

National Book Critics Circle Awards Announced

Recent visitor to the NYS Writers Institute Robert Caro wins the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Passage of Power, a new addition to his multivolume biography of LBJ. Other former guests of the Institute who received nominations include Adam Johnson, David Quammen and Kevin Young.

Picture:  Robert Caro

Read More......