Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor Day Weekend Reading

Publishers Weekly new "Picks of the Week" include books by two past visitors to the Writers Institute who also happen to be giants of world literature, Margaret Atwood [pictured here] and J. M. Coetzee.

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Doubleday) - The final entry in Atwood’s brilliant MaddAddam trilogy roils with spectacular and furious satire. The novel begins just after most of the human species has been eradicated by a man-made plague. The early books explore a world of terrifying corporate tyranny, horrifying brutality, and the relentless rape of women and the planet. In Oryx and Crake, the pandemic leaves wounded protagonist Jimmy to watch over the Crakers, a humanoid species bioengineered to replace humankind by the man responsible for unleashing the plague. In The Year of the Flood, MaddAddamites wield science to terrorize corporate villains while God’s Gardeners use prayer and devotion to the Earth to prepare for the approaching cataclysm. Toby, a God’s Gardener and key character in the second book, narrates the third installment, in which a few survivors, including MaddAddamites, God’s Gardeners, Jimmy, and the Crakers, navigate a postapocalyptic world.

The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee (Viking) - In this captivating and provocative new novel, a small boy who has been renamed David, and Simón, the man who has become David’s caretaker since David was separated from his mother, have immigrated to a nameless country. Simón soon finds work on the docks, is given an apartment for new arrivals, and sets about the impossible task of finding David’s mother, whose name they do not know and whose face the boy does not remember. Precise, rich, and wonderful.

Atwood's Albany visit:

J. M. Coetzee's recent visit:

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Jonathan Lethem's Bedside Table

Jonathan Lethem, who visits Albany on 9/11, talks about what he's reading and what he's going to read next in last Sunday's New York Times "By the Book" interview:

I’ve got a beautiful stack right here: Hilton Als’s “White Girls,” Tao Lin’s “Taipei,” Jamie Quatro’s “I Want to Show You More,” the new compendiums of William Gaddis’s and Italo Calvino’s letters. And “Daniel Deronda,” which, you know, I always meant to read and never got around to. I hear it’s good.

More in the New York Times:

More on Lethem's visit:

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"A Great Day for the Irish," Seamus Heaney Visits Albany

Seamus Heaney, Irish poet and Nobel Laureate who passed away today, visited the Writers Institute in 1985, the second year of our existence.

The late Tom Smith proclaimed it "a great day for the Irish" and "a great night for poetry."

Here are links to audio files from that visit, with an introduction by UAlbany Irish literature professor (now emeritus) William Dumbleton.

Here's an obituary for Seamus Heaney in the Washington Post:

Explore the riches of our archive on the UAlbany Luna platform here;

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3 Standout Picks for September in Times Union

Jonathan Lethem, who visits us on 9/11, was named one of three standout events for September by the Times Union arts and entertainment team of Amy Biancolli, Steve Barnes and Michael Janairo.

Amy Biancolli says:

Jonathan Lethem writes weird stuff. Dense, descriptive, laced with mystery and quirk, his novels crisscross a wild expanse of genres. Sometimes these genres are obvious: His 1994 debut, "Gun, with Occasional Music," is a wickedly readable gumshoe novel peopled with hyper-evolved animals. (One of the thugs is a kangaroo.)

More in the TU:

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Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet, Dies

Seamus Heaney, who visited the Writers Institute in 1985, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, died in Dublin today.

More in the New York Times: 

Mr. Heaney, who was born in Northern Ireland but moved to Dublin in his later years, is recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century. His fellow poet Robert Lowell described Mr. Heaney as the “most important Irish poet since Yeats.”

In a statement, Faber & Faber, which published his work for nearly 50 years, called him “one of the world’s greatest writers. His impact on literary culture is immeasurable.”

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Senior Obama Advisors, Axelrod, Plouffe, Favreau to Visit UAlbany

The University at Albany will host the architects of Barack Obama's two successful presidential campaigns.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, the school's "World Within Reach" speaker series will host David Axelrod [pictured here], David Plouffe and Jon Favreau for a night "Inside the Obama Campaign." Axelrod is Obama's former senior advisor, Plouffe was his campaign manager and Favreau is former director of speechwriting for the president.

Students are allowed to ask questions, but they will be filtered through the school's Student Association, which is now gathering them ahead of time.

The event will be held on the same day Robert Jones will be installed as the school's 19th president.

8:00pmWorld Within Reach Speaker Series
Hosted by the Student Association, University Auxiliary Services, and UAlbany Alumni Association.
Free and Open to UA faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends (not the general public).
                    Registration required.
Contact: Student Association

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Public Libraries and Government Transparency

UAlbany Center for Technology in Government Will Use Federal Laura Bush Grant to Explore
Public Libraries' Role in Open Government

ALBANY, NY (August 28, 2013) – The Center for Technology in Government (CTG) at the University at Albany will bring together thought leaders from academia, government, and private and non-profit organizations to explore the ways public libraries can help governments achieve their open government agendas.


Cartoon by Adam Zyglis of the Buffalo News:

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Eric Kandel, Writer and Scientist, Leads Breakthrough Study on Memory

Eric Kandel, Nobel Prize winner in Medicine who visited the Writers Institute in 2006, is the lead researcher of a new study on memory in the brain (with new implications for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease). The study is receiving widespread media coverage, and widespread attention in the neuroscience community.

The 84-year-old laureate came to the New York State Writers Institute to present his memoir, In Search of Memory, about his boyhood as a member of a Jewish family in Nazi Germany and his remarkable career at the leading edge of neuroscience.

More on the new study:

More on Kandel's visit to Albany:

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jonathan Lethem Presents New Novel, 9/11

Jonathan Lethem, bestselling author, to read from his new novel, Dissident Gardens, September 11, 2013.

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for his novel, Motherless Brooklyn

Jonathan Lethem, bestselling author of the novels Motherless Brooklyn (1999), and The Fortress of Solitude (2003), will read from and discuss his new novel, Dissident Gardens (2013), a family saga about three generations of New York City leftists, on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany's uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.

Jonathan Lethem is a novelist and critic celebrated for his scholarly interest in American pop culture, and for novels that blend a variety of genres, including comic books, detective fiction, and science fiction. He received the National Book Critics Circle Award for his bestselling novel Motherless Brooklyn (1999), the story of a detective with Tourette's Syndrome.

In 1999, Lethem was the only novelist listed among Newsweek's "100 People for the New Century." He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2005.

Dissident Gardens is the story of three generations of American radicals living in Sunnyside, Queens, and Greenwich Village, as they take part in the home-grown Communism of the 1930s up through the Occupy Wall Street movement of more recent days. The Kirkus reviewer said, "A dysfunctional family embodies a dysfunctional epoch, as the novelist continues his ambitious journey through decades, generations and the boroughs of New York... The setup of this novel is so frequently funny that it reads like homage to classic Philip Roth."

Lethem's previous novel was Chronic City (2009), the tale of two friends down on their luck-one an actor, the other a critic-as they go about their lives in a surreal and futuristic Manhattan. The novel was named one of the New York Times' "10 Best Books of 2009." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Gregory Cowles called it, "Astonishing.... Knowing and exuberant, with beautiful drunken sentences that somehow manage to walk a straight line..... Intricate and seamless....A dancing showgirl of a novel, yet beneath the gaudy makeup it's also the girl next door: a traditional bildungsroman with a strong moral compass."

Other novels by Lethem include You Don't Love Me Yet (2007), The Fortress of Solitude (2003), Girl in Landscape (1998), As She Climbed Across the Table (1997), Amnesia Moon (1995) and Gun, with Occasional Music (1994). The story of two friends (one black, one white) growing up in the 1960s and '70s, The Fortress of Solitude became a national bestseller and was named a New York Times "Editor's Choice." Novelist Richard Russo called it, "a grim, brave, soaring American masterpiece."

Lethem's most recent book of nonfiction is Fear of Music (2012), a passionate tribute to and scholarly analysis of the Talking Heads' same-titled third album. The reviewer for the London Observer called it, "stylish and illuminating," and said, "be warned: his obsession is contagious." Lethem's other nonfiction works include the essay collection, The Ecstasy of Influence (2011), which features as its title piece a widely-discussed defense of the act (and art) of plagiarism; The Exegesis of Phillip K. Dick (2011, with Pamela Jackson), featuring excerpts from the journals of one of Lethem's greatest literary heroes; and They Live (2010), an analysis of John Carpenter's 1988 cult film of the same name.

Lethem also edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia: An Anthology of Writing on the Subject of Memory Loss (2000), and was the founding fiction editor of Fence magazine.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at

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McEneny Wins Prestigious Award at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The son of Jack McEneny, retired New York State Assemblyman, notable local historian and friend
of the Writers Institute, has received an important playwriting award at Scotland's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

From a Times Union article by Amy Biancolli:

A play written and directed by John McEneny, son of the recently retired Albany state assemblyman, has won a prestigious Bobby Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The winning play: “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” an adaptation of the H.G. Wells tale of an island occupied by a madman and his half-human, half-animal monstrosities. It originated at Brooklyn’s Piper Theatre, where McEneny serves as artistic director, and includes an original score performed live by composer Lucas Syed.


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jonathan Lethem's Favorite Songs in Elle Magazine

Jonathan Lethem, bestselling novelist whose work is saturated with references to pop music (and who visits us on the portentous date of 9/11), lists his favorite songs in the recent issue of Elle magazine, including songs that served as inspiration in writing his new, critically-acclaimed novel, Dissident Gardens.

Among the songs is the 1961 "Talkin' Hava Nagila Blues" by a young Bob Dylan (still Robert Zimmerman, pictured here).

Listen to it here:

For more on Lethem's upcoming visit to Albany visit:

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"Celebrate & Advance" at UAlbany

UAlbany will host a weeklong celebration-- "Celebrate & Advance," featuring a variety of arts, sports and cultural events, and culminating in the inauguration of new University President Robert J. Jones.

More info and a full schedule of events here:

In conjunction with these events, the Writers Institute will sponsor appearances by Pulitzer Prize winning author Gilbert King on September 26:

Inauguration Week is an opportunity to celebrate the University at Albany’s honored past while advancing our future. In the week leading up to the Installation Ceremony, departments from across campus will host special events that will highlight and demonstrate our notable strengths in research and scholarship, vibrant academic and campus life, diversity that enriches learning, and community engagement.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Jonathan Lethem Coming on September 11

Jonathan Lethem, prize-winning author of Motherless Brooklyn, The Fortress of Solitude and Chronic City will open our Fall 2013 Visiting Writers Series.

Lethem will present his new novel, Dissident Gardens (2013), a family saga about three generations of New York City leftists.

“A dysfunctional family embodies a dysfunctional epoch, as the novelist continues his ambitious journey through decades, generations and the boroughs of New York...  The setup of this novel is so frequently funny that it reads like homage to classic Philip Roth.” (Kirkus)

Lethem visits on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.

Read more here:

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Friday, August 16, 2013

PW Picks of the Week

Publishers Weekly "Picks of the Week" for August 19 include new books by two past visitors to the Institute-- James McBride (pictured here) and Thomas Keneally.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Riverhead) - McBride offers a fresh perspective on abolitionist firebrand John Brown in this novel disguised as the memoir of a slave boy who pretends to be a girl in order to escape pre–Civil War turmoil, only to find himself riding with John Brown’s retinue of rabble-rousers from Bloody Kansas to Harpers Ferry. “I was born a colored man and don’t you forget it,” reminisces Henry Shackleford in a manuscript discovered after a church fire in the 1960s.

The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally (Atria) - The horrific butcher’s bill of WWI trench fighting, which took a toll not only on the wounded soldiers but on the doctors and nurses who tended to them, is at the heart of this moving epic novel from the author of Schindler’s List. The story is told through the experiences of two sisters, Sally and Naomi Durance, both nurses, who enter the morally complex area of treating the devastatingly injured with peacetime experience.

McBride's visit to the Institute:

Keneally's visit to the Institute:

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Supreme Court Justice David Souter in Albany

David Souter, former U. S. Supreme Court Justice, will speak about the critical importance of funding humanities education and scholarship at the NY State Library in downtown Albany on September 12, 2013 on behalf of the New York Council on the Humanities.

Souter served on a special commission of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences which recently issued a report entitled, "The Heart of the Matter:  The Humanities and Social Sciences for a vibrant, competitive and secure nation." 

The presentation is free but you must register in advance at:

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The Lyrical Violence of J. G. Ballard at RPI

EMPAC at Rensselaer (RPI) will present "Ballard," a theatre piece inspired by the work of innovative English writer J. G. Ballard (1930-2009), author of Crash, Empire of the Sun and a variety of dystopian and apocalyptic works of fiction.


Kris Verdonck

A Two Dogs Company

September 7, 2013, 7PM

After spending three weeks in residence, Belgian theater maker and visual artist Kris Verdonck invites the audience to an open studio and lecture demonstration of his innovative stereoscopic (3D) filming techniques developed with the EMPAC team. The presentation will provide insight into the microcosmic sets built on the theater stage, and a behind-the-scenes look at the development process.
BALLARD inhabits the world and characters from the apocalyptic science-fiction novels of J.G. Ballard, whose visionary descriptions of a future world resemble today’s neoliberal society more and more.

Verdonck’s visual arts, architecture, and theater training is reflected in the work he produces: his creations are situated in the transit zone between visual arts and theater, installation and performance, and dance and architecture.

Reservations are recommended and can be made in person at the box office or over the phone at 518.276.3921.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Grayce Burian's New Memoir of Her Marriage

Grayce Burian, a friend of the Writers Institute and a pillar of the Capital Region theatre community, has published a new memoir of her marriage to the late Jarka Burian, UAlbany professor and the foremost scholar of the Czech theatre.

Among other things, the new book, From Jerry to Jarka: A Breezy Memoir of a Long, Peripatetic Marriage (Ohio State University Press), recounts the couple's numerous extended stays in Czechoslovakia (and later, the Czech Republic) over a period of several decades from the 1960s to the 2000s, as that country experienced dramatic political and cultural transformations.

More about the book:

Grayce Burian endows the annual Burian Lecture on the art of the theatre at the New York State Writers Institute through the Jarka & Grayce Susan Burian Endowment. She also serves on Board of the UAlbany Emeritus Center.

More about the Burian Lecture series:

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PEN America Announces 2013 Literary Awards

Among this year's winners of the 2013 PEN American Literary Awards are some past visitors to the New York State Writers Institute, including Kevin Young (PEN Open Book Award for The Grey Album), and Marilyn Hacker (PEN/Heim Translation Award for The Bridges of Budapest by Jean-Paul de Dadelson). Jill Lepore was runner-up for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for The Story of America: Essays on Origins.

Complete list of winners:

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Pat Dyjak's Symphony for the Cutters

Poet Pat Dyjak explores acts of self-harm ("cutting") and survival of child abuse in her new chapbook from Kattywompus Press, Symphony for the Cutters.

A former Graduate Assistant at the New York State Writers Institute, Dyjak is currently Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Steven's Point.

From the publisher:  "Dyjak takes no prisoners in this searing examination of a culture of trauma that originates in the family and spirals out.This is an author willing to risk baring her soul, and steeped in the leading edge of her craft. Dyjak is determined to pry off the tightly nailed doors of our dark basements and let the light pour in, and in doing so she spins our suffering into art."

Publisher website:

An interview with Professor Dyjak:

Kattywompus Press has achieved widespread notice in the poetry world for its invitation-only "Poets' Greatest Hits" series (300 volumes and counting). Here's an interview with the publishers:

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Monday, August 12, 2013

FENCE Magazine Open for Submissions


Fence magazine will be accepting new submissions of poetry, fiction, and everything else for the whole month of August(the gateway closes 8/31/13 at exactly 11:59pm EST).

Please keep in mind our SUBMISSION GUIDELINES:

Each poem and story MUST be submitted individually. This will help us keep better track of withdrawn pieces. Submit no more than five poems at any one time, and up to twenty-five pages of fiction.

If you wish to submit more than one document, you MUST submit each document separately. Submissions containing more than one poem or story will not be read.

Thank you, and consider the floodgates OPEN

Founded in 1998 by Rebecca Wolff, Fence is a biannual journal of poetry, fiction, art, and criticism that has a mission to redefine the terms of accessibility by publishing challenging writing distinguished by idiosyncrasy and intelligence rather than by allegiance with camps, schools, or cliques. It is Fence‘s mission to encourage writing that might otherwise have difficulty being recognized because it doesn’t answer to either the mainstream or to recognizable modes of experimentation. Fence is long-term committed to publishing from the outside and the inside of established communities of writing, seeking always to interrogate, collaborate with, and bedevil other systems that bring new writing to light.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Poets Wanted for Altamont Fair

Get a free pass to the Fair and read your own poetry...



Altamont Fair Poetry Reading 






Contact: Alan Casline (

Read More...... Editor to Read in Rensselaerville, 8/16

Joan Walsh, editor-at-large of, headlines this year’s Rensselaerville Festival of Writers as a keynote speaker Saturday August 16, at 8:00 p.m.

Walsh will read from her 2012 book What’s the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was.

The acclaimed celebration of arts and literature takes place this year August 15 – 18 in several venues throughout the idyllic Helderberg hamlet of Rensselaerville, NY. Walsh’s appearance promises a riveting highlight in the festival’s rich schedule of readings, workshops, and receptions.

For more:

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"This Upstate Life" in Rensselaerville

Local authors will present their work at the annual Rensselaerville Festival of Writers, August 15-18, 2013
"This Upstate Life"

Local writers will read their own work, poetry, fiction, personal essay, or cross-genre and experimental work specifically rooted in the upstate New York region.

Tom  Corrado -  Middleburgh       Carol Graser - Galway

Anne Decker  - Albany                   Susan Jefts – Saratoga Springs

Sarah Giragosian - Albany             Howard J. Kogan Stephentown

Marea Gordett - Cohoes              Marion Menna - Glenmont

John Worth Gordon - Albany      Mary Cuffe Perez - Galway

Dan Wilcox - Albany
Himanee Gupta-Carlson – Greenfield Center

For more info:


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Friday, August 2, 2013

Lydia Davis to Teach Fall Workshop at UAlbany

Lydia Davis, New York State Writers Institute Fellow and recent winner of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, will conduct a fiction master class workshop for community writers during the fall 2013 semester. The focus will be on detailed discussion of students' work, but there may also be assigned exercises and/or readings from published novels or short stories to broaden the discussion of topics such as character, plot, style, and form. The workshop is intended for advanced writers - writers who have significant publications in literary journals. It will be an intensive five-session workshop held in the month of October.

The workshop is not-for-credit and will be held at the University at Albany's uptown campus. Admission to the workshop is based on the submission of writing samples. Complete information on the workshop and submission guidelines may be obtained by calling the Institute at 518-442-5620 or by visiting the Institute's website at:

Lydia Davis, fiction writer, translator, and UAlbany professor, has received wide acclaim for her extremely brief and brilliantly inventive short stories. She has been called "one of the quiet giants . . . of American fiction" (Los Angeles Times Book Review), "an American virtuoso of the short story form" (Salon), and "one of the best writers in America" (O Magazine). In the spring of 2013 Davis received the Man Booker International Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in the world of literature. The award is given every two years to authors of any nationality in order to recognize an outstanding body of work in English or available in English translation.

Her newest book, which earned rave reviews, is The Collected Stories (2009), a compilation of stories from four previously published volumes including Varieties of Disturbance (2007), Samuel Johnson is Indignant (2001), Almost No Memory (1997) and Break it Down (1986). Davis received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2003. A Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, Davis is also one of the most respected translators into English of French literary fiction by Proust and Flaubert, among others.

Davis first received serious critical attention for her collection of stories, "Break It Down," which was selected as a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. The book's positive critical reception helped Davis win a Whiting Writer's Award in 1988

For additional information contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620, or online at

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