Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Luis Gutierrez tells his favorite joke

Luis Gutierrez, Congressman, immigration rights crusader and UAlbany alum, is interviewed this
month on Politico.

Gutierrez visited the Writers Institute on October 18th to present his new memoir, Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio  to Capitol Hill (2013).

Tell us your favorite joke.

How about a recent Letterman joke about the shutdown: “People are saying that Republicans got nothing out of the deal. Not true. They got eight years of Hillary.”

When is the last time you used profanity?

Pretty much anytime comprehensive immigration reform is delayed or has a setback. So more often than I should.


Luis Gutierrez's appearance at the University at Albany on the Writers Institute YouTube channel:

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The Woman Upstairs on multiple "Best Books" lists

Claire Messud's novel The Woman Upstairs, about a woman who lives on the fringes of other people's achievements, was featured on several Best Books of 2013 lists, including those appearing in The Guardian, Washington Post, and The Irish Independent.

From the Guardian: "Original and daring is Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs (Virago), an extraordinarily brilliant book, fizzing with anger and wit...."

Messud visited the Writers Institute in 2006 and 1999.

More about her last visit:

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Yorker's Best Books of 2013

The New Yorker asked its critics to pick the best 3 or 4 books they read this year (not necessarily new books). Part one of the list appeared December 10th.

Among the books by past visitors to the Writers Institute who appear on the various lists so far are Seeing Things by the late Seamus Heaney (pictured here), Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart, Stay, Illusion by Lucie Brock-Broido, Chasing Utopia by Nikki Giovanni, My Education by Susan Choi and A Permanent Member of the Family by Russell Banks.

Article in the New Yorker:

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NPR's Best Books of 2013

NPR's list of the 200 Best Books of 2013 is replete with books by past and recent visitors to the New York State Writers Institute, including  Ayana Mathis (pictured here), who came this month to present The Twelve Tribes of Hattie; Goli Taraghi who came in October to present The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons; James Salter who visited last April to present All That Is; and George Saunders who came last February to present Tenth of December.

Other past visitors on the list include Ruth Ozeki, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jill Lepore, Nikki Giovanni, Edwidge Danticat, Ben Katchor, Howard Norman, Julian Barnes, Margaret Atwood, Frank Bidart, Susan Choi, Charles Simic, Gregory Orr, Robert Pinsky, Alice McDermott, Tom Barbash, Nicholas Delbanco, Dave Eggers, James McBride, Meg Wolitzer, and Karen Russell.

Complete NPR list:

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Writers Institute Holiday Book List

Are you searching for a book for that hard-to-please person on your holiday gift list? To help you narrow down your choices here are a few recommendations of recent books by a number of writers who visited the Writers Institute in 2013. The list represents different genres and subject matter that should appeal to a wide range of tastes and interests. And while you are looking for that special gift for someone else, you just may find something for yourself....


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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Remembering a "Rock Star" Gangster in the Times Union

Paul Grondahl writes about legendary Capital Region gangster Legs Diamond with some anecdotes supplied by William Kennedy and attorney E. Stewart Jones:

The Collar City was Mob City in the Prohibition era, and no bootlegger was a bigger rock star of the underworld than Jack "Legs" Diamond.

He swaggered through throngs lined up on the sidewalks around the Rensselaer County Courthouse, where he was put on trial two weeks before Christmas in 1931 on charges of kidnapping and assault.

Diamond walked a few blocks across Second Street each morning to the courthouse from the office of his lawyer, Abbott Jones, and basked in the adulation of Trojans who shouted Diamond's name, cheered and reached out to clasp his hand.....

More in the Times Union:

Picture: NYPD mugshot of Jack Diamond.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Michael Kammen, Historian of the American Psyche, Dies

Michael Kammen, Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural historian who visited the Writers Institute in 2007, has died.

From the New York Times obituary:

Michael Kammen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian whose scholarly aim was no less than the illumination of the collective American psyche, died on Nov. 29 in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 77.

Professor Kammen (pronounced KAY-man) received the 1973 Pulitzer for history for People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization, published the previous year. That book sought to describe the national character from the country’s earliest days to the 20th century.

More in the Times:

More about Kammen's visit to UAlbany to discuss his book, Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture  (2006):

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Always an Ink-Stained Wretch

Bill Kennedy talks about his career in journalism and the history of the UAlbany Journalism Program in the current issue of Columbia Journalism Review:

"I was not privy to the arrival of the Journalism Program at the University at Albany, and I heard it had a somewhat uncertain birth. The program as Bill Rowley conceived it was pragmatic, professional, idealistic, literary, and peppered with journalists from the real world of news reporting. This opposed another idea that was on the table in the English Department: to present journalism as a textbook course, with excursions into municipal history, the history of journalism and who knows what else? Bill’s idea prevailed, I don’t know why, but he was a persuasive and insistent fellow. He wanted his students to step lively into their journalistic careers after graduation, but also to be educated in history, politics, literature, and, above all, to know how to write when they did so."


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ayana Mathis Tonight

Here's an interview in the Times Union:

Q: Your first book was chosen for Oprah's Book Club. What has that done in terms of sales and also any pressure you may feel about your next book?
A: Certainly, the book has reached more folks than it would have otherwise. We make distinctions, which are both useful and harmful, about fiction, and sometimes readers are intimidated by classifications like literary fiction. I think we also have a tendency to label books — as an African-American story or Latino story or gay story, etc. — which results in readers thinking that perhaps a book won't resonate with them, because of whatever differences they perceive between their lives and the characters' lives. This isn't true, of course. Literature reaches across all of those kinds of false barriers.
The Oprah book club's greatest strength is that it makes a great variety of books accessible to people who may not otherwise have found them or been attracted to them. It's as though she's walking the books she chooses into living rooms and book clubs across the country, and people are a bit more willing to take a chance on them. Of course, that translates into sales, but I think the real boon has more to do with readers finding their way to books that are meaningful to them.


More about Mathis's visit today to UAlbany:

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