Real Good for FREE (Mostly): NYS Writers Institute’s Visiting Writers Series

(from left) Alison Lurie, Edith Grossman, Kirsten Gillibrand and John Lahr
(from left) Alison Lurie, Edith Grossman, Kirsten Gillibrand and John Lahr

The New York State Writers Institute has announced the fall schedule of its Visiting Writers Events, beginning with the current New York State Author Alison Lurie who will read at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall at 8pm on Thursday (September 18).

Events are free of charge, except where noted. Here’s the NYS Writers Institute’s schedule for fall of 2014:

Alison Lurie, New York State Author
Thursday (September 18)
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany’s Campus Center Room 375
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Alison Lurie, novelist and current New York State Author (2012-2014), is widely regarded as the Jane Austen of contemporary American letters for her modern “comedies of manners,” including “Truth and Consequences” (2005) and the Pulitzer-winning “Foreign Affairs” (1984). Her new nonfiction book is “The Language of Houses” (2014), an exploration of the expressive power of everyday architecture. Author Edmund White said “[Lurie] has culled the best ideas from a vast literature and passed it all through the sieve of her brilliant mind.”

Edith Grossman, celebrated translator of Spanish literature
Tuesday, September 23
Seminar on translation — 4:15pm, UAlbany Campus Center’s Assembly Hall
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Campus Center’s Assembly Hall
Edith Grossman is one of the world’s most celebrated translators of Spanish literature into English. Her newest work is “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz” (2014), a collection of poems by 17th century nun, poet, and feminist, Sister Juana, known to posterity as the “Phoenix of Mexico” and the “Tenth Muse.” Grossman’s acclaimed translations include several novels by Latin American Nobel Prize winners, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. Her 2003 translation of “Don Quixote” is widely hailed as a masterpiece.

Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator and author
Saturday, September 27
Reading and book signing – 4pm, UAlbany’s Campus Center Ballroom
Tickets: $27 (A copy of Kirsten Gillibrand’s new book, “Off the Sidelines,” is included in the price of a ticket.)
Tickets may be purchased in advance from The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza (518-489-4761), or Market Block Books, Troy (518-328-0045), or at the door.
Kirsten Gillibrand, junior United States Senator from New York, is the author of the new book, “Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice, Change the World” (2014), “a playbook for women who want to step up, whether in Congress or the boardroom or the local PTA.” In advance praise, Gloria Steinem calls it “one of the most helpful, readable, down-to-earth and truly democratic books ever to come out of the halls of power.” Students with a valid ID are welcome without a ticket as space allows.

John Lahr, theatre critic and biographer
Wednesday, October 1
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
John Lahr, former senior drama critic for The New Yorker, is the author of “Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” (2014), a new biography of the brilliant and troubled playwright. The New Republic called it, “A splendid book, one of the finest critical biographies of a playwright extant.” “Notes on a Cowardly Lion” (1969), Lahr’s biography of his father, actor-comedian Bert Lahr, was republished in 2000 with a new preface by the author.

David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and nonfiction author
Thursday, October 9
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
David Finkel, staff writer for The Washington Post, is the author of the bestselling 2009 book, “The Good Soldiers,” which recounts the seven months he spent as an embedded reporter with U.S. troops in Iraq. The sequel to that book, “Thank You For Your Service” (2013), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, follows these same soldiers as they attempt to adapt to life after the war. The Booklist reviewer said, “Finkel’s deeply personal brand of narrative journalism is both heartbreaking and gut-wrenching in its unflinching honesty.”

American Shakespeare Center’s “Much Ado About Nothing”
Wednesday, October 15
Performance — 7:30pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Main Theatre
Live pre-performance music beginning at 7pm
Advance tickets: $15; $10 students & seniors
At the door tickets: $20; $15 students & seniors
In this powerful comedy full of sparkling wit, the Bard gives us the joy of love won and the ache of love lost. He makes us laugh and breaks our hearts, then magically puts them back together again.

Jacinda Townsend and Tiphanie Yanique, fiction writers
Thursday, October 16
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Campus Center’s Room 375
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Jacinda Townsend is the author of a first novel, “Saint Monkey” (2014), the tale of two best friends raised in hardship in rural Kentucky whose lives take different paths. In a starred Booklist review, Donna Seamon said, “This is a breathtakingly insightful, suspenseful, and gorgeously realized novel of cruelty and sorrow, anger and forgiveness, improvisation and survival, and the transcendent beauty of nature and art.” A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Townsend is currently at work on a second novel set partially in Morocco about the emotionally complicated world of international adoption. Tiphanie Yanique is the author of a first novel, “Land of Love and Drowning” (2014), a family saga set in the Virgin Islands. Spanning 60 years from 1916 to the 1970s, the novel follows three generations of the Bradshaw family as they experience love and death, wealth and ruin, hurricanes, racism, and a rapacious tourist industry. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said, “Yanique offers an affecting narrative… that pulses with life, vitality, and a haunting evocation of place.” Born and raised on St. Thomas, Yanique is the author of the story collection, “How to Escape from a Leper Colony” (2010), winner of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award.

Poets in Conversation: Edward Hirsch, Kimiko Hahn, and Marie Howe
Tuesday, October 21
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Campus Center’s Assembly Hall
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Edward Hirsch is the author most recently of “A Poet’s Glossary” (2014), a monumental reference work about poetry’s devices, forms, and techniques. Booklist called it, “a vibrant, polyglot, world-circling, century-spanning, mind-expanding work of profound scholarship and literary art.” Winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Critics Circle Award (for the 1986 collection, “Wild Gratitude”), Hirsch is also the author of the 1999 surprise bestseller, “How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry.” Kimiko Hahn is the author most recently of “Brain Fever: Poems” (2014), a collection that explores the poet’s experiences as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, and artist in the light of her personal fascination with neuroscience and the latest findings of cognitive research. Celebrated for work rooted in Japanese and Chinese aesthetics, Hahn received the American Book Award for her 1995 collection, “The Unbearable Heart.” Her other collections include “Toxic Flora” (2010) and “The Narrow Road to the Interior” (2006). Marie Howe, current New York State Poet (2012-2014), was the creator of “Poetry in Motion Springfest,” a 2014 partnership with New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Poetry Society of America. A celebration of National Poetry Month, the event featured a weekend of poetry and music inside Grand Central Terminal. This year, Howe also helped organize the first New York State “Poetry Unites – My Favorite Poem” contest. Howe is the author of the collections, “The Good Thief” (1988), which was selected for the National Poetry Series, “What the Living Do” (1997) and “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time” (2008).

This series of events focuses on the life and work of Lemon Andersen, writer, performance artist, screen actor, and Tony Award-winning poet. Lemon is also a three-time felon who grew up in Brooklyn, the child of a Puerto Rican mother and Norwegian American father, both heroin addicts who died of AIDS before he was 15 years old. Left to fend for himself, he dropped out of high school and spent years in jail and on probation. His attempts at rehabilitation faltered until he attended a poetry reading and discovered he had a gift for expressing himself through words. This series celebrates Lemon’s journey to transform his life through art.
“Lemon: The Movie”
Friday, October 24: Film screening – 7:30pm, UAlbany’s Page Hall
Saturday, November 1: Film screening – 9pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
This intricately crafted documentary – directed by Laura Brownson and Beth Levison – follows Lemon’s struggle to free his family from poverty and pain by embarking on a daunting journey to bring his life story to the stage. The movie features the music of hip-hop phenoms Kanye West, Mos Def and Talib Kwel.
An Evening with Lemon Andersen
Thursday, November 6
Presentation — 7pm, UAlbany’s University Art Museum
In an intimate setting, Lemon discusses his life and work, focusing on what nurtures him as an artist and how that has been the salvation in his life. An original cast member of the “Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam” on Broadway (2002-2003), Lemon shared the 2003 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. Lemon is the author of two poetry collections, “Ready Made Real” (2004) and “County of Kings” (2009), which earned the Grand Prize at the 2010 New York Book Festival. Also an actor, Lemon has appeared in the Spike Lee films “Miracle at St. Anna” (2008), “Inside Man” (2006), “She Hate Me” (2004), and “Sucker Free City” (2004).
“County of Kings” by Lemon Andersen
Thursday, November 13
Performance — 7:30pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Pre-performance discussion at 7pm
Advance tickets: $15; $10 students & seniors
At the door: $20; $15 students & seniors
Originally developed and directed by Elise Thoron, American Place Theatre took Lemon’s life story and adapted it into a solo play now performed by Michael Angel Viera. Weaving hard-edged drama with urban poetry and gritty prose, the work follows Lemon’s coming-of-age memoir in an astonishing journey toward self-discovery. “County of Kings” is a Literature to Life stage presentation of Young Audiences New York.

Najla Said, memoirist, actress, and playwright
Tuesday, October 28
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Performing Arts Center’s Recital Hall
Najla Said is the author of the new memoir “Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family” (2013). The daughter of major Palestinian-American intellectual and political activist Edward Said, Najla spent her formative years in the largely Jewish milieu of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A witty exploration of post-modern, hyphenated American identity, the book opens with the playful statement, “I am a Palestinian-Lebanese-American Christian woman, but I grew up as a Jew in New York City.” Kirkus Reviews called it, “an enlightening, warm, timely coming-of-age story.” Said also wrote and starred in the hit Off-Broadway play, “Palestine” (2009).

“The Conversation,” 40th anniversary film screening and discussion with Oscar-winning composer and songwriter David Shire
Friday, November 7
Film Screening and Discussion — 7pm, UAlbany’s Page Hall,
In Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 psychological thriller, a surveillance expert experiences a moral crisis when he comes to believe that the targets of his spying activities will be murdered. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the film also received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Composer David Shire’s score is widely celebrated as a deeply probing character study of protagonist Harry Caul. Coppola called Shire’s score, “one of the most effective, most successful film scores that I’ve had.” Shire is one of America’s most admired composers for film and theater. Shire received an Oscar for his work on the theme song for “Norma Rae” (1979), and two Grammy Awards for his original music for “Saturday Night Fever” (1977). His numerous film and TV movie scores include “Zodiac” (2007), Christopher Reeve’s “Rear Window” (1998) and “All the President’s Men” (1976).

William Gibson, science fiction author
Sunday, November 9
Reading — 7pm, EMPAC at RPI’s Concert Hall, Troy
William Gibson is a visionary author of speculative fiction whose work explores the future implications of contemporary human technologies. His 1984 novel, “Neuromancer,” winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and Philip K. Dick awards, helped to define the popular culture of the Computer Age. His other major works include “Pattern Recognition” (2003), “Virtual Light” (1993) and “Mona Lisa Overdrive” (1988). Regarding “Zero History” (2010), a novel about present-day consumer tracking technologies, The New York Times reviewer said, “To read Gibson is to read the present as if it were the future….” Gibson’s new novel is “The Peripheral” (2014), about drones, drugs, outsourcing, telepresence, trailer parks, kleptocracy, and 3D fabbing. In advance praise, Cory Doctorow called it, “Spectacular, a piece of trenchant, far-future speculation….”

Angela Pneuman and Julie Orringer, novelists and short story writers
Tuesday, November 11
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room
Reading — 7:30pm, UAlbany’s University Art Museum
Angela Pneuman, former Ph.D. student and Presidential Fellow at UAlbany and Kentucky native, is widely hailed as an exciting new voice in Southern literature. Her first novel, “Lay It On My Heart” (2014), recounts the challenges that confront a Kentucky girl after her “prophet” father is committed to a psychiatric hospital. Rebecca Wells, author of the bestselling “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” novels, said, “I know the voices of Southern girls, and when they sing true, my heart expands. Angela Pneuman is a flute.” A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Pneuman is also the author of the story collection, “Home Remedies” (2007). Julie Orringer, fiction writer, is the author of the bestselling novel, “The Invisible Bridge” (2010). The story of a Jewish Hungarian architecture student and his experiences during the Holocaust, the novel was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2010 by The New York Times. The Washington Post Book World called the novel, “brilliant….remarkably accomplished.” A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Orringer is also the author of the story collection, “How to Breathe Underwater” (2003), a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year.

Susan Pinker, psychologist and author
Tuesday, November 18
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room
Susan Pinker, developmental psychologist and bestselling science writer, is the author of the new book, “The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter” (2014). Grounded in the new field of social neuroscience, “The Village Effect” presents convincing evidence that electronic communication can never replace the fundamentally human need for direct interaction. Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga called the book, “Brilliant and compelling,” and said, “Pinker shows us crucial personal interactions are essential to true human feelings.” Pinker is also the author of the international bestseller, “The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap” (2008), winner of the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association.

Richard Norton Smith, historian and biographer
Thursday, November 20
A Conversation with Richard Norton Smith — 4:15pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room
Keynote Lecture, “On His Own Terms” — 7:30pm, UAlbany’s Page Hall
Richard Norton Smith, eminent historian of the American presidency, will deliver the keynote lecture for the Researching New York 2014 conference on his new book, “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller” (2014). Fourteen years in the writing, the book is being hailed as the definitive biography of the New York governor and U.S. vice president. Historian Douglas Brinkley described the book as, “one of the greatest cradle-to-grave biographies written in the past fifty years.”

Joseph O’Neill, novelist
Tuesday, December 2
Seminar — 4:15pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Standish Room
Reading — 8pm, UAlbany Campus Center’s Assembly Hall
Joseph O’Neill received the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for his bestselling novel, “Netherland” (2008), the story of a multiracial group of immigrant cricket players living in New York City. O’Neill’s new novel, “The Dog” (2014), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014, is the story of a luckless middle-aged man who flees New York City after a traumatic break-up with his long-term girlfriend in order to take a job as the household manager of a rich and capricious family in Dubai. Calling it “funny, smart, and sad,” Publishers Weekly reviewer Jonathan Segura said, “I’ve liked a few books this year, but this is the first one I’ve loved.”

“1971: The Film”
Friday, December 5
Seminar with Johanna Hamilton and Betty Medsger – 4:15pm, UAlbany Science Library’s Room 340
Film screening and discussion — 7pm, UAlbany’s Page Hall
On March 8, 1971, eight ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and obtained files that revealed the existence of COINTELPRO, a secret and illegal program of spying on American citizens. Those responsible have never revealed their identities — until now. “1971: The Film” was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Betty Medsger was a young reporter at The Washington Post in 1971 when she received from anonymous sources copies of stolen FBI files that revealed the existence of COINTELPRO. She recounts the story, revealing the burglars and their motives, in her new book, “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI” (2014). The New York Times Book Review called it, “Impeccably researched, elegantly presented, engaging….”
Johanna Hamilton is the director of “1971: The Film” (2014), her first feature film, based on Medsger’s book. She previously served as co-producer of the acclaimed documentary, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” (2008), about Liberian women waging a campaign for peace in their country, which received the Tribeca Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize and the Edward R. Murrow Award of the Overseas Press Club.


LarkFest @ Lark Street, Albany, Saturday, September 20
September in the City Art Fair @ Tricentennial Park, Albany, 11:30am Wednesdays
Garage Bands in the Garage @ Albany Public Library, Albany, 6pm select Fridays

Comments are closed.