Last night’s reading featured author Jim Shepard (Like You’d Understand, Anyway) and Pulizer Prize-winning poet Mark Strand. Below, Strand reads his poem “Man and Camel” an Shepard reads an excerpt from his new story “Boys Town.”
Our Youtube page is now up and running! Check back for updates. Below, an excerpt from Robert Pinsky’s reading last night:
“a monosyllabic European called Sax
Invents a horn, walla whirledy wah . . .”
So begins Robert Pinsky’s poem “Ginza Samba.” We’re not sure if he’ll read it tonight when he performs with gifted bass-player Todd Coolman and the sublime wielder of Sax’s invention Pat LaBarbera, but it wouldn’t surprise us. The former Poet Laureate, a devoted jazz fan who plays the Belgian’s horn himself, will be reading his poems with the accompaniment of Coolman and LaBarbera at Skidmore College’s Gannett Auditorium at 8:00 PM, an event that’s free and open to the public. Something, as they say, not to miss…
The Writers Institute begins today and many of our favorite writers will be visiting, reading, and teaching here over the course of the next four weeks. Salmagundi and the Institute are linked; Robert Boyers, the magazine’s founder and editor in chief, is also Director of the Summer Writers Institute and over the 20 plus years of the Summer Institute’s existence many Salmagundi writers have come to campus to participate and many Institute faculty members have become Salmagundi contributors. It’s a terrific mix. I’m posting the schedule of public events below and hope to post video updates of each evening’s event the following day. If you’re within striking distance of Saratoga, come by to take in a reading by a favorite writer or a new name you’ve heard of but not heard (over the years, many writers who are regulars read from not-yet-published work, often for the first time, at the Institute).
This from Robert Boyers, schedule below:
Dear friends and colleagues: On Monday June 28th we launch the 24th season of The New York State Summer Writers Institute on the Skidmore College campus. As you know, the institute offers a range of workshops and events and brings to us more than two hundred students and dozens of distinguished writers. Among this year’s institute teaching staff and visiting writers are winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the MacArthur “Genius” Award, The Bollingen Prize, the Pen/Faulkner Award and other major prizes.
Among those who will be with us are regulars like Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, Anne Beattie, Rick Moody, Amy Hempel, Robert Pinsky, Mary Gaitskill and our 2009 Steloff speaker Allan Gurganus.
New to the program are novelist Joseph O ‘Neill (author of NETHERLAND) on June 30th, short story writer Lydia Davis (July 1st, reading with recent US Poet Laureate Charles Simic) and memoirist Geoffrey O’ Brien (Director of The Library of America), who will be engaged in conversation by staff member Jim Miller on “reality and fiction vs non-fiction” on July 21st.
We note as well that current and recent Skidmore faculty members on the public schedule include Carolyn Forche (July 2nd), April Bernard (July 7th, reading with William Kennedy), and Peg Boyers (July 20th, reading with Rick Moody).
The full schedule of events is attached for your interest. Hope to see you out there! And with all good wishes,
Director, NY State Summer Writers Institute
Schedule of Public Readings, June 28-July 23, 2010/
New York State Summer Writers Institute
8 PM, Davis Auditorium, Skidmore College, Palamountain Hall
–Monday June 28: Robert Pinsky (former Poet-Laureate of the US), with jazz combo
–Tuesday June 29: Jim Shepard (author LIKE YOU’D UNDERSTAND ANYWAY) & Mark Strand (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry)
–Wednesday June 30: Joseph O’ Neill (Pen/Faulkner award for NETHERLAND) & Frank Bidart (Bollingen Prize in Poetry)
–Thursday July 1: Charles Simic (Pulitzer Prize for Poetry) & Lydia Davis (The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis)
–Friday July 2: Carolyn Forche (Yale Poetry Prize, LA Times Prize, Lamont Poetry Prize) and Elizabeth Benedict (author THE PRACTICE OF DECEIT and others)
–Monday July 5: Francine Prose (author GOLDENGROVE & other books) & Victoria Redel (author LOVERBOY and other books)
–Tuesday July 6: Allan Gurganus (author WHITE PEOPLE and other books) & Franz Wright (Pulitzer Prize in Poetry)
–Wednesday July 7: William Kennedy (Pulitzer Prize in fiction) & April Bernard (author ROMANTICISM & other books)
–Thursday July 8: Caryl Phillips (author DANCING IN THE DARK & A DISTANT SHORE) & Campbell McGrath (author PAX ATOMICA & AMERICAN NOISE)
–Friday July 9: Philip Lopate (author WATERFRONT & GETTING PERSONAL) and Claire Messud (author THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN)
–Monday July 12: Richard Howard (Pulitzer Prize for poetry) & Danzy Senna (author CAUCASIA)
–Tuesday July 13: Ann Beattie (author PARK CITY, ANOTHER YOU) & Honor Moore (author THE BISHOP’S DAUGHTER, RED SHOES)
–Wednesday July 14: Russell Banks (author RULE OF THE BONE, THE DARLING) & Chase Twichell (author DOG LANGUAGE)
–Thursday July 15: Joyce Carol Oates (National Book Award in fiction)
–Friday July 16th: Mary Gaitskill (author VERONICA & others) & Tom Healy (author WHAT THE RIGHT HAND KNOWS)
–Monday July 19: Amy Hempel (author THE DOG OF THE MARRIAGE) & Henri Cole (author MIDDLE EARTH, BLACKBIRD AND WOLF)
–Tuesday July 20: Rick Moody (ICE STORM, DEMONOLOGY) & Peg Boyers (author HARD BREAD & HONEY WITH TOBACCO)
–Wednesday July 21: Geoffrey O’ Brien (author THE TIMES SQUARE STORY & BROWSER’S ECSTASY) & Jim Miller (author DEMOCRACY IS IN THE STREETS, FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN) : A Conversation about reality, genre bending, appropriation, fiction, “fact” & non-fiction
–Thursday July 22: Jayne Anne Phillips (author TERMITE & LARK, FAST LANES) & Mary Kinzie (author DRIFT, SUMMERS OF VIETNAM)
–Friday July 23: Howard Norman (author THE BIRD ARTIST, THE MUSEUM GUARD) & Lloyd Schwartz (Pulitzer Prize non-fiction; as poet author of GOODNIGHT, GRACIE & CAIRO TRAFFIC)
Daniel Harris’ essay on celebrity sex scandals in the new issue of Salmagundi finds one of our regular contributors in top form. Harris’ razor-sharp and characteristically perceptive take on our culture’s obsession with the lives of the famous and sexually profligate—and especially how the media creates and feeds our desire for ‘information’ on such profligacy—begins with a rich couple of sentences in the fleshy, breaking-two-ways-at-once idiom Harris has perfected: “We envy — and, simultaneously, despise — celebrities partly out of sexual frustration. We assume that, while we ourselves are forced to endure the monotony of licit marital relations, Hollywood money, fame, and power can buy even Botoxed has-beens and obese B-Listers enough sex to satisfy their presumably insatiable appetites.” While Harris is deeply conversant with the scandals themselves—from “Kevin Costner performing what The Mirror called ‘a lewd solo sex act’ before an unconvincingly horrified masseuse” to “conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly embarrassing a co-worker with off-color remarks about vibrators and ménages-à-trois”—his vision rises precipitously from the proverbial gutter to take in just how this focus on the lewd and the entitled speaks to our cultural moment. Here’s a bit more to whet your appetite:
“Most contemporary sex scandals therefore have the feeling of anti-climax because public morality has caught up with and surpassed the media which, for the sake of sales, must pretend that its readers are more prudish, more easily shocked, than they are, that we are amazed and appalled that Beckham should pinch the bottom of a super model or that George Michael should be caught, according to The Mirror, in an “intimate clinch” with a 58-year-old gay van driver (who, much to the pop star’s credit, quite sweetly declared that the sex was “fantastic”). The media have their own separate, inauthentic morality quite different from that of its readership. Reporters have a vested economic interest in nursing their customers’ pruderies, pretending that they are so naïve that they tremble at the mere mention of such topics as dildos and adultery. The sex scandal is rooted, not in the moral degeneration of the public, but in the economic degeneration of the press which has been accelerated by the mass migration of its markets to the Internet.”
It’s not the first time we’ve been prescient (after 45 years it would be odd if we hadn’t at least SEEMED prescient on a few occasions). The New Yorker’s list of 20 writers under 40 “worth watching” was just announced (revealed is more like it given the aura and incense of the annointments—see the New York Times’ piece at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/books/03under.html—an event of which we were blissfully unaware until all too late last night when we hit BOOKS on the Times’ website) and Wells Tower (37) is among the tribe of 20. Allan Gurganus’ delicious high-style introduction to the virtues of Mr. Tower (“a North Carolinian with a name that sounded less like a boy from a prep-school, more like the academy itself”) appears in our current issue (prescient? Yes—it came fresh from the printer two weeks ago). Here’s a little excerpt (you’ll likely want to read the piece entire as well as the rest of the issue: see the last entry for details):
“I noted he did not immediately gravitate toward other Brooklyn hipsters his own age. He sort of avoided the cool kids who had heard what-all he might soon become. Instead the new boy drifted toward those very quirky, sidelined persons who’d begun really irritating us other snowbound artists. He seemed to get a huge kick out of one Chinese-Austrian woman-composer who put salt and Tabasco on her oatmeal, evvvv-ery single morning. She privately told him how she’d flown from Vienna into the Albany airport but had accidentally booked Albany, Georgia, not New York. And this misadventure, rendered in her broken English, he pulled from this woman in our presence, along with a sudden charm of hers we’d missed for weeks.
When I recently read his book, this deed of his came back: I mean Wells’s way of finding then enjoying toward redemption, not the most popular person in any group, but the least. That, my friends, is how—from Chekhov to Flaubert to Flannery O’Connor—you shall know an artist.”
A new novella by National Book Award-winner Andrea Barrett is one of many treats awaiting readers in the just-published Spring/Summer issue of Salmagundi.
Barrett’s The Island focuses on a friendship between two very different young women during an 1873 expedition to study sea-life in Buzzards Bay under the tutelage of their anti-Darwinian mentor. Like an earlier work published by Barrett in Salmagundi, Servants of the Map (which won a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2003), The Island draws upon Barrett’s life-long interest in science and the history of science for its inspiration.
Many in the Skidmore community will remember Barrett from her several visits to campus, where she has delivered public readings, visited classes, and taught in The New York State Summer Writers Institute.
Designed by Marc Woodworth, associate editor of Salmagundi, the cover was chosen for its connection to Barrett’s work. It’s an enlargement of a lithograph found in an 1860 book published by 19th century naturalist Louis Agassiz, a Harvard professor who is best remembered for proposing the idea of an ice age and for his life-long resistance to Darwin’s theories on evolution.
Other highlights of the issue include:
- A strange, even haunting, email correspondence between Nobel prize winning writer J.M.Coetzee (Disgrace, Waiting for the Barbarians, Slow Man) and psychologist Arabella Kurtz. The 29 letters cover a rich array of topics, ranging from the psychological to the philosophical to the literary and “the personal.”;
- An article on “What’s Happening in the New Europe?” by German novelist and cultural commentator Peter Schneider, a frequent contributor of political columns to Salmagundi;
- Poems by recent United States Poet Laureate Charles Simic and Pulitzer prize winner Carl Dennis;
- An essay by recent Steloff lecturer and summer Writers Institute faculty member, Alan Gurganus, celebrating the arrival of “A New Writer”;
- An essay—at once serious and playful– on “Celebrity Sex Scandals” by Daniel Harris, who lectured on campus early in April of this year.