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Butler Visiting Writers Series Fall 2010

September 15, 2010 by Reader's Connection

I´ve been so busy announcing visiting author programs at IMCPL that I forget to mention Butler University´s Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series, which kicks off tomorrow night. Here’s the fall line-up. All programs begin at 7:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public. Call (317) 940-9861 for more information.

To see all of IMCPL´s holdings by a certain author, click on the author’s name.

Kim Addonizio

Thursday, Sept. 16
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall
Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within

Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within

Poetry isn’t what we think of as the ordinary, but what we feel and sense is underneath the ordinary,” writes Addonizio (coauthor, The Poet’s Companion), who is anything but ordinary, as her previous works of poetry and fiction (e.g., Tell Me; Little Beauties; What Is This Thing Called Love?) attest. Here, she offers a way in for new poets struggling to unfold the images and phrases inside their heads and a way out for waylaid poets suffering through unwanted extended hiatuses. She stresses journal writing, of course, and mandates that poets read works from established poets to help jump-start their own poems. In addition, Addonizio suggests numerous instructive and fun exercises to trigger ideas for poetry–e.g., creating poems about photos one missed taking; exaggerating the features of common objects; writing a celebration about sex (yes, she loves Whitman); playing with riddles and extended metaphors; and injecting humor into serious poems and vice versa. — Library Journal 

My Dreams Out in the Street

My Dreams Out in the Street

 Love was not enough to keep Rita and Jimmy’s marriage together, and now Rita is alone and homeless on the streets of San Francisco with no clue to the fate of her husband. Her few belongings in a bag, she tries to stay smart and safe, but she is burdened with the sort of beauty that makes men want to hurt her, and many have, beginning with the wretch who murdered her mother. As Rita’s search for Jimmy devolves into a desperate scramble to stay alive, Addonizio, a poet and novelist writing with singeing intensity in this lip-biting yet strangely lyrical tale of survival, reveals how easily lives can come disastrously undone. Acutely aware of the tyranny of desire, and of the violence percolating within so many men, Addonizio creates mesmerizing characters. Some are pure evil; others, especially a private investigator just a breath away from criminality, combustibly complex. As she tells this bluesy tale of bad luck and addiction, sleazy hotels and sexual violence, biblical rain and sudden reprieves, Addonizio zeroes in on the power of love and life’s insistence. — Booklist


Yusef Komunyakaa

Thursday, Sept. 23
Krannert Room of Clowes Memorial Hall

Warhorses: Poems

Warhorses: Poems

Komunyakaa achieved his genuine national eminence with poems about his service in the Vietnam War and about the African-American culture of the rural South; his recent work has turned his spare, bluesy inflections to subjects from world history and myth. This strong, often harrowing 14th collection brings his own memories and his global aspirations together through the grim lens of current events, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pulitzer-winner Komunyakaa opens with sonnets about conquests ancient and modern, fought on horseback or with “bullets & grenades.” Poems in the center of the volume continue the sad look at warriors, victims and international conflict throughout history, from “the Cossack gunner// trying to light the cannon fuse” to a careful poem whose shape imitates the twin towers. The most ambitious, longest and least guarded poem comes last: “Autobiography of my Alter Ego” is a “confessional” poem spoken by a fictional Vietnam veteran: a bartender “at the Chimera Club/ for twenty-some-odd years,” this “alter ego” delivers, in syncopated two-part lines, a clutch of profound statements about America, history, memory, guilt and experience that are at once personal and national. — Publishers Weekly 



Taboo Komunyakaa, a master of restraint, uses form to concentrate deep emotions, and the ancient stories of Greece, Rome, and Africa, as well as works of art, to reveal the lineage of our own tragedies . . . Here, in the first volume in his planned Wishbone trilogy, he writes in electrifying tercets as he pays homage to men and women caught in the cruel paradoxes of racism and the grinding wheels of history. Komunyakaa offers no background information, leaving it up to the reader to puzzle together carefully arranged shards, fragments, and remnants to discern the identities of the historic figures he portrays, which include “Monticellan Sally” and Jeanne Duval, the beloved, respectively, of Jefferson and Baudelaire; the artist Edmonia Lewis; Thomas McKeller, an elevator operator who posed for John Singer Sargent; Ralph Ellison; and Satchmo. Glinting mosaics, Komunyakaa’s poems–potent works of empathy, scholarship, and imagination–poignantly reclaim those who braved the treacherous borderland between white and black. — Booklist


Jean Valentine

Monday, Oct. 18
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Little Boat

Little BoatValentine follows her 2004 National Book Award-winning Door in the Mountain with an exquisite sort of literary dandelion field, full of delicately structured pieces so wispy and fugitive that they might blow right off the page. Collectively, they take a glancing, skittering and ultimately deeply moving look at mortality–pondering the end of existence, what might come next, and what it means for those left behind–as if direct engagement with the topic carries far too much risk, as of course it does. The speaker is often looking back on her life, appreciating and appraising it, in preparation for some radical new phase, which perhaps she glimpses during a hospital visit (“Strange Lights”). In one section, “Jesus Said,” she seems to be embracing Christianity; elsewhere, she is making herself ready for contingencies, including, in “To My Soul,” a poignant separation from her “uncanny other” in the next life: “And you, a child in a field, / and I, a child on a train, go by, go by.” — Booklist


Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965-2003

Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965-2003

 Most collected poems start with the poet’s earliest work, but not this invaluable collection by Valentine. It’s fitting that she opens with 35 pages of new poems because her writing has never lost its freshness, its ability to startle. Even with many of the poems eyeing death, acknowledging aging, or recalling the past (“Talking with Mary about 1972:/ like a needle/ through my 25-years-/ older breast my years thinner rib”), there’s a feel of newness-or at least of rude rebirth (“I saw my soul become flesh my life breaking open”). Despite their enduring elliptical quality-as in music, there’s as much here in the silence as there is in the sound-these poems are radiant with the pain of being in the world. Valentine seems comfortable with herself (“My old body/ ladder of sunlight”), and a quick look at her earlier works shows that though they may have seemed spare, her newest work is down to the essentials and is the clearer for it. Hence the importance of this volume; it proffers one poet’s great career. — Library Journal


Lorrie Moore

Monday, Nov. 1
Krannert Room of Clowes Memorial Hall

A Gate at the Stairs

A Gate at the StairsMoore knits together the shadow of 9/11 and a young girl’s bumpy coming-of-age in this luminous, heart-wrenchingly wry novel–the author’s first in 15 years. Tassie Keltjin, 20, a smalltown girl weathering a clumsy college year in “the Athens of the Midwest,” is taken on as prospective nanny by brittle Sarah Brink, the proprietor of a pricey restaurant who is desperate to adopt a baby despite her dodgy past. Subsequent “adventures in prospective motherhood” involve a pregnant girl “with scarcely a tooth in her head” and a white birth mother abandoned by her African-American boyfriend–both encounters expose class and racial prejudice to an increasingly less naive Tassie. In a parallel tale, Tassie lands a lover, enigmatic Reynaldo, who tries to keep certain parts of his life a secret from Tassie. Moore’s graceful prose considers serious emotional and political issues with low-key clarity and poignancy, while generous flashes of wit–Tessie the sexual innocent using her roommate’s vibrator to stir her chocolate milk–endow this stellar novel with great heart. — Publishers Weekly


Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?Berie Carr, a successful photography curator, has reached the point in life where social occasions demand that one speak of “one’s upbringing and be amusing at the same time.” No problem here. There’s plenty of comic fodder in her parents (cold Baptists who took in foreign students, political exiles, and foster children), her hometown of Horsehearts, NY, (a typical small town, across the border from Quebec), her summer job (a ticket-taker at a two-bit amusement park called Storyland) . . . Berie looks for answers to the present by returning to the past. In Horsehearts, Silsby Chausse, a beautiful girl who played Cinderella at Storyland, was Berie’s best friend. The two smoked cigarettes together, used fake IDs to get into bars, stayed out all night, sneaked liquor from their parents’ stashes–the usual stuff. But gradually, when Sils got breasts and then a boyfriend and then pregnant, she moved into a new world where Berie couldn’t follow. Then, Berie went off to boarding school and college, and finally Sils was left behind. Sifting through these memories, Berie finds answers about love and kindness and hope that, even if they don’t change her life, make it more livable. Moore’s voice sings and soars in this perfect little book–too bad it ends so soon. — Kirkus Reviews

Jonathan Lethem

Monday, Nov. 15
Atherton Union Reilly Room

Chronic City

Chronic City

In Jonathan Lethem’s latest offering, readers are once again thrust into a genre-bending, category-defying and humorously disjointed New York City. In Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude, Lethem explored his favorite outer borough through the lens of noir and fantasy—and now he turns his attentions to Manhattan proper with a surrealistic eye that owes as much to Saul Bellow and James Baldwin as it does to Pynchon, Baudrillard and DeLillo. 
The narrator of Chronic City, Chase Insteadman, is a former child actor and popular Manhattan socialite who has recently attained notoriety for his personal life—his astronaut fiancée is trapped in the ether, stuck in a layer of low-orbit mines on the International Space Station . . . Chase’s Manhattan is almost—but not quite—our own. Rather, it is a secluded island in which the downtown lies hidden behind a mysterious fog (as close as we get to any 9/11 discussion), an escaped tiger roams the Upper East Side and the rich outbid each other in eBay auctions for mystical artifacts. In short, it’s a setting ripe for paranoia, absurd comedy and a very real exploration of the problems of truth and trauma. The Twin Towers have not fallen, but still the city is in crisis. — BookPage


Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn

 Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel is narrated by Lionel Essrog, an orphan who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome. He’s a bright kid, but the jabberwocky that he can’t stop barking is frequently obscene and always startling to the uninitiated.

In early adolescence, Lionel and three other orphans are taken under the wing of Frank Minna, who, the reader soon guesses, is some sort of crook.

This sounds like the beginning of a grim crime saga, and I suppose it is. But stretches of the novel are unbelievably funny, which I discovered when I started reading it at the Farmer’s Market in Broad Ripple. I had finished shopping and was snacking in my car and I hope–speaking of startling people–that my sqawks of laughter didn’t alarm the Amish guys in their stall.

Later passages are less humorous, but quite rewarding. I’ve already requested another book by Lethem. — Earlier Reader’s Connection post about New York fiction &  nonfiction.


Elmore Leonard

Monday, Dec. 6
Atherton Union Reilly Room

Road Dogs

Road DogsIt’s homecoming for a handful of Leonard’s most entertaining characters. When last seen, all-world bank robber Jack Foley was getting shot by his lover, U.S. Marshal Karen Sisco, at the end of Out of Sight (1996); bent fortune teller Dawn Navarro was riding shotgun alongside another marshal, Raylan Givens, the Shane of South Beach, in Riding the Rap (1995); and Cundo Rey was a go-go dancer, also in South Beach, before getting shot by a secret-service agent turned photographer in LaBrava (1983). Now Jack and Cundo are finishing up stretches of jail time in Florida, while Dawn, Cundo’s sort-of wife, awaits his return in Venice, California. It’s the perfect setup for one of Leonard’s tragicomic screwball capers in which fast-talking, lovable but lethal con men (and women) try to outthink each other, avoid getting killed, and steal whatever there is to steal . . . And, of course, there’s California s canal-strewn version of Venice–a setting tailor-made for Leonard s ability to match funky landscapes to offbeat characters. Reading isn’t supposed to be this much fun. — Booklist

The Hot Kid

The Hot KidLeonard’s 40th novel, set in the world of 1930s gangsters and gun molls, features characterizations so deft and true you can smell the hair oil on the dudes and the perfume on the dames. Young Carlos Webster tangles with his first gangster at 15, when bank robber Emmet Long robs an Okmulgee, Okla., store, kills an Indian policeman and takes away Carlos’s ice cream cone. Seven years later, Carlos, now Carl, a newly minted deputy U.S. marshal, gets his revenge by gunning Long down, an act that wins him the respect of his employers and the adulation of the American public, who follow his every quick-draw exploit in the papers and True Detective magazine. Cinematically, Leonard introduces his characters-Carl’s colorful pecan-farmer father, Virgil; Jack Belmont, ne’er-do-well son of a rich oilman; True Detective writer Tony Antonelli; Louly Brown, whose cousin marries Pretty Boy Floyd-in small, self-contained scenes. As the novel moves forward, these characters and others begin to interact, forming liaisons both romantic and criminal. At the stirring conclusion, scores are settled and the good and the bad get sorted out in satisfactorily violent fashion. The writing is pitch-perfect throughout. — Publishers Weekly


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