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Butler Visiting Writers Series Fall 2011

September 6, 2011 by Reader's Connection

Three novels by John Green were chosen for our Pass the Book program in 2009. Richard Price has been raved about in a blogpost here in 2008 and another post in 2010. Clearly, our library will be happy with the authors appearing as a part of this year’s Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series at Butler.

All programs are free and open to the public.


Robert Hass

7:30 p.m. Sept. 21
Reilly Room

The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems (2010)

The Apple Trees at OlemaLong, laddering lines impel you down the page as Hass contemplates the living and the dead, the human and the wild with yearning and philosophic poise. This lustrous retrospective collection, drawn from five previous books, beginning with Field Guide (1973), opens with a generous selection of new poems redolent of Whitman and the blues. Narrative poems are droll and astringent in their musings over love’s paradoxes and history’s shifting claims, children’s pleasures, poverty, and danger. A National Book Award winner and former poet laureate prized for his insights into human nature and our place in the web of life, Californian Hass distills experiences down to their essence as he limns landscapes, portrays friends and loved ones, and imagines the struggles of strangers. The ordinary is cracked open to reveal metaphysical riddles in poems that feel so natural, their formal complexities nearly elude our detection. Legacies and ruptures, sex and food, the journaling impulse to stop time, the “strangeness of living,” all become catalysts for the tonic perceptions shared by this compassionate master poet. — Booklist 


Karen Salyer McElmurray

7:30 p.m. Sept. 26
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey

Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother's JourneyWhile memoirs by foster parents and adopted children crowd bookshelves, we haven’t heard as much from the women who’ve given up those children for adoption. McElmurray may seem a typical birth mother-a working-class teen unprepared to raise a child-until she describes her own upbringing. When McElmurray was 12 or 13, her mother, gripped by a cleanliness fetish, still insisted on supervising her on the toilet, wiping her bottom. Both daughter and father had to shower in the garage before coming inside. Meals, too, could be messy, so they ate only processed, packaged foods. When McElmurray started dating, her mother’s vigilance heightened, and before long, her compulsions resulted in divorce. McElmurray moved in with her father, but thanks to his lax supervision and lack of contraceptive coaching, she was pregnant at 15. In Kentucky in 1971, a girl could run away and do drugs for a while-which McElmurray did-before coming home and marrying. Ignoring her father’s pleas, the author still signed the baby over for adoption. That McElmurray made it out of her trailer-park marriage, out of secretarial and fast food jobs, through college and on to teaching creative writing courses is admirable. That she reached the self-awareness to birth this remarkable memoir is a gift both to her son and to readers. — Publishers Weekly  


Richard Rodriguez

7:30 p.m. Oct. 24
Reilly Room

Brown: The Last Discovery of America

Brown: The Last Discovery of America“I write about race in hope of undermining the notion of race in America,” notes Rodriguez (Hunger of Memory) in this provocative and challenging meditation on identity, racial and otherwise, in American culture. Relishing the contradictions of his own life as a “queer Catholic Indian Spaniard at home in a temperate Chinese city in a fading blond state in a post-Protestant nation,” Rodriguez uses the color “brown” as a metaphor for in-between states of being . . . and as a symbol of the nonlinear and the unexpected: “all paradox is brown.” Beautifully written in a literary style accessible and lyrical, this book draws upon a far-reaching range of cultural figures and artifacts . . . to make his case that our historical and contemporary conceptualization of race is rudimentary and psychologically and culturally damaging. He isn’t afraid to challenge recent left orthodoxy, finding, for example, that he “trusted white literature, because I was able to attribute universality to white literature, because it did not seem to be written for me.” This book is written for anyone looking for a way out of limiting self-conceptions. — Publishers Weekly  


Natasha Trethewey

7:30 p.m. Oct. 26
Reilly Room 

Native Guard

Native GuardTrethewey’s exacting and resonant poetry is rooted in the shadow side of American history. In her first two collections, she empathically dramatizes the lives of women of color. Here she enters the arena of war and unveils a harrowing betrayal. In commanding, bayonet-sharp lyrics, Trethewey matches states of mind with states of nature and rigorously distills fact and feeling into loaded phrases and philosophical metaphors as she tells the terrible story of the Native Guard. Newly freed from slavery, the men were mustered in 1862 in Louisiana to become the first Union army regiment of black soldiers. But the courageous black troops who fell in combat were left unburied, and the black soldiers who continued fighting with valor and conviction were fired upon by their white comrades. Moving from grim historical events to personal history, Trethewey tells the story of a white man and a black woman who marry, even though their union is illegal in their home state of Mississippi. There a daughter is born, a poet in the making, profoundly attuned to the tragedies of racial strife. — Booklist 


John Green

7:30 p.m. Nov. 1
Clowes Hall

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Quentin has been in love with his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, since early childhood. Their connection was forever bonded when they discovered a dead body together at the age of nine. Now they are ready to graduate from high school. Although Margo has not been part of Quentin’s life for many years, she shows up at Quentin’s window late one night, enlisting his help with a wild scheme of revenge against her cheating boyfriend. Despite his natural reluctance to break the law, Quentin goes along with her, imagining that this teamwork will signify a new, more romantic turn to their relationship. But then Margo disappears, leaving only wisps of clues to her whereabouts and a tormented Quentin in her wake. In this story set in Orlando, Florida, Green perfectly captures the tone of this grotesquely over-developed town when Margo comments, “It’s a paper town . . . look at all those cul-de-sacs, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were meant to fall apart.” This theme is echoed as both Margo and Quentin struggle to discover what is real in their own lives. The writing is as stellar, with deliciously intelligent dialogue and plenty of mind-twisting insights. — Voya Reviews


Richard Price

7:30 p.m. Nov. 8
Reilly Room      

The reviews for Lush Life that could be linked to from our catalog were all favorable, but in my blogpost about Price in 2008, I reprinted some of Price’s description of the novel’s Manhattan setting, and I think I’ll use it again instead of one of the reviews.

Lush LifeThis book is about a homicide on the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side at this point is six worlds, and the only thing anybody knows about is the historical, Yiddish boomtown and the new bohemian playground. The fact of the matter is, there are heavy housing projects, a lot of tenements, and the realtors haven’t gotten to a lot of the tenements yet. There’s still Hispanic, Dominican. There is a huge Chinese immigrant population, probably the second biggest population down there. Then you have the new bohemians down there who are sort of playing.

Everybody thinks the Lower East Side is this yuppy-buppy-schmuppy playground, and it is to some extent, and the prices have gone through the roof, but it’s also black and Dominican and Chinese and Orthodox Jewish. And everybody’s talking about this rehabilitation like it’s this done deal. — Richard Price, in an interview.


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