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The Marian McFadden Lecture, 31 Years On

March 26, 2009 by Reader's Connection

I moved to Indianapolis in August of 1977, experienced my first Indianapolis blizzard in January of 1978, and attended my first (and the first) Marian McFadden Lecture a couple of months later. Saul Bellow spoke that night, and he’s still my favorite McFadden. 

Yes, I’ve missed some of them, so I’m not much of an authority. But I remember Bellow’s big yellow sheets of paper fluttering at the lectern. He spoke out against all manner of isms, and in favor of “lightening.”
As he wrote elsewhere,

I occasionally encounter persons who have been “lightened.” They are by no means fault-free, redeemed from error, heroes and heroines of love, or saintly characters. They have moved away from the prevailing prejudices of the century. There are more of these “lightened” persons in real life than in books, but now and then a poem or a story may emit the welcome signal . . . We have long been locked in by respectable opinion, by the prestigious sciences, by ideologies, locked in even by those modern masterpieces that have for a few decades now become a part of us. And I am speaking of that freedom to approach the marvelous which cannot be taken from us . . .

The thirty-second Marian McFadden Lecture took place this past Friday. Nicholas Sparks was our speaker, and prior to his lecture, he granted the library’s Jon Barnes a generous interview.


The McFadden Lecturers, 1978 — 2009

2009 Nicholas Sparks
2008 Eric Carle
2007 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – delivered by Mark Vonnegut
2006  Patricia Cornwell
2005  Marc Brown
2004  John Irving
2003 Louis Sachar
2002  David McCullough
2001  Tomie dePaola
2000 Doris Kearns Goodwin
1999  Judy Blume
1998  Margaret Atwood
1997  Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith
1996  Amy Tan
1995  Gary Paulsen
1994  William Styron
1993  Chris Van Allsburg
1992  Gail Godwin
1991  Maurice Sendak
1990  John Updike
1989  David Macaulay
1988  Tom Wolfe
1987  Lloyd Alexander
1986  Kurt Vonnegut
1985  Jean Fritz
1984  James Baldwin
1983  Richard Peck
1982  Gail Sheehy
1981  Scott O’Dell
1980  Norman Mailer
1979  Elaine L. Konigsburg
1978  Saul Bellow


1 comment »

  1. Maribeth Zay Fischer says:

    The Hudson River Museum is currently hosting Jerry Pinkney (with Gloria) for storytelling, his illustrations, drawing demonstrations and events. I would so much like to see him come to Indianapolis for a McFadden Lecture. I don’t know all the qualifications and whether he has done enough “original” storytelling to be considered. He seems to retell folk tales in a faithful and evocative way both in words and gorgeous art, and that seems to me a very important preservation of history as the original folk tales have become “Disney-fied” and commercialized. He seems like a “roots” folk tale-teller, bringing these old tales to new generations through his own words and through illustration of folk tales re-told by others (Virginia Hamilton’s African-American folk tales come most strikingly to mind). He would be most informative and entertaining for the McFadden.

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