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Alligator wrestler from Swamplandia! coming to Butler

August 21, 2013 by Reader's Connection

Swamplandia!No, wait, that’s Karen Russell, the author of Swamplandia!, who is one of a half-dozen writers who are coming. The fall 2013 Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series at Butler University will begin with D. A. Powell on September 10th. All events in the series are free and open to the public without tickets.

Click on the names of the authors to see which of their titles are owned at IndyPL.

D. A. Powell
7:30 p.m. Sept. 10
Clowes Memorial Hall Krannert Room

Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys (2012)
Useless Landscape, or a Guide for BoysPowell has now turned the corner from promising new poet into established power. This fifth collection condenses his obsessions into poems clearer and more compact than ever, some scathing and others comedic, some based on life stories and others built on puns. Now living in San Francisco, Powell grew up in California’s agricultural Central Valley; the impoverished spaces of his youth stand out among his backgrounds and metaphors for ecological disaster, for gay sexual awakening, for sex itself, for illness, and for love. “The Kiwi Comes to Gridley, CA,” for example, recalls “this… overgrown berry with its easy sway/ and pubescent peel, how it will proffer its redolent fruit.” Another poem delights in “Having a Rambutan with You”: “Sometimes, I forget to spit out all the seeds.” Among other culturally omnivorous poets of gay American life, Powell, with his range of form and line, his dark but vivid humor, and his commitment to Romantic traditions, is set apart. — Publishers Weekly


Jeffrey Eugenides
7:30 p.m. Sept. 16
Atherton Union Reilly Room

The Marriage Plot (2011)
The Marriage PlotA stunning novel—erudite, compassionate and penetrating in its analysis of love relationships. Eugenides focuses primarily on three characters, who all graduate from Brown in 1982. One of the pieces of this triangle is Madeleine Hanna, who finds herself somewhat embarrassed to have emerged from a “normal” household in New Jersey (though we later find out the normality of her upbringing is only relative). She becomes enamored with Leonard, a brilliant but moody student, in their Semiotics course, one of the texts being, ironically, Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse, which Madeleine finds disturbingly problematic in helping her figure out her own love relationship. We discover that Leonard had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder during his first year at Brown, and his struggle with mood swings throughout the novel is both titanic and tender. The third major player is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major who is also attracted to Madeleine but whose reticence she finds both disturbing and incomprehensible . . . Dazzling work—Eugenides continues to show that he is one of the finest of contemporary novelists. — Kirkus Reviews

Alicia Ostriker
7:30 p.m. Oct. 8
Clowes Hall Krannert Room

For the Love of God : The Bible As an Open Book (2007)

For the Love of God : The Bible As an Open BookThis slim volume is simply exquisite, erudite, and inspiring. Ostriker (emer., Rutgers) takes a wide-angle approach to explore six “unconventional and outrageous” texts within the Hebrew Bible to demonstrate that, although distinct, each text can yet deliver a contemporary meaning. Drawing on over 20 years of study and many more years of life experience, she explores, both analytically and personally, Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Jonah, and Job. With the Song of Songs and Ruth, Ostriker begins with a feminist perspective but offers reflection on first love and how “humanity trumps nationality.” Her exploration of Psalms emphasizes the full range of emotion offered to and embraced by humanity. In Ecclesiastes, she finds joy amid a traditionally pessimistic text. In Jonah, she finds a “psychological and political” value just as relevant today. With Job, she wrestles with how the One God can be responsible for both good and evil. In the end, Ostriker’s contemporizing discoveries in these six unique biblical books, borne from traditional analysis, personal reflection, and world events, offer the wisdom that there is something new under the sun. — Choice


Mary Kay Zuravleff
7:30 p.m. Oct. 23
Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Man Alive! (2013)

Man Alive!Owen Lerner, on his annual beach vacation with his wife, twin sons, and teenage daughter, is feeding quarters into a parking meter when he is struck by lightning (“He is white-hot as well as deeply quenched by the singed, syrupy fluid of his surround”). The randomness of the event and the sudden glimpse of mortality throw the Lerner family into a tizzy, and their lovely, sheltered life is suddenly cracked wide open. Will and Ricky, college juniors, are completely waylaid, with Will addicted to pills and casual sex, while Ricky is enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship with his professor and her husband. Meanwhile, younger sister Brooke becomes involved with an abusive boyfriend, and their mother, Toni, feels as if the husband she knows and loves has disappeared, as Owen, once a respected child psychiatrist, becomes obsessed with all things barbecue. Zuravleff is an exuberant writer with a sharp sense of humor, and . . . her satiric jabs (at Whole Foods, among other targets) and joyful wordplay offer plenty to savor. — Booklist


Karen Russell
7:30 p.m. Nov. 4
Robertson Hall Johnson Boardroom

Vampires in the Lemon Grove : Stories (2013)
Vampires in the Lemon Grove : StoriesThere are only eight stories in Russell’s new collection, but as readers of Swamplandia! know, Russell doesn’t work small. She’s a world builder, and the stranger the better. Not that she writes fantasy, exactly: the worlds she creates live within the one we know–but sometimes they operate by different rules. Take “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979”: Nal, its main character, is your basic dejected 14-year-old boy whose brother gets the girls and whose mother has more or less given up; “Nal was a virgin. He kicked at a wet clump of sand until it exploded.” But in this beach town, the seagulls have secrets. Or consider “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis,” a story of high school bullying that extends a familiar plot line in eerie and convincing ways. Similarly, “The New Veterans,” in which a middle-aged masseuse works on a young Iraq War vet haunted by his buddy’s death, blurs horror, the genre, with the horror of daily life. Is the masseuse losing her mind? Is the vet? What about those ignoring the war entirely? Perhaps the answers lie in the veteran’s muddy, whole-back tattoo: “Light hops the fence of its design. So many colors go waterfalling down the man’s spine that, at first glance, she can’t make any sense of the picture.” . . . Russell’s great gift–along with her antic imagination–who else would give us a barn full of ex-presidents reincarnated as horses?–is her ability to create whole landscapes and lifetimes of strangeness within the confines of a short story. — Publishers Weekly


Tomaž Šalamun
7:30 p.m. Nov. 19
Clowes Hall Krannert Room

The Blue Tower (2011)
The Blue TowerWidely anthologized and translated into more than 20 languages, acclaimed and prolific Slovenian poet Šalamun is one of European literature’s leading voices, recalling John Ashbery in his surrealistic style, unconnected images, and comical scenes. As this fine translation reveals, Šalamun’s poems liberate the hidden spark in everyday objects by displacing their inherent meaning and reinventing their freshness. Poetry here shatters our normal perceptions to create a vast and diversified sense of reality: “Have you ever rooted an island out of the sea? Actually/ Heard the noise made by the water as it flies into the void?/ Have you ever protected the mist with your own hand?” Writing about strayed memories and people, places, and familiar objects that are absent or only fleeting presences, the poet demonstrates elegantly that poetry processes life in shreds rather than as a unified whole. Hence the cleverly displayed semantic disarray and the elusiveness of meaning in most of the poems. — Library Journal


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