Fall Reading Series 2010

Amity Gaige
October 6, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

Amity Gaige is the author of two novels, O My Darling and The Folded World, which The New York Times called, “stirring,” and Entertainment Weekly called “Exquisitely written [. . .] The bitterness and disillusion of marriage have been thoroughly plumbed in contemporary fiction; Gaige is one of the rare novelists who is more interested in its potential for happiness and grace.” Gaige, who was recognized in 2006 as one of “5 Under 35” outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation, has received Fulbright and McDowell Colony Fellowships, among many other awards, and is currently the visiting writer at Amherst College.

Peggy O'Brien
October 14, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

Peggy O'Brien, the author of two collections of poetry, Sudden Thaw andFrog Spotting, has been acclaimed by The Irish Times for writing that is "subtle, elusive and tinged with erotic intensity." Or, as Martín Espada puts it, “Peggy O’Brien writes with such intelligence, such sensitivity, such skill about everything, it seems, from the grace of dragonflies to a solemn march of wild turkeys to the memory of a poet-friend who lived joyfully and died young." A member of the English Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, she is also the editor of the Wake Forest Book of Irish Women's Poetry.

Sarah Bynum Author Photo 2008_3
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
October 21, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is the author of two novels, Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award, and Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Such a beautiful book is Ms. Hempel Chronicles, the kind that gives its reader profound insights into ordinary, everyday life," whileThe New York Times described it "as an account of how nostalgia — both for what was and might have been — can generate a thousand mercies." Recently named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by the The New Yorker, she directs the MFA program in writing at the University of California, San Diego.

Polina Barskova
November 11, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

Russian poet Polina Barskova published the first of her eight collections when she was still a teenager; her poetry has since been translated into French, German, Italian, Danish, and now, with the recent publication ofThis Lamentable City, English. Alicia Ostriker writes,"Lavishly mordant, magically bitter, erotically sardonic, the poems […] plant themselves on the far side of history's hopelessness, where sometimes even a trace of love springs." Publishers Weekly calls her "a poet whose voice is at once so intimate and taunting, it can be almost impossible to resist her." Barskova lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Hampshire College.  

Richard Wilbur '42
December 2, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Pruyne Lecture Hall

In a review of Wilbur's 600-page Collected Poems 1943-2004The New York Times wrote, "The emergence of a poet like Wilbur as a hero to a new generation of critics is cause for hope: that readers, not gatekeepers, might rediscover poems written in the spirit of generosity and care, and disciplined by the idea of an uncaptive audience." Or, as Slate put it, "Wilbur's great poems feel as fresh—as astonishing, as perplexing, as shocking—as they did 50 years ago."  The former U.S. poet laureate's vivid array of honors includes the National Book Award and two Pulitzer Prizes. He has recently returned to Amherst as a John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer.

Spring Series 2011


Paul Harding
February 10th, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

Harding's debut novel, Tinkers, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and PEN / Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers Award; the book was published independently after its rejection by major publishing houses. Marilynne Robinson calls Tinkers "truly remarkable. . . It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls." And the San Francisco Chronicle writes, "In Paul Harding’s stunning first novel, we find what readers, writers and reviewers live for."Harding graduated from the University of Massachusetts and was a drummer for the band Cold Water Flat before earning his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. A 2010 Guggenheim fellow, he now lives near Boston with his wife and two sons, and is working on his second novel.


Ted Conover '80
March 3rd, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

"The Routes of Man tells the stories of six roads to explore how they’ve changed humanity and culture," says Time's Rebecca Skloot of Conover's most recent book. "I’ve been carrying the hardback in my suitcase, which says a lot." The New Yorker calls "his humane sketches of truckers, lumberjacks, prostitutes, and businessmen" "a delight."
Conover's earlierNewjack: Guarding Sing Sing won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Conover is the author of five books, the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a distinguished writer-in-residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University. 


Wells Tower
March 24th, Thursday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times writes, of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, "This arresting debut collection of stories decisively establishes Mr. Tower as a writer of uncommon talent." And Michael Chabon writes, "Wells Tower's stories are written, thrillingly, in authentic American vernacular--violent, funny, bleak, and beautiful.  You need to read them, now." Tower is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including two Pushcart Prizes and a National Magazine Award for Fiction, and was also included in the New Yorker's list of the twenty most promising fiction writers under the age of forty. He is currently a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He divides his time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Brooklyn, New York.


Linda Pastan
April 13th
, Wednesday, 8:00 pm
Amherst Books

Linda Pastan has published 13 volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Traveling Light. The New York Times Book Review writes, "Pastan's unfailing mastery of her medium holds the darkness firmly in check." And, in Pastan's own words, "the art that mattered / was the life led fully / stanza by swollen stanza." Pastan's poems have appeared in numerous journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The Nation, and The Georgia Review.   She has been Poet Laureate of Maryland and twice a finalist for the National Book Award, and in 2003 she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.  She grew up in New York City and lives with her husband in Potomac, Maryland.