Tag Archives: Literature

Circle of Life: Performance Art at the Cosmic Center

Millais_Boyhood_of_RaleighWe are a story-telling species. We tell stories through various media which have changed over time as our technologies have changed. In ancient times the common modes of expression included the verbal story, art, dance, and music. These forms still are in use today. New forms have been developed and the ways of communication for millennia have evolved at a speed that is both wondrous and frightening to behold. Continue reading

Harlem Blues: Last Party At The Lenox Lounge

On New Year’s Eve the cigar smoke was thick on the sidewalk in front of the famed jazz club, the Lenox Lounge. Men in tuxes and women in clingy gowns stepped out of white stretch limos, three deep on Malcolm X Avenue, a.k.a Lenox Avenue in Harlem, as blue notes popped from the chromed doorway.

A huge bejeweled crowd could be glimpsed dancing and drinking through the wide octogon window. Continue reading

Kathleen Hulser: A Gertrude Stein Legacy Spat

Controversy over Gertrude Stein continues to fester and boil, even after the great public acclaim for the Metropolitan Museum’s The Steins Collect show. Michael Kimmelman’s review in the New York Review of Books (“Missionaries,” New York Review of Books, April 26, 2012.  also his July 12 letter in response to criticism) revived old charges that Gertrude was a Nazi sympathizer. Kimmelman gave an overview of the exhibition, which focused on the early years of the Leo and Gertrude Stein in the ebullient art scene in Paris. Continue reading

In the Words of Women: Rev War And Nations Birth

Fort Montgomery State Historic Site will host a presentation entitled “In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799″- on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7 pm.

The book In the Words of Women brings together the writings of women who lived between 1765 and 1799. These writings are organized chronologically around events, battles, and developments from before the Revolution, through its prosecution and aftermath. Continue reading

New Washington Irving Treasury Box Set Published

Three time-honored stories by Washington Irving, classic tales told again and again, have been released together in the cloth-bound box set A Washington Irving Treasury (Universe Publishing, 2012). The high-spirited stories of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow present memorable folk characters that have become part of America’s literary lexicon, while Old Christmas preserves the nostalgia, warmth, and joy of English Christmas traditions. Continue reading

Auburn Prison, Gillette Case Documentary, Lecture

A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake is a documentary feature film that explores one of the most famous American murder cases. Grace Brown, a pregnant young woman from upstate New York, was killed in the Adirondacks on July 11, 1906 [watch the trailer].

Her lover, Chester Gillette, was eventually tried and convicted of her murder. Gillette died in the Auburn Prison electric chair on March 30, 1908. The case became the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy.

A North Woods Elegy explores the fascination America had, and still has, with the case, encompassing issues of class, jurisprudence in America at the turn of the 20th century and ethics and sensationalism in news reporting.

The documentary film will be shown in Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum, twice on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 pm. and again at 4:00,. Derek Taylor, the film’s producer, director and editor, will answer questions after each screening.

At 3:00 p.m., there will be a lecture on “Gillette in Auburn” by Tompkins County Judge Jack Sherman, editor of The Prison Diaries and Letters of Chester Gillette. Gillette spent more than a year in Auburn Prison before his execution- his diary from that time is today in the collection of Hamilton College. Both the film screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.

New York State Author, Poet Named

Governor Cuomo has announced the appointments of Marie Howe to serve as the 10th New York State Poet and Alison Lurie as the 10th New York State Author.  Howe and Lurie will serve from 2012 to 2014.

“Marie and Alison represent the rich talent and diversity that New York has to offer,” Governor Cuomo said. “Both of them have inspired New Yorkers all across the state, and their works are major assets to us all. They are truly deserving of this honor, and hopefully their great work will now reach a new and even wider audience.”

Donald Faulkner, Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Walt Whitman Award for State Poet of New York, said, “Seldom have I encountered a poet with such a sense of honesty, intimacy, and candor in her work. Marie Howe writes with refreshing openness about love, loss, and redemption. Hers is a voice that will continue to grow in its magic and sheer bravery.”

William Kennedy, Executive Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Edith Wharton Award for State Author of the State of New York, said, “Alison Lurie is a wise and masterful teller of tales that often center on marital strife, domestic disorder, and academic absurdity–comedies of manners of our time but with a deeply human strain. She is a superior prose stylist with a wickedly satirical talent.”

About Marie Howe, New York’s 10th State Poet:

Marie Howe succeeds Jean Valentine as NYS Poet and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Billy Collins, John Ashbery, Sharon Olds, Jane Cooper, Richard Howard, Audre Lorde, Robert Creeley, and Stanley Kunitz.

Marie Howe said, “I’m honored, surprised, and delighted by this news. New York State has been my life long home: the rivers, the ocean, the maples, the old dismantled elms …- I’ve grown up in love with the voices that have been singing from this land: the gorgeous din: the poets who have spoken and the poets to come.”

Marie Howe is the author of three books of poetry and is co-editor of a highly-praised anthology of writing on AIDS. Her poetry is widely admired for seeking answers to metaphysical questions in ordinary day-to-day experience. In Howe’s work, little incidents and inconsequential memories help to shed light on the nature of the soul and self, life and death, love and pain, sin and virtue.

Howe’s first collection, The Good Thief (1988) was selected by Margaret Atwood for the National Poetry Series. In making her selection Atwood described the poems in the volume as “intensely felt, sparely expressed, and difficult to forget- poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots.” Howe’s second book, What the Living Do (1997), is an elegy to her brother who died of AIDS. Publishers Weekly named it one of the five best poetry collections of 1997. Howe’s third collection, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

In 1994 Howe published an anthology (coedited with Michael Klein) In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic, which presents a wide range of voices speaking out on the impact of the disease.

Born in Rochester, Howe worked as a reporter for a Rochester newspaper and taught high school English before taking up poetry as a serious pursuit at the age of thirty. She is a member of the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the recipient of the Lavan Younger Poets Prize of the American Academy of Poets as selected by poet Stanley Kunitz in 1988, and National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships.

Of her work, Stanley Kunitz, the first named State Poet of the State of New York, wrote, “Marie Howe’s poetry is luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life. Her long, deep-breathing lines address the mysteries of flesh and spirit, in terms accessible only to a woman who is very much of our time and yet still in touch with the sacred.”

The advisory panel that recommended Howe as state poet included poets Sydney Lea (Poet Laureate of the state of Vermont), poet Mark Doty, former state poet Jean Valentine, and poet and Writers Institute Director, Donald Faulkner.

For more information on Marie Howe, visit www.mariehowe.com

About Alison Lurie, New York’s 10th State Author:

Alison Lurie succeeds Mary Gordon as NYS Author and joins a group of eminent authors who have served in the position, including Russell Banks, Kurt Vonnegut, James Salter, Peter Matthiessen, William Gaddis, Norman Mailer, E. L. Doctorow, and Grace Paley.

Alison Lurie said, “I am delighted and honored by this award from the state where I have spent most of my life, a state that has been the home of so many great writers as well as enthusiastic and dedicated readers.”

Alison Lurie is the author of ten novels, a short story collection, and several children’s books and works on nonfiction. She is widely regarded as the Jane Austen of contemporary American letters for her nuanced understanding and lifelike portrayal of social customs and the relationship between the sexes. Lurie’s witty and satirical novels examine middle class life, particularly of characters from an academic milieu in small college towns. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt declared in the New York Times that Lurie “has quietly but surely established herself as one of this country’s most able and witty novelists.”

Lurie is best known for her novels The War Between the Tates (1974), which was hailed as a classic of its time and place, and Foreign Affairs (1984), which received the Pulitzer Prize. Her other acclaimed novels include Love and Friendship (1962), Real People (1969), The Last Resort (1998) and Truth and Consequences (2005).

A champion of children’s literature, Lurie has also written both children’s books and scholarly nonfiction works examining the importance of children’s literature to global literacy and culture.

Lurie grew up in White Plains, NY and graduated from Radcliffe College. She taught at Cornell University from 1968 until her retirement as the Frederic J. Whiton Professor of American Literature in 1998.

The advisory panel that recommended Lurie as state author included the present laureate, novelist Mary Gordon, novelists Dave Eggers and Lorrie Moore, and novelist and Executive Director of the New York State Writers Institute, William Kennedy.

For more information on Alison Lurie, visit www.alisonlurie.com.

About the State Poet and Author:

The State Poet and Author are selected for two-year terms by the NYS Writers Institute, located at the University at Albany, SUNY. The choice for State Author and Poet is based on a substantial body of work of notable literary merit.

The NYS Writers Institute of the State University of New York, located at the University at Albany, was established as a permanent state-sponsored organization through legislation signed into law in 1984. The Writers Institute provides a milieu for writers, both renowned and aspiring, from all over the world to come together for the purpose of instruction and creative exchange.

In 1985 the governor and state legislature empowered the Institute to award the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers (State Author) and the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets (State Poet) to authors whose career achievements make them deserving of New York State’s highest literary honors.

Upon the recommendation of two advisory panels of distinguished writers convened under the aegis of the Institute, the governor awards the citations every two years to one fiction writer and one poet of distinction. Throughout their two-year terms the state laureates promote and encourage fiction writing and poetry throughout New York by giving public readings and talks within the state. The State Author and Poet are not paid, and there is no cost to the state for the designation.

NYS Poets and their terms of service are listed below.

  • Jean Valentine, 2008-2010
  • Billy Collins, 2004-2006
  • John Ashbery, 2001-2003
  • Sharon Olds, 1998-2000
  • Jane Cooper, 1995-1997
  • Richard Howard, 1993-1995
  • Audre Lorde, 1991-1993
  • Robert Creeley, 1989-1991
  • Stanley Kunitz, 1986-1988

NYS Authors and their terms of service are listed below.

  • Mary Gordon, 2008-2010
  • Russell Banks, 2004-2008
  • Kurt Vonnegut, 2001-2003
  • James Salter, 1998-2000
  • Peter Matthiessen, 1995-1997
  • William Gaddis, 1993-1995
  • Norman Mailer, 1991-1993
  • E. L. Doctorow, 1989-1991
  • Grace Paley, 1986-1988

More information on the NYS Poet and Author and the NYS Writers Institute can be found at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/

Photos: Alison Lurie (left) and Marie Howe. 

Sir William Johnsons Bookshelf: Millenium Hall

Sir William Johnson’s 1774 inventory of his New York western frontier estate, Johnson Hall, revealed a superb collection of books and other reading material.

Books were a bit more difficult to acquire in 18th century Johnstown than at present, so one could presume that selecting titles was considered, even more precisely than today, by recommended taste, by familiarity with an author, or perhaps from curiosity after having read a report of the book in the newspapers that arrived from New York City or from England via a New York City agent.
Continue reading

Historic Local Recordings Now Available in Plattsburgh

Access to hundreds of audio recordings that reveal the rich histories of Clinton, Essex, and Franklin Counties are now available at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Feinberg Library’s Special Collections.

Recordings include Adirondack Folk Music- Clinton, Essex, and Franklin County oral histories, including those by local residents born prior to the American Civil War- SUNY Plattsburgh concerts- a 1963 recording of Edward “Doc” Redcay on piano and Junior Barber on dobro- and four-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Frost reading his works.

The collection of recordings is the result of a collaborative effort by SUNY Plattsburgh Communications Professor Timothy Clukey and Feinberg Library’s Special Collections staff. According to a statement released to the press “copyright restrictions require that researchers visit Special Collections during open hours to listen to any of these recordings.” The recordings are available as mp3 files on a new Audio Station computer kiosk.

A Soundscriber Recorder was used in the mid-20th century by Marjorie Lansing Porter, historian for Clinton and Essex counties. Porter recorded 456 interviews with elderly local residents telling stories and singing traditional Adirondack folk music.

Among the folk music examples, Granma Delorme sang more than one hundred folk songs for Porter, including a Battle of Plattsburgh ballad composed by General Alexander Macomb’s wife. Included also is “Yankee” John Galusha singing “The Three Hunters,” “A Lumbering We Shall Go,” and “Adirondack Eagle.” Francis Delong sings “My Adirondack Home,” and “Peddler Jack.”

Many of the recorded songs deal with mining, lumbering, Adirondack folk tales, and other subjects, as well as traditional Irish and French folk music handed down through generations. The Porter Oral History Interviews cover many topics of historical interest in Clinton and Essex Counties, such as ferry boats, Redford glass, mining, and lumbering.

The Audio Station also includes 96 interviews conducted by William Langlois and Robert McGowan with elder Franklin County residents in the 1970s.Plans in the works for additions to the Audio Station include:

Rockwell Kent audio recordings (now on reel-to-reel tapes in Special Collections’ Rockwell Kent Collection)-

SUNY Plattsburgh Past President Dr. George Angell speaking on antiwar action in 1967—“Protest is Not Enough”-The 1965 SUNY Plattsburgh Students for a Democratic Society and S.E.A.N.Y.S. teach-in, “The Vietnam Question,” with introduction by Dr. Angell- A1964 speech by Senator-Elect Robert Kennedy on the Plattsburgh campus- and a 1964 meeting between Senator-Elect Kennedy and Dr. Angell, discussing various local and county concerns and other topics.For more information, contact Debra Kimok, Special Collections Librarian (email: debra.kimok@plattsburgh.edu- telephone: 518-564-5206).

During the summer, the Feinberg Special Collections will be open on Mondays and Tuesdays, from 1 pm – 4 pm, and on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 10 am – noon and 1 pm – 4 pm. Saturday appointments can be arranged with the Special Collections Librarian.

Odetta, Richard Wright Being Honored Today in NYC

Today, Tuesday, July 17, 2012 the Historic Districts Council and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center in New York City will unveil new cultural medallions for two pioneers in the fields of literature and music.

First at 11:00am, in collaboration with the Fort Greene Association, author Richard Wright will be celebrated with a medallion unveiling at 175 Carlton Avenue in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Then at 2:00 pm their will be an unveiling of a medallion commemorating the life of Odetta, the legendary singer, songwriter and political activist, at her longtime residence, 1270 Fifth Avenue, in East Harlem. The public is invited to both events.

Odetta: The Voice of the Civil-Rights Movement, 1930-2008

Odetta Holmes, born on December 31, 1930 in Birmingham, Alabama was a true activist, performance artist and musician. Her powerful image and robust voice was and continues to represent the politically driven folk-music of the 1950’s and 1960’s. As an African-American female performance artist during a time of political and racial upheaval, Odetta was a leader and voice for the civil rights movement- marching with Martin Luther King Jr. and performing a show for John F. Kennedy. The ability she had to convey meaning and life into her music inspired others to follow in her pursuit of fairness, equality and justice.

Author Richard Wright, 1908- 1960

Born in Mississippi, Richard Wright spent the majority of his childhood living in poverty in the oppressive racial and social atmosphere of the south. Wright escaped familial and social constraints by immersing himself in the world of literature, and became one of the first great African American writer’s of his time. Richard Wright relocated to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood and was living here in 1938 when he drafted his first novel, Native Son. He wrote several controversial novels, short-stories and semi-autobiographical accounts that reflected the brutalities often inflicted on the African American people of the south during this period. Wright eventually left New York City for Paris. His grave is located in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.

About the Ceremony and Cultural Medallion Program

Distinguished scholars, artists and elected officials will be participating in both of the cultural medallion ceremonies. The Richard Wright program will include Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, celebrated playwright Lynn Nottage, Paul Palazzo of the Fort Greene Association, musician and author Carl Hancock Rux, and Howard Pitsch will read a message from Wright’s daughter, Julia Wright, who currently resides in Paris. Pianist Dave Keyes will perform Odetta’s signature piece, This Little Light of Mine, at the Odetta ceremony.

The Cultural Medallions are a program of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Chair of the HLPC, created the Cultural Medallions program, and will lead the ceremony. The HLPC has installed almost 100 medallions around the city to heighten public awareness of the cultural and social history of New York City.