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Appointed by Philip Roth and granted independence and complete access, Blake Bailey spent years poring over Roth’s personal archive, interviewing his friends, lovers, and colleagues, and engaging Roth himself in breathtakingly candid conversations. His new book is: "Philip Roth: The Biography."

Bailey shows how Roth emerged from a lower-middle-class Jewish milieu to achieve the heights of literary fame, how his career was nearly derailed by his catastrophic first marriage, and how he championed the work of dissident novelists behind the Iron Curtain.

Bailey examines Roth’s rivalrous friendships with Saul Bellow, John Updike, and William Styron, and reveals the truths of his florid love life, culminating in his almost-twenty-year relationship with actress Claire Bloom, who pilloried Roth in her 1996 memoir, "Leaving a Doll’s House."

Blake Bailey is the author of biographies of John Cheever, Richard Yates, and Charles Jackson. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Book cover for "Eternal"
G.P. Putnam's Sons

Unfolding over decades, Lisa Scottoline’s new novel "Eternal" is a saga of loyalty and loss, family and food, love and hate - all set in one of the world's most beautiful cities at its darkest moment.

Scottoline has been researching the Italian Holocaust since her undergraduate days when she took an intimate year-long seminar at the University of Pennsylvania taught by the late Philip Roth called “The Literature of the Holocaust,” studying the work of Primo Levi, among others.

Following that course, she knew that someday she’d write about these events. Her background as an Italian-American, a lawyer, and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School fueled her interest in the subject. After she conducted decades of research, including numerous trips to Italy, "Eternal" was born.

Book cover for "What Were We Thinking?"
Simon & Schuster / https://www.simonandschuster.com/

As a book critic for The Washington Post, Carlos Lozada has read some 150 volumes claiming to diagnose why Trump was elected and what his presidency reveals about our nation. Many of these, he’s found, are more defensive than incisive, more righteous than right.

In "What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era," Lozada uses these books to tell the story of how we understand ourselves in the Trump era, using as his main characters the political ideas and debates at play in America today. He dissects works on the white working class like "Hillbilly Elegy;" manifestos from the anti-Trump resistance like "On Tyranny" and "No Is Not Enough;" books on race, gender, and identity like "How to Be an Antiracist" and "Good and Mad;" polemics on the future of the conservative movement like "The Corrosion of Conservatism;" and of course plenty of books about Trump himself.

  Beth Robbins' first book, "A Grief Sublime," begins with the moment she is informed of her husband's sudden death in a car accident. Her navigation of grief becomes a hero's journey and ultimately leads to rediscovery.  

Her style brings readers into the direct and immediate experience of deep tragedy as well as literature. Robbins enters into conversation with Keats and Whitman, Melville and Dickinson, discovering through these writers that grief has amplified life's spectrum, welcoming her into the realm of literature where imagination meets experience in new and profound ways.  

This story is ultimately hopeful and transcendent, transforming despair into a new experience of life and a recognition of the love that remains after death.  Beth Robbins is a longtime English and drama teacher at the Berkshire Waldorf High School in Stockbridge, MA.

The new book is "A Grief Sublime." Our friend and wonderful actor Karen Allen read the audiobook.

Adam Rapp’s play “The Sound Inside” is currently in previews on Broadway produced by Jeffrey Richards and co-produced by Lincoln Center at Studio 54, directed by David Cromer. It stars Mary Louise Parker as Bella Lee Baird, a Creative Writing professor at Yale University, and Will Hochman as Christopher Dunn - one of her students. It had its world premiere production with the same cast and director at The Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2018.

Adam Rapp is an award-winning playwright and director. He is the author of numerous plays including “Red Light Winter” which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. “The Sound Inside” is the first of his plays to be produced on Broadway.

In “The Sound Inside” Bella, 53, conducts her life in solitude and work. Early in the play, we find out she’s been diagnosed with aggressive stomach cancer. As a college freshman, Christopher Dunn is alienated by his peers and societal expectations. The two meet and connect over a shared interest in writing and the profound capability of literature to inspire.

The 2nd Annual Albany Book Festival at the University at Albany will take place Saturday, September 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Events are free and open to the public and there will be books for sale.

The festival will include more than 100 authors and poets, including several nationally-known and best-selling writers, exhibits, writing workshops, and children's activities.

Hailed as "the great nature writer of this generation,” Robert Macfarlane is the author of books about the intersections of the human and the natural realms. In his latest, "Underland," he delivers an exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself.

In the sequel to his bestseller "The Old Ways," looks into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Traveling through “deep time,” the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from the present, he moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future.

Robert Macfarlane is the author of best-selling, prize-winning books about nature, place, and people, including "Mountains of the Mind," "The Old Ways," "Landmarks," and "The Lost Words." In 2017 he was awarded the E. M. Forster Prize for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

During his regular days in London, Kenneth Grahame sat behind a mahogany desk as Secretary of the Bank of England; on weekends he retired to the house in the country that he shared with his fanciful wife, Elspeth, and their fragile son, Alistair, and took lengthy walks along the Thames in Berkshire.

The result of these pastoral wanderings was his masterful creation of "The Wind in the Willows," the enduring classic of children's literature; a cautionary tale for adult readers; a warning of the fragility of the English countryside; and an expression of fear at threatened social changes that, in the aftermath of the World War I, became a reality.

"The Man in the Willows: The Life of Kenneth Grahame" is by Matthew Dennison; the author of several critically acclaimed works of non-fiction, including "Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter."

Consider it a literary bucket list. The new book, "1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List" is an extraordinary book that’s as readable, entertaining, surprising, and enlightening as the 1,000-plus titles it recommends.

Covering fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history, and more, "1,000 Books to Read Before You Die" ranges across cultures and through time to offer an eclectic collection of works that each deserve to come with the recommendation: You have to read this. But it’s not a proscriptive list of the “great works,” rather, it’s a celebration of the glorious mosaic that is our literary heritage.

The man responsible is James Mustich. James began his career in bookselling at an independent book store in Briarcliff Manor, New York, in the early 1980s. In 1986, he co-founded the acclaimed book catalog, A Common Reader, and was for two decades its guiding force.

Walter Mosley’s latest novel is the result of nearly 20-years of incubation, it is a dazzling and convention-defying novel of ideas about the sexual and intellectual coming-of-age of an unusual man who goes by the name Woman. The new book is “John Woman.”

This is an Off the Shelf edition of The Book Show, recorded in partnership with and on location at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.

This Saturday, September 29, The New York State Writers Institute presents The Albany Book Festival. A fun way to celebrate authors, books and readers, the Albany Book Festival will run between 10a.m. and 4p.m. at UAlbany's uptown campus. Kicking off with a dance party, the Albany Book Festival presents conversations on genres such as food, mystery, history, and memoirs of new Americans.

The festival will feature renowned authors Doris Kearns Goodwin, Walter Mosley, Khizr Khan, Gregory Maguire and many more.

Joining us today is Director of New York State Writers Institute Paul Grondahl and Co-Director of Grassroot Givers Mary Partridge-Brown.

The Great American Read

Sep 20, 2018

The Great American Read on PBS is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey.) The 100 books have been placed into a bracket and divided into quadrants based on the years they were published: The Classics, Mid-Century, Late Century and Contemporary.

The Great American Read investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

We were joined by Social Media Coordinator at WMHT Danielle Sanzone, Director of the Greenwich Free Library Annie Miller; librarian at Albany Public Library Christina Stenson-Carey; Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck and Millerton; and Matt Tannenbaum of The Bookstore in Lenox, MA.

In her admired works of fiction, including the recent "The Book That Matters Most," best-selling author Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature.

In her new book, "Morningstar," she reveals the personal story behind beloved novels in her life.

Joseph Crespino is the Jimmy Carter Professor of history at Emory University. He is the author of "In Search of Another Country," winner of the 2008 Lillian Smith Book Award from the Southern Regional Council, and "Strom Thurmond's America."

The publication of "Go Set a Watchman" in 2015 forever changed how we think about Atticus Finch. Once seen as a paragon of decency, he was reduced to a small-town racist. How are we to understand this transformation?

In "Atticus Finch," historian Joseph Crespino draws on exclusive sources to reveal how Harper Lee's father provided the central inspiration for each of her books. A lawyer and newspaperman, A. C. Lee was a principled opponent of mob rule, yet he was also a racial paternalist. Harper Lee created the Atticus of Watchman out of the ambivalence she felt toward white southerners like him. But when a militant segregationist movement arose that mocked his values, she revised the character in "To Kill a Mockingbird" to defend her father and to remind the South of its best traditions.

Lois Lowry and Joe Donahue at Page Hall
Sarah LaDuke

Lois Lowry is a leading voice of children’s literature and the author of more than 30 books. She is known for work that explores such complex issues as racism, terminal illness, murder, and the Holocaust. She received the Newbery Medal for both "The Giver" and "Number the Stars." In 2007 Lowry received the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association for her lasting contribution to young adult literature.

This interview was recorded at Page Hall as part of the "The Creative Life Series" created and produced by the New York State Writers Institute, University Art Museum, and UAlbany Performing Arts Center in collaboration with WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

Jonathan Lethem is the New York Times bestselling author of ten novels, including Dissident Gardens, The Fortress of Solitude, and Motherless Brooklyn; as well as several short story and essay collections.

He has a pair of new books - More Alive and Less Lonely is his collection of writing on writing.  He is also the co-editor of Shake It Up which spotlights landmark music writing.

Originally published in 1935 as a response to the rise of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe, Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here has renewed relevance in the wake of Donald Trump’s campaign and election.

Physical sales for the Signet Classics mass-market edition of It Can’t Happen Here are up 1100% over last year’s sales, and eBook sales have jumped 750%.

Dr. Sally Parry, executive director of the Sinclair Lewis Society, joins us this morning to discuss this shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news. 

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. From 1984 until 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He has written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than a quarter century he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure & Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Drawing on more than six decades' worth of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, Willard Spiegelman reflects with candid humor and sophistication on growing old.Senior Moments is a series of discrete essays that, when taken together, constitute the life of a man who, despite Western cultural notions of aging as something to be denied, overcome, and resisted, has continued to relish the simplest of pleasures: reading, looking at art, talking, and indulging in occasional fits of nostalgia while also welcoming what inevitably lies ahead.

  On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland.

She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe’s story “The Black Cat,” and Nabokov’s Lolita—books that don’t flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may “only” be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake.

Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman's book is The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison.

Basilica Hudson, in partnership with the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) will host the first READ & FEED this Saturday, July 30th. The event brings together artisanal makers of food with artisanal makers of literature.

This inaugural “mini-festival” will feature panel discussions bringing together writers, farmers and chefs, cooking and mixology demonstrations, a marathon reading of John Cage Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse), and a marketplace featuring more than twenty small press publishers and artisanal food makers, plus spectacular eats and drinks.

Here to tell us more are: Jeffrey Lependorf, CLMP’s Executive Director; Lisa Pearson, publisher of Siglio Press and the John Cage Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse); and Michael Albin, proprietor of Hudson Wine Merchants.

  Novelist and Williams College Professor Alison Case joins us this morning to discuss her reimagining of Wuthering Heights. The new book is Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights - a gripping and heartbreaking novel that re-imagines life at Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ loyal servant, Nelly Dean.

Nelly Dean is an inspired accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.

  In the early seventeenth century, a crippled, graying, almost toothless veteran of Spain's wars against the Ottoman Empire published a book. It was the story of a poor nobleman, his brain addled from reading too many books of chivalry, who deludes himself that he is a knight errant and sets off on hilarious adventures. That book, Don Quixote, went on to sell more copies than any other book beside the Bible, making its author, Miguel de Cervantes, the single most-read author in human history. Cervantes did more than just publish a bestseller, though. He invented a way of writing.

In The Man Who Invented Fiction William Egginton explores Cervantes's life and the world he lived in, showing how his influences converged in his work, and how his work--especially Don Quixote--radically changed the nature of literature and created a new way of viewing the world.

  New England in the late nineteenth century was home to a set of high-spirited and ambitious writers who were, for the first time, creating a distinctly American literature. From this close-knit literary society emerged Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who were known to be friends. In The Whale: A Love Story, novelist Mark Beauregard explores the boundaries of this friendship.

Through a nuanced reading of Melville’s real letters and other original sources, Beauregard offers the fictionalized story of two men who shared a deep, emotionally charged bond that may have transformed the writing—and meaning—of Moby-Dick. Scholars, academics, and essayists have written about Melville and Hawthorne’s relationship, trying to suss out what may have really happened between them.

The Mount
David-Dashiell / edithwharton.org

  The Mount is a turn-of-the-century home, designed and built by Edith Wharton in 1902 in Lenox, MA. A National Historic Landmark, today The Mount is a cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton.

The Mount’s executive director, Susan Wissler, joins us now to tell us what they have coming up this summer. 

  On November 29, 2007 Joseph Luzzi's life forever changed. His wife, Catherine, eight-and-a-half months pregnant, was killed in a car crash.

Before she died, doctors delivered their daughter, Isabel. His new memoir is In A Dark Wood. It tells the story how he dealt with his grief in part through the writings of Dante.

  Charlotte Brontë famously lived her entire life in an isolated parsonage on a remote English moor with a demanding father and siblings whose astonishing childhood creativity was a closely held secret.

Drawing on letters unavailable to previous biographers, Harman depicts Charlotte’s inner life with absorbing, almost novelistic intensity in her new book, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart.

Jane Steele is Lyndsay Faye’s re-casting of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. Faye, the critically acclaimed author of the Timothy Wilde trilogy (The Gods of Gotham, Seven for a Secret, and The Fatal Flame) and Dust and Shadow, gives us a heroine from the mid-nineteenth century who is ready for the twenty-first.

She refuses to be victimized, insists on living life on her own terms, and not only pursues but defends the man she wants. The fact that she leaves several corpses in her wake, as a serial killer on the side of justice, makes for a satirical historical romance that is at once raucous and refined. 

  In Huck Finn’s America, award-winning biographer Andrew Levy shows how modern readers have been misunderstanding Huckleberry Finn for decades.

Twain’s masterpiece, which still sells tens of thousands of copies each year and is taught more than any other American classic, is often discussed either as a carefree adventure story for children or a serious novel about race relations, yet Levy argues convincingly it is neither.

 Amy Stewart is the author of six books including the best sellers, The Drunken Botanists and Wicked Plants, all were non-fiction; she now has written a novel. Girl Waits with Gun is the story of Constance Kopp a woman who doesn't quite fit the mold, she towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has kept mostly to her remote farm ever since a remote farm sent her household out of the country fifteen years ago. It is a true story she is writing about, but it is a fictional tale.   

  Lauren Groff returns to talk about her new novel, Fates and Furies.  Groff often writes about the tension between the individual and community. This novel shrinks community to just two, a marriage. It is told in two halves, from the opposing perspectives of a relationship.

Fates and Furies illuminates all the small ways we deceive, compromise, or cramp ourselves to sustain a partnership even a happy one, and even within so much intimacy the other partner's experience is so unknowable and mysterious. 

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