Princeton’s Fall Literary Highlights

soldiers, Iraq

(photo: U.S. Army, creative commons license)

Fall 2015 will be an exciting time for Princeton-area followers of the literary world. The Althea Ward Clark reading series of the Lewis Center for the Arts includes three top-notch entries. The monthly series features a poet and a prose writer, usually known for fiction, and they are held in the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center, at 4:30 p.m.

On September 30, the program presents Phil Klay, a National Book Award winner for his collection of short stories, Redeployment. Klay is a former Marine who served in Iraq. His stories show the profound dislocation of young Americans trying to cope with a seriously broken society completely foreign to their understanding—an experience that gradually transforms their views of America too. “In Klay’s hands, Iraq comes across not merely as a theater of war but as a laboratory for the human condition in extremis,” said Dexter Filkins’s New York Times review. Also reading will be Natalie Diaz, who has a poetry collection titled When My Brother Was an Aztec and has won the Nimrod/Hardin Pablo Neruda Prize.

Short story writer and novelist Jhumpa Lahiri will appear on October 14 with poet Mary Szybist. Lahiri’s collection of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but she may be best known for The Namesake and the movie made from it. Her most recent novel is The Lowland, shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker prize, and a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction. Her first two books tell about the displacement and loss of context of experienced by Indian immigrants in America. The Lowland, “buoyantly ambitious in both its story and its form,” said NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan, is set mostly in Calcutta. Szybist won the National Book Award for her poetry collection Incarnadine.

Finally, on November 18 novelist Adam Johnson and poet Dorianne Laux will read. Johnson wrote the masterful 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Orphan Master’s Son, and I can’t wait to hear him read—I hope from his new collection of stories. Laux’s most recent poetry collection is The Book of Men.

More Local Events

Starting in late September, the Lewis Center will present the Princeton French Theater Festival—a diverse array of plays and readings.

The regular literary programs at the Princeton Public Library continue—book groups for mysteries, fiction, black voices, poetry, and Spanish-language stories. October 24, the library hosts the annual “Local Author Day book fair.”

On October 30 at Labyrinth Books, cultural historian Thomas Laqueur will discuss his book, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains. Right up my alley. It’s one of a dozen discussions of books on various topics (not much fiction) the bookstore has scheduled for September and October.

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