From Thursday, March 3, to Saturday, March 5, Amherst College and The Common will welcome internationally renowned authors Mark Bowden, Michael Chabon, Angela Flournoy, Lauren Groff ’01 and Stacy Schiff to campus as part of Amherst College LitFest 2016, an inaugural three-day literary festival celebrating fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, spoken-word performance and conversation.
The schedule is below, followed by biographies of each special guest.
The events below are free and open to the public, except for the Poetry Slam for Amherst students on March 4. The events featuring Mark Bowden, Michael Chabon, Angela Flournoy, Lauren Groff ’01 and Stacy Schiff will be followed by Q&A sessions and book-signings. Members of the Amherst College community will be able to watch recordings of certain other events after LitFest has concluded here.
THURSDAY, MARCH 3
A Conversation with Angela Flournoy and Lauren Groff ’01
Host: Deborah Treisman
This event marks the debut of a new partnership between The Common and the National Book Awards on Campus.
FRIDAY, MARCH 4
10,000 Years of the Book Business in 45 Minutes
Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry
America’s Fiction Unedited
Host: Jennifer Acker ’00
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Frost Library, Center for Humanistic Inquiry
Light lunch served
An Evening with Michael Chabon
This event marks the debut of a new partnership between Amherst College and The MacDowell Colony.
Poetry Slam for Amherst students
Host: Daniel Gallant
SATURDAY, MARCH 5
A Conversation with Mark Bowden and Stacy Schiff
Host: Cullen Murphy ’74
Valentine Hall, Lewis-Sebring
Emily Dickinson and her Amherst Literary Milieu
A walking tour
12 noon–1 p.m. and 1:30–2:30 p.m.
Emily Dickinson Museum
Sign-up during festival required
Mini-Colloquium in Honor of Professor Jay L. Caplan
Professors Ann Smock and Thomas M. Kavanagh
This event celebrates Jay L. Caplan, professor of French, who has taught at Amherst since 1985.
Speaker and Author Biographies
Jennifer Acker ’00 is founder and editor-in-chief of The Common, an award-winning literary magazine based at the College. Her short stories, essays, translations and reviews have been published in The Washington Post, n+1,Harper’s, Ploughshares, The Millions and Guernica, among other places. She has an MFA in fiction and literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches literature and editing at Amherst.
Harold Augenbraum is executive director of the National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards. He has published seven books on Latino literature of the United States and translated several books for Penguin Classics, including two novels by the Filipino writer José Rizal. In 2012 he co-translated (with Amherst professor Ilan Stavans) The Plain in Flames by Juan Rulfo. In 2013 Penguin published his edition of The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust. Last year he was awarded an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) by Concordia College (Moorhead, Minn.), and in September he will be a Franke Visiting Fellow at Yale University.
Mark Bowden is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a best-selling author. His book Black Hawk Down, a finalist for the National Book Award, was the basis of the film of the same name. His book Killing Pablo won the Overseas Press Club’s 2001 Cornelius Ryan Award as the book of the year. Among his other books are Guests of the Ayatollah, an account of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, which was listed by Newsweek as one of “The 50 Books for Our Times.” His most recent books are The Best Game Ever, the story of the 1958 NFL championship game, and Worm, which tells the story of the Conficker computer worm, based on the article “The Enemy Within,” published in The Atlantic.
Michael Chabon published his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), when he was 25. He followed it with a second novel, Wonder Boys (1995), and two short-story collections. In 2000 Chabon published The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel that John Leonard, in a 2007 review of a later novel, called Chabon’s magnum opus. It received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. His novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, an alternate-history mystery novel, was published in 2007 and won the Hugo, Sidewise, Nebula and Ignotus awards; his serialized novel Gentlemen of the Road appeared in book form in the fall of that same year. Chabon’s most recent novel, Telegraph Avenue, published in 2012 and billed as “a twenty-first-century Middlemarch,” concerns the tangled lives of two families in the Bay Area of San Francisco in the year 2004.
Angela Flournoy is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Southern California. She has taught writing at various universities and has worked for the D.C. Public Library. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit. The Turner House is her first novel. In 2015 she was a National Book Award Fiction Finalist and a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 selection. The Turner House was also a New York Times notable book of the year and a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and was nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and an NAACP Image Award.
Daniel Gallant is a theatrical producer, playwright, director and actor based in New York City. He is the executive director of the Nuyorican Poets Café, a legendary artistic and cultural venue located in Manhattan’s East Village, and the author of the short-story collection Determined to Prove. He received a master’s degree in arts administration from Columbia University. He has curated theater and talk events and taught classes at the 92nd Street Y’s downtown Manhattan venue, 92YTribeca. He served as a judge for The 13th and 14th Annual Independent Music Awards in 2014 and 2015.
Lauren Groff ’01 is the author of three novels: The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia and, most recently, Fates and Furies. The latter was shortlisted for the 2015 National Book Award and the Kirkus Book Prize, and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015 and Bestseller. Her short-story collection is Delicate Edible Birds. Her fiction has appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares and The Common; has been anthologized three times in the Best American Short Stories series; and has won Pushcart and O. Henry prizes.
Thomas Kavanagh is the Augustus R. Street Professor of French at Yale University. His research centers on 18th-century French literature and culture, visual arts and film studies. Before moving to Yale in 2002, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of Colorado and SUNY-Buffalo. His publications include Enlightened Pleasures: Eighteenth-Century France and the New Epicureanism (Yale University Press, 2010), Dice, Cards, Wheels: A Different History of French Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), The Esthetics of the Moment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), and Enlightenment and the Shadows of Chance (Johns Hopkins Press, 1993), which was awarded the MLA Scaglione Prize for the best book in French and Francophone Studies for that year. He has held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan Center for Innovation in Teaching.
Cullen Murphy ’74 became editor-at-large of Vanity Fair in 2006. Before that, he spent more than two decades at The Atlantic Monthly, serving as managing editor. For 25 years he wrote the comic strip Prince Valiant, which was drawn by his father, the illustrator John Cullen Murphy. He has also written a number of books, among them Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage (Harper Collins, 1992), with co-author William L. Rathje; the essay collection Just Curious (Houghton Mifflin, 1995); and The Word According to Eve: Women and the Bible in Ancient Times and Our Own (Houghton Mifflin, 1998). His most recent book, Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America (Houghton Mifflin), was published in 2007 and excerpted in Vanity Fair. Murphy is a member of the Board of Trustees of Amherst College, the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Emily Dickinson Museum.
Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American Studies and the Gilbert Chinard Prize of the Institut Français d’Amérique. All three were New York Times Notable Books; the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Chicago Tribune, and The Economist also named A Great Improvisation a Best Book of the Year. Her fourth book, Cleopatra: A Life, was published to great acclaim in 2010. Her fifth book, The Witches, was published in October 2015. Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and was a Director’s Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Ann Smock is Professor Emerita of French at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research interests are 20th and 21st century literature, literary criticism and theory, and comparative literature. She is the author of two books on topics ranging from Vladimir Nabokov to Maurice Blanchot and Pierre Klossowski, Double Dealing (1986) and What Is There To Say? (2003). She has also translated seminal works by Maurice Blanchot and Sarah Kofman into English. She is currently writing an experimental narrative centered on Walter Benjamin, as well as a book of literary criticism on several key figures of contemporary French poetry.
Deborah Treisman has been the fiction editor of The New Yorker since 2003. She joined the magazine as deputy fiction editor in 1997. She is the host of the award-winning The New Yorker Fiction Podcast, and the editor of the anthology 20 Under 40: Stories from The New Yorker. In 2012 she received the Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Contribution to Fiction.
Amherst College LitFest 2016 is organized by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, The Common, the Emily Dickinson Museum, the English Department and the Office of Communications at Amherst College.