All posts tagged: litfest

Join Us For Amherst College LitFest 2019

Featured authors include Jennifer Egan, Elizabeth Kolbert, Jamel Brinkley, Brandon Hobson, and more!

LitFest 2019

Amherst College’s fourth annual LitFest, a literary festival celebrating fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and spoken-word performance, will be hosted on February 27 – March 2 of this year. Co-hosted by The Common, this year’s events feature panels with 2018 National Book Award Fiction Finalists Jamel Brinkley and Brandon Hobson, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction author Elizabeth Kolbert, award-winning science writer Charles C. Mann, and more. Author events will be taking place in either Frost Library or Johnson Chapel on Amherst College campus, with most being followed by Q&A sessions and book-signings. All events are free and open to the public. Click here for coverage from the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Whitney BrunoJoin Us For Amherst College LitFest 2019
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From A Lucky Man

Excerpt from the novel A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley

book cover

 

James kept busy at the security desk now, doing the work of both men while Lincoln sat there with his stomach on his lap. He felt a sort of bond with James now, a familiar gratitude. But one gets sick and tired of saying thank you. When he was engaged to Alexis, and during their first years of marriage, his friends would also tell him how lucky he was, but this was said as a joke. Lincoln would say thank you and agree, would tell them how grateful he was for her, but this wasn’t true. He deserved her—this was what he believed, and he knew this was what his friends believed in. A man of a kind should get what he deserves, and if a man like him couldn’t get a woman like her, then something was terribly wrong with the world.

Debbie WenFrom A Lucky Man
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LitFest Friday Reads: February 2019

It’s that time again—The Common and Amherst College will be hosting the fourth annual LitFest at the end of the month. For three days, February 28th to March 2nd, award-winning authors, poets, and critics will descend on Amherst to read, discuss, teach, and celebrate great writing. This year the lineup includes two National Book Award finalists, two Pulitzer Prize winners, and a New York Times bestseller. View the full list of participating writers and a calendar of events here.

The Common staff and interns are busily reading in anticipation of LitFest, so February’s Friday Reads feature is a selection of new work by the writers who will be visiting us in Amherst soon.

Recommendations: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, and A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley.

 
book cover Where the Dead Sit Talking

Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson; recommended by Jennifer Acker, Founder and Editor in Chief

Where the Dead Sit Talking carries a profound emotional resonance all the way through, without ever being sentimental or maudlin. You could forgive the narrator, Sequoyah, a 15-year-old Cherokee boy, for being both: his mother is in jail and he is scarred, both physically and figuratively, from her neglect. Unlike a lot of fictional teenagers, Sequoyah is thoughtful, off-beat, and relatable, and he is in mourning over the death of his foster sister, Rosemary, with whom he had grown close while living with the Troutt family. There is such dignity and human consideration in Hobson’s magnetic prose, one is captivated from the beginning by these authentic teenagers and the rural Oklahoma landscape, and we want the best for him long after the book is over.

Manhattan Beach cover

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan; recommended by Julia Pike, Thomas E. Wood ’61 Fellow

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan begins with three characters standing at the edge of the water on a gray winter day in Brooklyn in 1934. Anna, the book’s protagonist, is eleven at the time, and has accompanied her father Eddie on a business call to Dexter Styles, a Brooklyn gangster. The opening scene is brief, but neatly sets up the rest of the book—the reader comes to expect the succinct, gorgeous prose Egan is known for, gets a sense for the book’s lasting preoccupation with the sea, and meets the three characters whose intertwining lives will form the net upon which the book rests.

Manhattan Beach takes readers on a journey through New York in the ’30s and ’40s, exploring the ins and outs of crime syndicates and high society, and delving deep into the difficulties faced by women working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Perhaps the book’s most impressive feat is the way it immerses the reader in vastly different spaces. We sense the weight of the East River above us, smell the musty inside of a diving suit, hear the pulse of music and chatter in a smoke-filled nightclub, gaze out at the endless ocean horizon. The depth of imagination and research necessary to bring the space of the book so fully to life is mind-boggling, but the book is so immersive that this thought didn’t even strike me until I’d reached the last page.

A Lucky Man cover

A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley; recommended by Emily Everett, Managing Editor

Jamel Brinkley shies away from nothing in these nine stories, but the thread of masculinity, in many forms, runs through all of them. The characters look inward and the reader follows, gazing in on their uncomfortable self-reflections: sex, aging, faith, failure, race, privilege, grief, and vulnerability. Brief, specific moments—a high school reunion, a commute to work, a summer camp trip to the country—offer a lens through which to view the whole length of a life, running back into the past and forward into the future from that scene. It’s almost dizzying. These are the types of stories that come to mind again and again, long after you’ve put down the book. I was never quite done with the characters, and so I still feel them moving through their lives—taking the subway to work, dozing in class, starting conversations they can’t quite bring themselves to finish.

6th extinction cover

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert; recommended by Elizabeth Witte, Associate Editor

“As soon as humans started using signs and symbols to represent the natural world, they pushed beyond the limits of that world.” It is here, in the final chapter of Kolbert’s primer on the rise and fall of the Anthropocene, that the human power to irrevocably change the world comes undeniably into focus. “If you want to think about why humans are so dangerous to other species,” Kolbert continues, “you can picture a poacher in Africa carrying an AK-47 or a logger in the Amazon gripping an ax, or, better still, you can picture yourself, holding a book on your lap.” It is not that people don’t care, but that, in this present moment, “we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will be forever closed.”

In this chapter by chapter exploration-elegy for the extinction or near-extinction of individual species—golden frog, brown bat, Sumatran rhinoceros—Kolbert maps not only species-by-species loss, but the impact of these events upon vast and deep ecosystems. We stand in the shadow of rhinos and at the openings of caves piled with dead bats. We stand, too, in the shadows of the myriad scientists striving to understand what is happening, what will be—looking at microsystems to understand the larger, forthcoming picture. Kolbert brings forward not only the long-term evolutionary history that preceded and brought forth this present era but the evolution and acceptance of the very concept of extinction—that there were things here before us that are not here now—as shattering as the concept of “zero.”

For further reading, I suggest “Climate Signs” by Emily Raboteau, and “As We Approach the City,” a companion photo essay for The Common by Mik Awake—signs and symbols, indeed.

Emily EverettLitFest Friday Reads: February 2019
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From Where the Dead Sit Talking


Excerpt from the novel Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson

cover of where the dead sit talking with a bird drawn on it

CHAPTER ONE 

     I have been unhappy for many years now. 

     I have seen in the faces of young people walking down the street a resemblance to people who died during my childhood. 

Julia PikeFrom Where the Dead Sit Talking
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Friday Reads: February 2018

Curated by SARAH WHELAN

Once again, The Common and Amherst College are honored to welcome a selection of visionary authors to our third annual LitFest–a weekend long series of events celebrating literary brilliance and nuanced expression. The talks, workshops, and panels will include, among other voices, 2017 National Book Award Finalists. This month, our staff and interns have chosen their reading in anticipation of our guests, and we present here our thoughts on just a few of these dazzling works. For more information on LitFest, please visit the Amherst College website.

Recommendations: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz.

Flavia MartinezFriday Reads: February 2018
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Pulitzer Prize-Winner Junot Díaz Headlines Amherst College LitFest 2018

Featured authors include Masha Gessen, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Carmen Maria Machado, and Min Jin Lee

"LitFest 2018" in white font on a purple background

Amherst College will host LitFest 2018, its third annual literary festival celebrating fiction, nonfiction, poetry and spoken-word performance, on March 1–3. The event, co-hosted by The Common, features readings and conversations with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz, 2017 National Book Award winner and Amherst College professor Masha Gessen, acclaimed Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and 2017 National Book Award finalists Carmen Maria Machado and Min Jin Lee, among others. All events are free and open to the public. All author events will take place in Johnson Chapel on the College’s campus and most will include an audience Q&A and author book-signings.

Sunna JuhnPulitzer Prize-Winner Junot Díaz Headlines Amherst College LitFest 2018
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Novel Excerpt: Pachinko

By MIN JIN LEE

Come hear 2017 National Book Award finalist Min Jin Lee speak at LitFest 2018 on Thursday, March 1st at Amherst College. For more event details, click here!

 

History has failed us, but no matter.

At the turn of the century, an aging fisherman and his wife decided to take in lodgers for extra money. Both were born and raised in the fishing village of Yeongdo—a five-mile-wide islet beside the port city of Busan. In their long marriage, the wife gave birth to three sons, but only Hoonie, the eldest and the weakest one, survived. Hoonie was born with a cleft palate and a twisted foot; he was, however, endowed with hefty shoulders, a squat build, and a golden complexion. Even as a young man, he retained the mild, thoughtful temperament he’d had as a child. When Hoonie covered his misshapen mouth with his hands, something he did out of habit meeting strangers, he resembled his nice-looking father, both having the same large, smiling eyes. Inky eyebrows graced his broad forehead, perpetually tanned from outdoor work. Like his parents, Hoonie was not a nimble talker, and some made the mistake of thinking that because he could not speak quickly there was something wrong with his mind, but that was not true.

Madeline RuoffNovel Excerpt: Pachinko
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Inventory

By CARMEN MARIA MACHADO

Come hear 2017 National Book Award finalist Carmen Maria Machado speak as part of LitFest 2018 on Thursday, March 1st at Amherst College. For more event details, click here!

Cover of "Her Body and Other Parties" by Carmen Machado
One girl. We lay down next to each other on the musty rug in her basement. Her parents were upstairs; we told them we were watching Jurassic Park. “I’m the dad, and you’re the mom,” she said. I pulled up my shirt, she pulled up hers, and we just stared at each other. My heart fluttered below my belly button, but I worried about daddy longlegs and her parents finding us. I still have never seen Jurassic Park. I suppose I never will, now.

Isabel MeyersInventory
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The Thing That Would Unmake You: an Interview with Carmen Maria Machado

HILARY LEICHTER interviews CARMEN MARIA MACHADO 

Carmen Machado Headshot

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded numerous fellowships and residencies from organizations that include the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Yaddo Corporation, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Her memoir, House in Indiana, is forthcoming in 2019 from Graywolf Press. Carmen Maria Machado will be at Amherst College on March 1st at 7:30 for a National Book Awards on Campus Conversation, which is a part of LitFest 2018.

This summer Hilary Leichter met with Machado at her home in Philadelphia, where Machado is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania.

Julia PikeThe Thing That Would Unmake You: an Interview with Carmen Maria Machado
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