Irish Author Colm Tóibín Reads on Campus

Colm-HBAcclaimed Irish author Colm Tóibín is on campus as a guest of the Michener Center for Writers and will read at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 25 in the Avaya Auditorium, ACES 2.302.

Tóibín, a former visiting professor of the Michener Center’s master’s of fine arts program, began his career in journalism before turning to novel writing.  His first novel “The South” was published in 1990, followed by “The Heather Blazing,” “The Story of the Night” and “The Blackwater Lightship,” which was shortlisted for the distinguished Booker Prize in Fiction.

His most lauded novel to date “The Master was again shortlisted for the Booker in 2004 and won the 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Novel of the Year.  The novel builds upon biographical research and speculation about Henry James to re-imagine the author’s interior life.  Reviewing “The Master,” writer Michael Cunningham said “Tóibín takes us almost shockingly close to the mystery of art itself. A remarkable, utterly original book.”

Tóibín’s most recent books include a collection of stories: “Mothers and Sons,” and the novel “Brooklyn,” a sparely written account of a young woman’s emigration from Ireland to the United States in the 1950s.  The novel recently won out over Booker-winning author Hilary Mantel’s much-lauded “Wolf Hall” for the 2009 Costa Prize for the Novel.  He has continued to publish widely as a journalist, literary critic and essayist.

While at UT, Tóibín will also visit with Professor Brian Doherty’s Plan II freshman world literature students, who are reading his short stories, and graduate fiction students in the Michener Center’s master’s of fine arts program and the Department of English’s master’s of arts  in Creative Writing program.

The reading is free and open to the public.  The ACES building is located on the southeast corner of 24th and Speedway on campus and parking is available in the nearby garage on San Jacinto.

An Interview with Australian Author Peter Carey

Australian novelist Peter Carey lands on campus this spring as the Michener Center’s Residency Award Author. The special residency program brings writers of international acclaim to the center each year for short, intensive seminars.

Carey’s latest book, “His Illegal Self,” is out in paperback from Vintage this month, and like each of his ten novels, it is boldly inventive and tackles new territory.

Whether drawing upon his own experience as an advertising executive-turned-commune dweller in “Bliss,” or re-imagining the life of a Dickens’ character in “Jack Maggs,” Carey never repeats himself. He won the Booker Prize in 1988 for “Oscar and Lucinda,” a lush, improbable 19th-century love story about two obsessive gamblers, and a second Booker followed in 2001 for “True History of the Kelly Gang,” told in the unschooled vernacular of its outlaw narrator Ned Kelly, Australia’s version of Jesse James.

Since 1990, Carey has lived in New York City, where he directs Hunter College’s MFA program in creative writing. On a busman’s holiday here in Austin, Carey will conduct a three-week fiction seminar and give a public reading next week, but he took time to answer a few questions for ShelfLife about his work.

Q: In “His Illegal Self” we see the human toll of violent radicalism as your child protagonist seeks the truth about his parents, who were fugitive 60s radicals. But are you also addressing violent radicalism in our own time?

A: Readers often make this connection, but it was never in my conscious mind. I began the book as an attempt to make art from something I had experienced: an American on the run from the FBI who ends up in a community of hippies in tropical Queensland. The novel moved a long way from its roots.

By the time I had finished, “he” had become two people: a young woman from Boston and a six-year-old New Yorker called Che who thinks the young woman is his mother. It is their lives and loves I am concerned with. The political climate of the time is the water that they swim in. “His illegal Self” is a love story more than anything.

Q: “His Illegal Self.” “Theft: A Love Story.” “My Life as a Fake.” Is it just coincidence that your last three novels focus on the theme of imposture?

A: I have been asked this before and never get more than a B+ for my answer. I view the subjects of these books as over-lapping circles. “My Life as a Fake” is about the power of the imagination, a Frankenstein story, an argument that the lies we tell will come true. “Theft” does involve a fake, of course, and there the circles overlap, but I would think it deals with the lives of those who grow up far from the great centers of culture and their true passion for art (which they, as children in their isolated small towns, never knew existed).

Q: “His Illegal Self” begins in New York, but by page 23 has segued to Australia. After 20 years in New York, do you think you’ll ever make the United States a setting for your work?

A: The book I’m finishing is set in Paris, Devon and New York. The story takes place in the late 18th and early 19th century. It asks how we got to be living in a democracy marked by crookedness and cronyism, and wonders who might have predicted the great dumb culture of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Carey will read from his work at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 12 in the Avaya Auditorium (ACES 2.302). The reading is free and open to the public.

Barry Unsworth to Discusses "Land of Marvels" at the HRC

In the first of the Harry Ransom Lectures, writer Barry Unsworth discusses his new book “Land of Marvels,” at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 26 at the Ransom Center. The program will be webcast live. A book signing will follow.

The Ransom Center holds the papers of the celebrated writer who won the Booker Prize in 1992 for “Sacred Hunger”, a novel about the 18-century slave trade widely considered his masterpiece.

His other acclaimed works include “Morality Play,” “Pascali’s Island” (which was adapted into a film starring Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren), “The Ruby in Her Navel,” “The Songs of the Kings,” “After Hannibal” and “Losing Nelson.”

The Harry Ransom Lectures honor former University of Texas Chancellor Harry Huntt Ransom and highlight the Ransom Center’s vital role in the university’s intellectual and cultural life. The program, made possible by support from the University Co-operative Society, brings internationally renowned writers, artists and scholars to Austin for public events and conversations with university students.

Barry Unsworth to Discusses “Land of Marvels” at the HRC

In the first of the Harry Ransom Lectures, writer Barry Unsworth discusses his new book “Land of Marvels,” at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 26 at the Ransom Center. The program will be webcast live. A book signing will follow.

The Ransom Center holds the papers of the celebrated writer who won the Booker Prize in 1992 for “Sacred Hunger”, a novel about the 18-century slave trade widely considered his masterpiece.

His other acclaimed works include “Morality Play,” “Pascali’s Island” (which was adapted into a film starring Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren), “The Ruby in Her Navel,” “The Songs of the Kings,” “After Hannibal” and “Losing Nelson.”

The Harry Ransom Lectures honor former University of Texas Chancellor Harry Huntt Ransom and highlight the Ransom Center’s vital role in the university’s intellectual and cultural life. The program, made possible by support from the University Co-operative Society, brings internationally renowned writers, artists and scholars to Austin for public events and conversations with university students.