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Release: Nov. 22, 2002


Fiction writer Tom Barbash, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recent faculty member in the UI Summer Writing Festival, will read from his debut novel, “The Last Good Chance,” at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free reading will be broadcast on the “Live from Prairie Lights” series, hosted by Julie Englander on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910.

Other WSUI “Live from Prairie Lights” readings that week, concluding the fall series, will be:

-- Grinnell College emeritus faculty member Christopher McKee reading from “Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy 1900-1945” at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3: and

-- Tim Fay, editor and publisher of the Wapsipinicon Almanac, joined by writers from the new issue number nine at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6.

Barbash’s fiction has appeared in periodicals including Tin House, Story, the Greensboro Review, West Branch Magazine, the Virginia Quarterly Review and the Indiana Review. He has won the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction and the James Michener Award for “The Last Good Chance,” of which a Publishers Weekly preview concluded, “ ‘Barbash shows himself to be a knowing guide to smalltown politics in a first novel with extraordinary empathic reach . . . This is a taut, intricate vision of ambition, corruption and love in the postindustrial era.”

National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen wrote, “Tom Barbash brings fresh seriousness and sympathy and wit to bear on the ancient problem of loyalty. This is an ambitious, deftly plotted, multifariously satisfying piece of genuine American realism.”

McKee’s new book is not dry scholarship, but a vivid portrait of the lives of British sailors above and below decks. Michael Palmer, author of “Stoddert's War: Naval Operations During the Quasi-War With France, 1798-1801,” wrote, “McKee’s elegantly written history of travel and tradition, rum and religion, skylarking and sex, and combat and comradeship, provides the reader with multi-dimensional and iconoclastic portraits of British seamen during the dreadnought era.”

And N.A.M. Rodger, author of “The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy,” called the book, “A vivid recreation of lower-deck life, full of psychological insights. We have had so little real social history of the 20th-century Royal Navy, that this will open up completely new vistas.”

Tim Fay personally sets the sporadically published Wapsipinicon Almanac at his Route 3 Press on Shooting Star Road in rural Anamosa. Called “one of the finest regional press publications you’ll ever read” by the Catstep Review, the almanac combines fiction, poetry, local features and opinions, and all the other elements you would expect from an old-time almanac.

Set on Linotype machine from the 1940s and printed on a press from the 1950s, Fay’s magazine is elegant but not slick, a character that fits its contents and appeals to its many regular readers throughout eastern Iowa and beyond.

Fay will introduce readings from the new issue by Jean Wiedenheft, Ray Tinnian, Dean Williams, Jenny Burman and Dan Ehl

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