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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 14, 2003

Photos: (l-r) Iowa Review Editor David Hamilton; cover of novelist Tim Farrington's new book, "The Monk Downstairs;" cover of Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna Mary Swander's new work of non-fiction,"The Desert Pilgrim."

'Live From Prairie Lights' Fall Series Opens With Iowa Review Readings

"Live from Prairie Lights," the series of broadcast readings hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910, will begin its fall 2003 schedule with recent work from the Iowa Review, presented by editor David Hamilton at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

Other free readings during the opening week of broadcasts will be:
-- novelist Tim Farrington reading from his new book, "The Monk Downstairs," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28; and
-- Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna Mary Swander, reading from her new work of non-fiction," The Desert Pilgrim," at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29.

Listen to "Live from Prairie Lights," America's only radio series of live readings, on the internet at

The Aug. 27 reading will feature selections of poetry and prose from the fall 2003 issue of the Iowa Review, now in its 33rd volume. As one of the nation's most respected literary journals -- a story in the Christian Science Monitor called it "one of the five best small magazines in the country" -- the Iowa Review typically receives several hundred unsolicited manuscripts each week, throughout the year.

Hamilton, who has edited the magazine for two decades, is a faculty member in the UI English department.

Visit the magazine's cyberspace companion, the Iowa Review Web, at, edited by Thomas Swiss.

Critic Gail Hudson wrote that Tim Farrington's 'The Monk Downstairs' "follows the beguiling romance between a jaded San Francisco graphic designer and a monk who flips burgers at McDonald's. Rebecca Martin is a 38-year-old single mom who has lost her faith in men; Mike is a disillusioned monk who's lost his faith in God. . . . Although Farrington's plot revolves around a classic story of unlikely lovers, there's no sappiness or cliches in his highly polished narrative. Indeed, his vulnerable characters and realistic dialogue will feel especially poignant for grown-up lovers. . . . Farrington has the quirky characters and the masterful skills to make this a highly entertaining and inspiring tale of adult love."

Margaret Flanagan wrote for the American Library Association's Booklist, "This gentle, luminous love story shimmers with warmth, honesty, and self-deprecating humor."

After leaving a Buddhist ashram, Farrington has published the novels "The California Book of the Dead" and "Blues for Hannah." His stories and essays have appeared in periodicals including the Sun, ZYZZYVA and San Francisco.

"The best teacher for writers is desperation," Farrington told the Naples Daily News. "Cluelessness is a close second. It's the only thing powerful enough to get you past the cliches and stereotypes and the easy way out. To do something really new, the old has to fail, and if the old fails, you're desperate. I'm terrified every morning. Clueless and terrified. And it's great."

Mary Swander has been a frequent guest on "Live from Prairie Lights." On Aug. 29, she will read from her memoir of a quest for healing. "The Desert Pilgrim: On Route to Mysticism and Miracles," chronicles her journey to the barrios of Albuquerque when modern medicine proved inadequate after a debilitating car accident.

A preview in Publishers Weekly observed, "This nonfiction memoir of a chronically ill poet who rediscovers her Catholic faith and perceives its healing power reads like a cross between Kathleen Norris and Carlos Castaneda. . . . The author writes movingly and keenly about the death of her mother from cancer, and her details of landscape and situation are lively in their particularity. . . . This is a beautifully written book."

Swander, a Iowa State University faculty member whose eight books include "Out of This World: A Journey of Healing" and "Driving the Body Back: Poems," is a widely published poet and essayist, a Whiting Award winner and a regular commentator on National Public Radio.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,