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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 12, 2004

UI Alumni Return To Read 'Live From Prairie Lights' Week of Feb. 23-27

The "Live from Prairie Lights," readings series hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910, will feature readings by UI Writers' Workshop alumni Barbara Cully and James Sullivan the week of Feb. 23-27.

The broadcasts from the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City will be:
-- Iowa Review veteran Kate Christensen reading from the new novel "Epicure's Lament" at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23;
-- Poet Cully in a joint reading with Southwest fiction writer Ann Cummins at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26; and
-- Sullivan, reading from his romantic memoir "Over the Moat" at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27.

Listen to the readings on the Internet at

"Christensen's two previous novels ('Jeremy Thrane'; 'In the Drink') were delightfully believable, sympathetic contemporary narratives filled with wry humor and appealing protagonists," observed a preview in Publishers Weekly. "Here she ups the ante, with loftier literary aspirations and succeeds masterfully.

"Christensen keeps the entire work moving briskly with delicious sardonic wit as well as infectious, detailed references to M.F.K. Fisher's food writing and essayist Michel de Montaigne, who is the novel's chief inspiration. ... This is an impressive tome, one that tickles the funny bone and feeds the mind."

Sam Lipsyte, author of "The Subject Steve," wrote, "What a wonderfully monstrous voice Kate Christensen has created in Hugo Whittier, trust-fund misanthrope, chain-smoking foodie, confirmed cad. His narration is as rich and textured as his Lobster Newburg, which I can almost taste. May we all simmer in the dark with such humor and gusto?"

Christensen's essays and articles have appeared in publications including Salon, Mademoiselle, the Hartford Courant, Elle and the best-selling anthology "The Bitch in the House."

Barbara Cully, who teaches at the University of Arizona, returns to Prairie Lights to read from her second collection of poems, "Desire Reclining." Her first book was chosen for the National Poetry Series by Carolyn Forche, who wrote, "Cully is a poet reading the world for the brutality of its inequities, aware of the flattening compression of historical memory and the dissolution of the body."

Cummins, the author of "Red Ant House," has been called "less circus ringleader than freak-show barker in this debut collection of 12 stories, as she entices patrons to peek at the secret lives and survival skills of the downtrodden and disenchanted."

Brendan Dowling wrote for Booklist, "Cummins details the lives of characters that exist on the periphery, whether it be geographically, socially, or economically. ... Cummins clearly relishes taking the reader into the unfamiliar, and we get glimpses into the unknown worlds of an antelope reserve, the mysterious interior of a hypnotist's trailer and the thought process of a young girl as she waits to meet the sexual predator who has been calling her.

"Throughout, Cummins refuses to condescend to her characters, instead creating full-blooded portrayals despite their unsympathetic actions or the bleak circumstances in which they find themselves."

James Sullivan's "Over the Moat" is the story of his trip to Vietnam and his slow, touching courtship and marriage to a Vietnamese woman.

A Publishers Weekly preview explained, "In 1992, fresh out of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Sullivan and a classmate are hired by Bicycling magazine to report on their trek from Saigon to Hanoi. The plan mutates into a book-length memoir-cum-love story when 27-year-old Sullivan, from Massachusetts, meets and falls for a Vietnamese shop girl in Hue.

"The eponymous moat refers to one he must cross on his bike every time he visits Thuy, who lives with her family within the walls of an old imperial citadel. Sullivan extends his trip and then returns for another year to court her -- no easy task, given the horde of other suitors, cultural differences and some distrust of Americans."

Don J. Synder, author of "The Cliff Walk," wrote "Here is a book that carries us on a thoughtful journey along the crowded boulevards of dreams and the unlit paths of love and human understanding, in a distant place where we turn a corner and catch an unexpected glimpse of ourselves. It is a gift."

Sullivan's journalism has appeared in a number of national magazines. He lives in Maine with Thuy and their two children.

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

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