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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 16, 2004

'Live From Prairie Lights' Features Histories Jan. 26 & 28

"Live from Prairie Lights," the series of broadcast readings hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910, will explore history -- scholarly and fictional -- at 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, Jan. 26 and 28.

The broadcasts from the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City will feature blues musician and historian Elijah Wald reading from "Escaping the Delta" on Jan. 26 and historical novelist Brian Hall reading from "I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company" on Jan. 28.

Listen to the readings on the internet at

A Booklist review of Wald's "Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues" asserted, "Wald writes better than anyone else ever has about the blues. If you read only one book about blues -- maybe ever -- read this one."

An obscure artist during his brief lifetime, and represented by only a handful of rough recordings from the 1930s, Robert Johnson came to be regarded as the most important of the early blues singers and guitarists, and a founding father of rock and roll.

Johnson wrote and recorded songs that became the mainstay hits of the 1960s blues revival, including "Cross Road Blues," "Rambling on My Mind," "Come on in My Kitchen," "Sweet Home Chicago," "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom," "Hellhound on My Trail" and "Love in Vain."

Wald makes the Robert Johnson story the centerpiece of a re-examination of the history of the blues, challenging common conceptions of the meaning and evolution of this uniquely American musical invention. A Publishers Weekly preview predicted, "Wald's theories will no doubt cause passionate discussions among true blues aficionados."

"I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company" is a fictional re-telling of the Lewis and Clark expedition. A review of this bestseller in the New York Times stated, "Hall's magnum opus of a historical novel makes hugely enterprising use of firsthand accounts of the pioneering journey."

Hall is the author of two previous novels and three works of nonfiction, including "The Impossible Country." His journalism has appeared in Time magazine, The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine.

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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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