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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 13, 2004

Thornton Reads From New Novel On 'Live From Prairie Lights' Sept. 27

Lawrence Thornton, the author of "Imagining Argentina," will read from his new novel, "Sailors on the Inward Sea," at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27 on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be a free event at the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

Thorton has won many awards -- including a PEN/Hemingway Award and Guggenheim and NEA fellowships -- for his novels based on historical events and populated with historical figures.

Critic Brad Hoover wrote for Booklist, "Thornton follows his roundly acclaimed 'Imagining Argentina' (1987), which was about Buenos Aires during the so-called dirty war of the 1970s, when generals ran Argentina and many citizens 'disappeared,' with a brilliantly conceived re-creation of the life -- no, more the consciousness -- of Joseph Conrad, one of the great men of English fiction. The conceit here works beautifully: the novel is presented in the form of a memoir written by a sailor-buddy of Conrad's a few years after Conrad's death.

"The author of the memoir is Jack Malone, and, as we eagerly learn, he served not only as Conrad's muse but also as source material for the great writer's famous fictional creation, Marlow. The intimate yet ultimately tortured relationship between Conrad and Malone is elaborately laid out over various levels of time. The result is a vividly detailed high-seas adventure story and a subtly realized psychological probing of the artistic mind and the plundering of other people's lives, which all writers perform -- although not perhaps as deeply and consequentially as imagined here."

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham, a graduate of the UI Writers' Workshop, wrote, "Lawrence Thornton's 'Sailors on the Inward Sea' begins with a fascinating premise -- the unacknowledged source of Joseph Conrad's greatest novels -- and takes it to considerable heights. By the novel's end, Thornton has cast a light not only onto Conrad's genius but onto the mystery of inspiration itself."

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