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University of Iowa News Release

Jan. 27, 2005

Merrill, Director Of IWP, Reads On WSUI Feb. 9

Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, will read from his new book, "Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain," at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, 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

In "Things of the Hidden God" Merrill describes the transformative pilgrimages he made to Mount Athos, the center of Orthodox monasticism in Greece, in the aftermath of covering the Balkan wars during the 1990s. His experiences in the midst of those wars were chronicled in the acclaimed book "Only the Nails Remain."

Merrill explained his decision to visit the ancient monasteries of Mount Athos: "It was time for me to come to terms with the way my life had turned out: the love I had squandered, the misgivings I had about my vocation and my faith, the dread I felt at every turn."

Reviewing "Things of the Hidden God," W.S. Merwin wrote, "Mount Athos is a spectacular and spellbinding place, mysterious and magnetic, dedicated to its own secrets. Mr. Merrill's intimately conceived and beautifully told tribute to his deepening relation to the lure of Athos and its traditions, and the discoveries to which it has led him, is a rich and revealing personal chronicle."

And James Carroll, author of "Constantine's Sword and Crusade," called the book "A beautifully realized record of an ancient impulse -- pilgrimage toward the Holy -- that has never seemed more necessary. Christopher Merrill, in this book, is a reliable guide in esoteric terrain, a shrewd reader of history and literature, and an eloquent artist."

Merrill's books include four collections of poetry, including "Watch Fire," for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations; several edited volumes; and three books of nonfiction -- "The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer"; "The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee"; and "Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars." His work has been translated into 16 languages.

He is also the commentator on international literature for the syndicated radio program, "The World," jointly produced by the BBC and station WGBH in Boston.

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