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University of Iowa News Release

April 21, 2006

Writers' Workshop Graduate Emily Barton Leads Off May 1-4 WSUI Readings

Fiction writer Emily Barton, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, will launch a week of broadcasts, May 1-4, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The readings -- also featuring Scott Russell Sanders, Terese Svoboda and Catherine Friend -- at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, will originate in free events hosted by Julie Englander in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

-- Barton, a former employee of Prairie Lights, will read from her second novel, "Brookland," on Monday, May 1.

-- On Tuesday, May 2, the broadcast will welcome Scott Russell Sanders, considered by many to be America's finest writer of the personal essay.

-- Nebraska poet and fiction writer Terese Svoboda will read from her latest novel, "Tin God," on Wednesday, May 3.

-- And Minnesota author Catherine Friend will be featured on Thursday, May 4, reading from  "Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn."

Barton's first novel was "The Testament of Yves Gundron." Novelist Katharine Weber wrote of "Brookland," "From the first elegant page to the last, Emily Barton has rendered an enticing story, one both moving and entertaining at every level. . . (It is) truly an exemplar of modern literature."

A starred review in Publishers Weekly explained, "A poignant tale of sisters who run a gin distillery in late 18th-century Brooklyn frames Barton's stalwart, evocative second novel, centering on early attempts at building a bridge across the East River to Manhattan. . . . Barton fashions an enchanting saga for her sophomore effort; it is a major New York book of the season."

And Kirkus Reviews gushed, "No historical novel in recent memory has amassed such an imposing wealth of rich period detail, and few novels of any genre extend an increasingly absorbing story to such a powerful, sorrowful conclusion. A brilliant book that should be a strong Pulitzer Prize contender."

Sanders, a Lannan Award winner, will read from his new book, "A Private History of Awe," of which Wendell Berry wrote, "Our poor country needs this book more than it knows, and I am anxious to find out how it will be received."

Donna Seaman wrote for Booklist, "Sanders, a sage of the Midwest, uses autobiography as a vehicle for far-reaching reflections on nature and humankind. Here he considers awe, that 'rapturous, fearful, bewildering emotion.' Writing with the plainspoken precision and wholesomeness he's cherished for, Sanders revisits his boyhood, singling out moments of awe instigated by the glory of nature, his tempestuous father and steadfast mother, and painful awakenings to death, racism and war (during the 1950s they lived within a heavily guarded bomb-making compound in Ohio).

"As Sanders comes of age, he struggles to reconcile his budding passion for science with his family's religious practice. Then in college, he drops physics, appalled by science's connections to the military and the Vietnam War. Interleaved among vivid memories are graceful present-day reports on the joy radiating from his baby granddaughter and the sorrows attendant on caring for his Alzheimer's-afflicted mother. Sanders' thoughtful reflections on the cycles of life, the flashpoints of awe, and our quest for meaning are quietly revelatory."

Sanders's many previous books include "Hunting for Hope: A Father's Journeys," "Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World," "In Limestone Country," "The Force of Spirit," "Secrets of the Universe" and "The Paradise of Bombs." He is a faculty member at Indiana University.

Svoboda, whose books include "Trailer Girl," "A Drink Called Paradise" and "Cannibal," has been described as a fabulist. Carol Haggas wrote for Booklist, "When G-O-D broadcasts in Svoboda's fictional realm, it's not a message of revelation sent from on high. That would be way too predictable. Instead, this edgy, irreverent supreme being would rather spread grass than gospel over the rolling fields of the Midwestern heartland.

"But there's grass, and then there's grass, and it's the eponymous latter that has captured the attention of Jim and Pork, two hapless jokers who have somehow managed to lose a bag of the 'good stuff' in tough guy Rolf's field. It's the same field, where, eons ago, a Don Quixote-like conquistador flummoxed a tribe of whispering natives when, on his horse, he catapulted to earth from out of the blue. As Pork starts digging for his lost stash, he uncovers evidence of the earlier man's presence.

"Is there a message here, a cosmic connection that spans centuries? Only G-O-D knows for sure, and she's not saying. Svoboda's fiercely symbolic and brashly audacious allegory is a fanciful yet cautionary tale."

Friend's "Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn," is a comic account going rural. It's a particular favorite of Garrison Kiellor, who wrote about it in the New York Times, "It has dogs, sheep, a pickup truck, women's underwear, electric fences, the works."

Lambda Award winner Ellen Hart wrote, "I simply could not put the book down. Catherine Friend is a luscious writer. She packs this memoir of two women starting a farm together in Southern Minnesota with hilarity, tenderness, grim reality and suspense. This memoir is, hands down, the best story I've read in ages."

Friend is also the author of a half-dozen children's books.

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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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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