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University of Iowa News Release


May 22, 2007

British Author Clare Clark Reads From New Novel June 7

British author/historian Clare Clark, who made an auspicious debut in 2005 with "The Great Stink," will read from her new novel, "The Nature of Monsters," in a free event at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 7, in the Prairie Lights book store at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen live via the University of Iowa Writing University Website:

The free event will be recorded for broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, originating on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by Julie Englander, air at 8 and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on AM 910 WSUI in Iowa City, AM 640 WOI in Ames and AM 1010 KRNI in Cedar Falls. A program is also broadcast at 5 p.m. Sundays on 91.7 FM KSUI in Iowa City.

"The Great Stink" was a New York Times Editors' Choice, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year and the winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award.

Her second novel is set in 18th-century London, with a story that reminds readers of Dickens. Saying that the new novel "surpassed her acclaimed debut," a starred review in Publishers Weekly explains the plot: "When teenager Eliza Tally gets pregnant, her mother sells her into servitude to an apothecary, Grayson Black.

"Eliza struggles to survive in a bizarre household, unaware that her new master is interested in the effects of various emotions on her unborn child. Isolated save for a kindly, slow-witted fellow servant, Mary, Eliza develops an unlikely relationship with a French bookseller, Mr. Honfleur, who supplies Black with the scientific treatises he uses to inform his sadistic researches. Eliza hopes Honfleur will provide her with the means for escape."

Clark says, "My aim has never been to specifically expose London's underbelly... Instead, what has always interested me as a historian and novelist is the daily minutiae of lives lived in places that are familiar to us but in a style and context that it is difficult for us to understand.

"The dirt and the smell of historical London were habitual inconveniences that its occupants took for granted; tolerance of squalor was ingrained, which explains why, in the main, life was raucous and violent by our standards. If we are to get under the skin of a period, it is my view that we need to appreciate the context. If we, as modern human beings, find it difficult to behave well, how much more difficult was it for someone in the eighteenth century for whom life was cheap and filth a daily hazard? Against so dark and brutal a background any kind of goodness and kindness seems to me to shine with startling brightness."

Clark is now working on a novel set in the American colonial period.

The Writing University Web site provides a handy portal to the UI writing programs -- including the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the International Writing Program, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, the Translation Workshop, the UI Press and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. The site also centralizes writing news, lists upcoming events and provides access to a wealth of writing materials -- texts, journals, lists of Iowa-connected writers and publications, historic videos and archived audio. Visitors to the site have the option of subscribing to an RSS feed.

For additional information about the reading call Prairie Lights, 319-337-2681. For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073; cell: 310-430-1013;