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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 26, 2007

Controversial essayist Joe Wenderoth will read Nov. 29 at UI

Controversial essayist Joe Wenderoth, a guest of the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, will read from his work at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29 in Room 1505 of the Seamans Center.

He will also offer a question and answer session at 1 p.m. Nov. 29, and a master class at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, in Room 331 of the UI English-Philosophy Building. All the events are free and open to the public.

Wenderoth's best-known work, "Letters to Wendy's," was hailed by a Philadelphia Weekly's critic as "a work of pure genius." A Rolling Stone review called it "one of the best books of 2000," and a Boston Review critic wrote, "This is a book that will likely become known in literary history as the most apt, able, and adventurous ars poetica to be produced for and by Generation X."

Published in 1999 by the independent start-up Wave Books (formally Verse Press), "Letters to Wendy's" is now considered one of the most successful small press publications in recent years. Translated into five languages, recorded as an audio CD and adapted as a stage production by Kids in the Hall, the book has also been excerpted for inclusion in half a dozen anthologies, including a short story anthology, a prose poem anthology and an essay anthology.

In the Los Angeles Times Book Review, literary critic Cal Bedient once described the consistently unclassifiable nature of Wenderoth's work as an illustration of his "disarming brilliance as a writer . . . work that makes quick cuts into the meat of the ordinary, which is the meat of the impossible."

Wenderoth's work is also often involved in controversy. "I simply find myself in a position in which 'obscene' speech is sometimes the only way," he has said. "I think I can trace it back to my childhood, wherein I was inclined to throw tantrums a lot. Serious writing is itself a tantrum, although I would clarify that by saying that it is a tantrum without the same naiveté.

"It's just amazing to me how rigid 'the real world' sometimes is. I mean, how there is this perception of certain suggestions being outrageously impossible, as if the way things actually are is less absurd."

Wenderoth is a regular contributor to Harper's, Fence, Nerve and the American Poetry Rerview, and he is also the author of "No Real Light," "It Is If I Speak," "Disfortune" and a new collection of essays, "The Holy Spirit of Life: Essays Written for John Ashcroft's Secret Self," which Ben Marcus has called "wholly original . . . subversive, sensitive, and strange. A work I read with admiration and awe."

The Nonfiction Writing Program is a graduate program in the English Department of 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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