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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 3, 2011

Nov. 8-11 literary streams feature UI alumni Biss and Walljasper

University of Iowa alumni Eula Biss and Jay Walljasper will be featured during the UI's live literary streams from Prairie Lights Books Nov. 8-11:

--UI Nonfiction Writing Program alumna Biss, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, will be joined by poet David Trinidad at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8.

--Walljasper, who wrote for the Daily Iowan during his student days, will read from All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9.

--Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, will read from Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.

--Michael Martone will read from 4 for a Quarter: Fictions at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11.

Biss' Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays is a frank exploration of race and racial identity in America. Her response to the topic is informed by the experiences chronicled in these essays -- teaching in a Harlem school on the morning of 9/11, reporting for an African-American newspaper in San Diego, watching the aftermath of Katrina from Iowa City, and settling in Chicago's most diverse neighborhood.

American Indian writer Sherman Alexie commented, "I fought with this book. I shouted, 'Amen!' I cursed at it for being so wildly wrong and right. It's so smart, combative, surprising, and sometimes shocking that it kept me twisting and turning in my seat like I was on some kind of socio-political roller coaster ride. Eula Biss writes with equal parts beauty and terror. I love it."

Biss is also the author of The Balloonists, and her work has won a Pushcart Prize, a Jaffe Writers' Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, and a 21st Century Award. Visit her website at

Trinidad's Dear Prudence: New and Selected Poems is the latest of his more than 15 books. "This magnum opus confirms David Trinidad's place in the poetic firmament: he is simply the best we have," Wayne Koestenbaum wrote. "A worthy successor to James Schuyler, Trinidad writes soulfully and sometimes photo-realistically about the melancholy threshold where dolls and stars become inner objects —- dirty, glamorous, destructible."

UI alumnus D.A. Powell commented, "This is a volume celebratory in tone, panoramic in scope, funny, and genuinely moving. Trinidad is at the center of what's relevant in his art. And this collection is more vital and more enjoyable than any single performance he has given thus far."

In the early 1980s Trinidad was one of a group of poets who were active at the Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center in Venice, Cal. As editor of Sherwood Press, he published numerous books by them and other poets. He has taught at Rutgers University, the New School, and Princeton University.

Read about Walljasper's return visit to the UI at

A contributing editor to Rolling Stone and Harper's, Sharlet teaches creative nonfiction at Dartmouth College.

"For Sharlet, the story of American religion is not a polarized one of fundamentalists vs. secularists," Brook Wilensky-Lanford wrote in the Boston Globe. "It's a vast landscape, and each essay in his remarkable new collection of literary journalism explores a different crag or cranny of it … . There's no better guide to this 'country in between.'"

Michael Washburn's review in the Washington Post asserted, "The book belongs to the tradition of long-form, narrative journalism best exemplified by writers such as Joan Didion, John McPhee, Norman Mailer and Sharlet's contemporary David Samuels. Sharlet deserves a place alongside such masters, for he has emerged as a master investigative stylist and one of the shrewdest commentators on religion's underexplored realms."

Martone teaches creative writing in the Department of English at the University of Alabama. He is the author of several books, including The Blue Guide to Indiana and Michael Martone.

Frederick Barthelme commented, "Reading Michael Martone's '4 for a Quarter' is like flipping through radio stations in your car in the middle of the night in West Texas, a wash of wonderful elegiac fragments, memories, anecdotes, haunting bits and pieces of ordinary days, from Beatles' backstories to the Eat Mor Chikin cow, from Santa Claus to baseball under the lights, to six sad ways to lose a baby.

"Always engaging, at times funny, utterly affecting, this remarkable collection leads us through a dizzying collage of times, places, people and things, sights and sounds at once thrilling and scary. You'll have a hard time putting it down, and when you do, you'll be eager to get back to it. A masterful performance."

The Nonfiction Writing Program is an academic program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Graduate College.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Jan Weissmiller, Prairie Lights Books, Winston Barclay, University News Services,