Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 6, 2011

IWP Director Christopher Merrill reads from his new book during Sept. 19-22 UI streams

Christopher Merrill, director of the University of Iowa International Writing Program, will read from his new nonfiction book, "The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War," during the Sept. 19-22 live literary streams at His reading will originate in a free event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, in Prairie Lights Books.

Other 7 p.m. streamed events from Prairie Lights that week -- each one featuring UI-connected writers -- will be:

--UI Writers' Workshop alumnus Alexander Maksik reading from his novel, "You Deserve Nothing," on Monday, Sept. 19.
--Workshop alumnus Justin Torres reading from his buzz-generating debut novel, "We the Animals," on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
--L.S. Klatt, co-winner of the 2010 Iowa Poetry Prize for "Cloud of Ink," published by the UI Press, and poet/essayist Devin Johnston reading from their work on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Taking several ageless questions —- "Where do we come from? Where are we going? What shall we do?" —- as his point of departure, Merrill explores the related issues of terror, modernity, tradition, and epochal transformation. In three extended essays, he observes the performance of a banned ritual in the Malaysian province of Kelatan; traces Saint-John Perse's epic voyage from Beijing to Ulan Bator in 1921, and relates it to the China of today; and embarks on a trip across the Levant in 2007 in the wake of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Merrill asserts that it is in this trinity of human actions -— ceremony, expedition and war -— that history is formed; and that the political, environmental and social changes we're witnessing now presage the end of one order and the creation of another.

Merrill, who led the initiative that resulted in UNESCO designing Iowa City as a City of Literature in the Creative Cities Network, has published four collections of poetry, translations, several edited volumes and four 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," "Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars," and "Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain." His work has been translated into 25 languages and his awards include a knighthood in arts and letters from the French government.

Set in Paris, Maksik's debut is the story of a charismatic teacher and the students whose lives he influences, for better or worse. Tom Jenks, editor of Narrative magazine, called the book "a thoroughly engaging, passionate, and challenging read that finely walks the line between morality and amorality. In a society, and at a time, when individual identity is so closely tied to collective narcissism, Maksik's novel asks what are the true sources of self worth? And how shall we live?"

Maksik was the recipient of a Truman Capote Fellowship in the Writers' Workshop, and he is now the Provost's Postgraduate Writing Fellow.

In the New York Times, Christopher Isherwood called Torres' "We the Animals," "the kind of sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel that may soon be extinct from the mainstream publishing world… (a) haunting story of a boy scrabbling toward wisdom about the adult world and his place in it." And Pulitzer Winner Michael Cunningham commented, "'We the Animals' is a dark jewel of a book. It's heartbreaking. It's beautiful. It resembles no other book I've read. We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice."

Read an Entertainment Weekly interview with Torres at

"Cloud of Ink," whose title refers to the obscuring cloud squirted by an octopus, cuttlefish or squid, explores Klatt's preoccupation with language as concealment: "I'm interested in language as a smoke screen, in people hiding behind words," says Klatt, who holds a Master of Divinity degree. "I think religious people are particularly good at this. We have our own shibboleths and our ways that we let people know that we're a member of the tribe. But shibboleths are no substitute for authenticity."

In Jubilat publisher Robert N. Casper wrote, "L. S. Klatt's new collection creates a taxonomy of mystery, magic, surprise. Like a cloud, it floats through the reader's mind with playful shapeliness —- but like ink, it leaves a darker, and lasting, impression."

Klatt teaches literature and creative writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. His poems have appeared in the Columbia Poetry Review, Turnrow, the Southeast Review, the Notre Dame Review, Phoebe, the Cincinnati Review, the Boston Review, Drunken Boat and the Five Fingers Review. His first collection, "Interloper," won the Juniper Prize.

Johnston's new collection of poems is "Traveler," and he is also the author of three other books of poetry, a collection of essays and a book of criticism. He works as an editor for Flood Editions, a nonprofit publishing house, and teaches at Saint Louis University in Missouri.

The Writers' Workshop is an academic program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Graduate College.

UI arts events are searchable on the UI Master Calendar: Exhibitions are searchable at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click on the link "Subscribe or Unsubscribe" and follow the instructions.

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jan Weissmiller, Winston Barclay, University News Services,