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CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
e-mail: peter-alexander@uiowa.edu

Release: May 5, 2000

UI CAMPUS NOTES -- IOWA CENTER FOR THE ARTS

SAUNDERS READS MAY 17 -- Fiction writer George Saunders will read from his new story collection, "Pastoralia," at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 17 in the Prairie Lights Bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free reading is part of the "Live From Prairie Lights" broadcast series, originating on UI radio station WSUI, 910 AM.

Saunders drew attention with his debut, "CivilWar Land in Bad Decline," which was a New York Times "Notable Book of the Year" and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and led to his inclusion on The New Yorker's list of "20 Best American Fiction Writers Under 40." His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's and Story, and have been honored with inclusion in the O'Henry Awards Collection and two National Magazine Awards.

The review of "Pastoralia" in Publisher's Weekly stated, "Saunders' extraordinary talent is in top form in his second collection, in which his vision of a hellishly exaggerated dystopia of late capitalist America is warmed and impassioned by his regular, irregular and flat-out characters. . . with a voice unlike any other writer's, he makes these losers funny, plausible and absolutely winning."

Chris Lehmann wrote in the on-line "e-zine" Salon, "Like all great humorists, he understands and mines the close kinship of the horse laugh and the morbid shudder, grasping the truth in Dawn Powell's famous dictum that 'true wit should break a wise man's heart.' . . . A master of distilling the disorders of our time into fiction, Saunders also has the good sense to reach for literary truths that transcend the moment. And for that very reason, we should savor the witty, arch and quietly redemptive tales of 'Pastoralia': George Saunders is a better writer than the moment deserves."

Saunders, who began his career as an engineer, teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.

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ALLEN READS MAY 18 -- Iowa City writer Mary Allen, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, will read from her 1999 memoir, "The Rooms of Heaven," just released in paperback, at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 18 in the Prairie Lights Bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free reading is part of the "Live From Prairie Lights" broadcast series, originating on UI radio station WSUI, 910 AM.

Jeff Giles wrote in Newsweek, " 'The Rooms of Heaven' is a book about grieving and life after death. It's extraordinary, not only in its candor, but in the way it lures you in, forcing you to think about things that would strike you, in any other book, as pretty damn batty."

Following the death of her Iowa City fiance, Allen established contact with him through a Ouija board and began communicating with him through channeling and automatic writing -- wondering if her experiences were real or crazy.

Critic Donna Seaman, writing for Booklist, found Allen's account, "sad, mysterious and beautiful. . . . Allen draws no facile conclusions from her ordeal, or her unnerving intimations of the afterlife, presenting, instead, a remarkable chronicle of the intense and baffling states of mind love and grief engender."

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MUTEL DISCUSSES UI PRESS RE-PUBLICATION MAY 22 -- Connie Mutel, a staff member in the University of Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research, will discuss "Birds Every Child Should Know," recently re-published by the UI Press, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 31 in the Prairie Lights Bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. The free event is part of the "Live From Prairie Lights" broadcast series, originating on UI radio station WSUI, 910 AM.

Written by Neltje Blanchan (the pen name of publisher Frank Nelson Doubleday's wife), "Birds Every Child Should Know" was originally published in 1907. It is a collection of more than 100 story-like and often-poetic descriptions of common U.S. birds. Mutel contributed the foreword for the new UI Press edition, placing the book in the context of America's turn-of-the-century environmental awakening.

Daniel Pinkwater wrote, "This is a very nice book! Besides being pleasantly thick and crammed with information, it's an example of good writing for young readers. It's clear, not condescending, and does not read as especially dated for all its having been written almost a hundred years ago."

Mutel, who was trained as an ecologist and works as a scientific historian, has written, contributed to or edited several volumes on topics of natural history and the environment: "Our Endangered Planet," "The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook,," "Fragile Giants: A Natural History of the Loess Hills" and "Iowa: A Celebration of Land, People and Purpose."