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Release: Oct. 24, 2002

UI Alum Ford And UI Award-Winner Valeri Will Read At Prairie Lights

Poet Katie Ford, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' workshop, and fiction writer Laura Valeri, winner of the John Simmons Award for Short Fiction from the UI Press, will present free readings on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series during the week of Nov. 4-8. All the week's readings will be broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series hosted by Julie Englander on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910. The readings can be heard on the internet at http://wsui.uiowa.edu.

The week's schedule is:

-- Indo-Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry, reading from his latest novel, "Family Matters," at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City;

-- Katie Ford reading from her first poetry collection, "Deposition," on Wednesday, Nov. 6, in Prairie Lights;

-- Rick Ryan, reading from his debut novel, "The Golden Rules," at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, in Prairie Lights; and

-- Laura Valeri, reading from the UI Press volume "The Kind of Things Saints Do," at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, in Prairie Lights.

Eugenides' first novel, "The Virgin Suicides," was published to great acclaim in 1993. Of his new novel, Joanne Wilkinson wrote for Booklist that Eugenides "once again proves himself to be a wildly imaginative writer, this time penning a coming-of-age tale, ranging from the 1920s in Asia Minor to the present in Berlin, about a hermaphrodite. Perhaps what is most surprising about Eugenides' offbeat but engrossing book is how he establishes, seemingly effortlessly, the credibility of his narrator. . . With a sure yet light-handed touch, Eugenides skillfully bends our notions of gender."

Ford grew up in Oregon and before she came to the UI she attended Whitman College and Harvard University, where she studied theology and poetry and received a master of divinity. Former UI Writers' Workshop faculty member Jorie Graham wrote of Ford's debut collection, "Rarely is poetry of such extremity -- extremity of experience, extremity of spiritual practice and insight -- presented."

Mistry's "A Fine Balance" was chosen by Oprah for her book club, instantly putting him on the literary map. Critic Donna Seaman wrote, "Mistry's flawless style and absolute yet inconspicuous command of character, place, and story made prizewinners of his previous novels, including 'A Fine Balance.' He now presents a magnetic tale of family obligations that comes as close to perfect as a novel can get. The setting is the ever-hectic city of Bombay during a 1990s wave of violent religious extremism, and the focus is on an extended Parsi family suffering the long-term consequences of a Juliet and Romeo-like tragedy. . . . Mistry evokes laughter and tears as he spins the great wheel of human life and charts the soul's confusion and the body's decline, the endless cycle of repeated mistakes and failures of heart, and, yes, the radiant revelations of love."

In "The Golden Rules" Ryan's protagonist is a mediocre actor who is launched into over-the-top adventures when he answers a newspaper ad. A Publishers Weekly preview noted that "Ryan creates a tapestry of exotic, whimsical characters," and C.J. Hribal, author of "American Beauty," called the book "a romp, a page-turning adventure story, an R-rated Treasure Island."

The John Simmons Award is a national literary competition juried by the UI Writers' Workshop, where Valeri earned her Master of Fine Arts degree. Joanne Wilkenson wrote that Valeri, "rips through these pages with a fearless display of raw emotion. Whether she is writing from the point of view of a self-mutilating 17-year-old girl or a peripatetic twenty-something male, her stories are filled with urgency and pain."

Dan Wakefield, author of "New York in the Fifties," wrote, "In a debut short story collection, Laura Valeri shows herself to be a masterful writer, in command of a variety of cultures, stages of life, genders, and experiences. Whether writing about a troubled teenage girl or a son trying to make peace with his father, Valeri writes with lyric skill and dramatic power."

For UI arts information, visit www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu.