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University of Iowa News Release

May 14, 2004

UI Alumnus James Hynes Reads On Prairie Lights Series

University of Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnus James Hynes will read from his new novel, "Kings of Infinite Space," at 8 p.m. Monday, May 24 in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

The free reading will be broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, hosted by Julie Englander on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910. Listen on the internet at http://wsui.uiowa.edu.

The following evening, Tuesday, May 25 at 8 p.m., the series will feature Karen Joy Fowler, reading from "The Jane Austen Book Club."

A Publishers Weekly preview of "Kings of Infinite Space" described Hynes' latest satire as an "hilarious supernatural send-up of office life."

Hynes wrote in the Boston Review: "The year my second book, 'Publish and Perish,' came out, I took a job as an office temp for a large Texas state agency, working for eight dollars an hour. This was one of the inevitable low points on the sine wave of my career, a boring day job being the default mode of a midlist writer's livelihood. Still, I had never worked in an office before, and the experience was more exotic than humiliating. Within a day of finding myself in a cubicle for the first time in my life, I was taking notes like an anthropologist about the strange folklife of the office -- PowerPoint, anyone? Secret Santa? -- and within a week I was planning to write about it.

"I had an epiphany one soporific mid-morning when I stood up in my cubicle to stretch myself awake. Turning slowly in place, I scanned a complete 360 of the cube horizon. The scene was slightly underlit, and while I could hear all sorts of human activity -- talking, phones ringing, keyboards clattering -- I couldn't see another living person. I felt as if I was working in a room full of ghosts. The alienation of cube life was suddenly revealed to me as something gothic, a variation on the creeping dread of a Poe character. I could be walled up alive inside my cubicle and no one would even notice -- the Cube of Amontillado. Immediately I dropped to my seat and jotted down a paragraph that appears almost without revision in my new book, 'Kings of Infinite Space'."

Jonathan Yardley wrote for the Washington Post Book World that Hynes' new book is "Immensely witty . . . thoroughly entertaining . . . Gruesome, deliciously improbable," and a piece in the New York Times Book Review called the book "[a] work of sheer joy."

Hynes, who won a Michener Fellowship at the UI, is the author of the novels "The Lecturer's Tale" and "Wild Colonial Boy," as well as the stories "Publish & Perish" -- all New York Times Notable Books of the Year.

Summarizing "The Jane Austen Book Club," a Publishers Weekly preview stated, "Fowler's fifth novel (after PEN/Faulkner award finalist "Sister Noon") features her trademark sly wit, quirky characters and digressive storytelling, but with a difference: this one is book club ready, complete with mock-serious 'questions for discussion' posed by the characters themselves.

"The plot here is deceptively slim: five women and one enigmatic man meet on a monthly basis to discuss the novels of Jane Austen, one at a time. As they debate Marianne's marriage to Brandon and whether or not Charlotte Lucas is gay, they reveal nothing so much as their own 'private Austen(s)'."

A Washington Post Book World review concluded that it is "hard to explain quite why 'The Jane Austen Book Club' is so wonderful. But that it is wonderful will soon be widely recognized, indeed, a truth universally acknowledged."

Fowler, a Dublin IMPAC nominee, is also the author of "Sarah Canary," "The Sweetheart Season," and "Black Glass: Short Fictions."

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu.