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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 28, 2006

Denis Johnson Presents Annual Paul Engle Reading Oct. 13 At UI

Denis Johnson, a University of Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate and former faculty member, will present the annual Paul Engle Memorial reading -- honoring the long-time head of the Writers' Workshop and co-founder of the International Writing Program -- at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in Shambaugh Auditorium of the UI Main Library.

Johnson -- an acclaimed fiction writer, non-fiction writer, poet and playwright -- is the author of "The Name of the World," "Already Dead," "Jesus' Son," "Resuscitation of a Hanged Man," "Fiskadoro," "The Stars at Noon" and "Angels." His poetry has been collected in the volume "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly."

"Jesus' Son" was not only an influential "cult classic," but also the basis of a 1999 independent film that was hailed as one of the 10 best films of the year by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Roger Ebert and others.

Johnson is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship, the Salon Book Award, a Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and a Whiting Writer's Award, among many honors for his work.

Michael Herr wrote, "There isn't an American voice I love listening to more than Denis Johnson's." And an Elle magazine's review concluded, "To put the matter simply, Denis Johnson is one of the best and most compelling novelists in the nation."

Johnson told New York magazine, "What I write about is really the dilemma of living in a fallen world, and asking: Why is it like this if there's supposed to be a God?"

"I have a feeling God finds us pretty funny," he says. "But that's probably all the speaking I should do for God -- he doesn't go around talking about me."

Paul Engle Day was established in 2000 through a proclamation by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. A native of Cedar Rapids, Engle was graduated from the UI as the first poet anywhere to obtain an advanced degree on the basis of a collection of poems. He returned to the UI to lead the Writers' Workshop to prominence, and in 1967 he and Hualing Nieh Engle founded the International Writing Program (IWP). He died in 1990 while en route to receive Poland's highest civilian honor.

The Writers' Workshop remains the most prestigious and influential writing program at any university. And the importance of the IWP to international understanding was recognized in 1976 when former Senator, diplomat and U.N. Ambassador Averrill Harriman nominated the Engles for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1995 the program was honored with the Governor's Award for distinguished service to the State of Iowa.

Shambaugh House, the headquarters of the IWP, is located at 430 N. Clinton St., at the corner of Clinton and Fairchild streets, on the UI campus. The Writers' Workshop, an academic unit of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is located across the street, in the Dey House.

The Oct. 13 reading is co-sponsored by the Writers' Workshop, the IWP, the English department of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the University Lecture Committee.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073; cell: 310-430-1013;