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University of Iowa News Release


June 8, 2009

UI Writing University site will stream June 15-19 Prairie Lights readings

"Live from Prairie Lights," the series of free readings at Iowa City's Prairie Lights bookstore, will have a reading every night Monday through Friday, June 15-19. The University of Iowa Writing University Web site,, will stream and archive the readings, which will originate as free events at 7 p.m. each evening in the bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

Here is the week's schedule of readings:
--Monday, June 15, best-selling fiction writer Karen Essex will read from her new historical novel, "Stealing Athena."
--Tuesday, June 16, Cornell University faculty member J. Robert Lennon, will read from "Castle: A Novel."
--Wednesday, June 17, Binnie Kirshenbaum, a professor of fiction writing at Columbia University, will read from her new novel, "The Scenic Route."
--Thursday, June 18, Michigan poets Greg Rappleye ("Figured Dark" and "A Path Between Houses") and Dan Gerber ("A Primer on Parallel Lives" and "A Voice from the River") will share a reading.
--Friday, June 19, English fiction writer and journalist Simon Van Booy will read from his story collection "Love Begins in Winter," just released in paperback.

Essex is the author of "Leonardo's Swans" and "Kleopatra." Her latest historical novel, "Stealing Athena" is based on the removal to England of art treasures from the Parthenon during the Napoleonic Wars.

Critic Michele Lieber explained in Booklist, "Essex moves between ancient Greece and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe to depict the lives of two women -- both scandalous in their times -- who were key to the story. ... This is vibrant, well-researched historical fiction from an author whose goal is 'to reframe history from the female point of view.'"

Calling the book "uniquely relevant," a Los Angeles Times review concluded, "'Stealing Athena' expounds on the weight of the past, the power of art, and the strength of women who exercised free will even when they had the fewest rights."

Tuesday's selection, "Castle: A Novel" is a spooky story about memory, guilt, power, and violence, set in upstate New York. A review in the Dallas Morning News stated, "Clever and insightful, ['Castle'] compels the reader to solve a series of riddles that reveal the emotional rationale underpinning our most despicable behavior."

Kirshenbaum, who read from "An Almost Perfect Moment" for "Live from Prairie Lights" in 2004, returns to Prairie lights on Wednesday. In the book, Sylvia Landsman is divorced, alone, and unexpectedly unemployed. She flees to Italy, where she meets Henry, a wistful, married, middle-aged expatriate. Taking off on a grand tour of Europe bankrolled with his wife's money, Henry and Sylvia follow a circuitous route around the continent -- as Sylvia entertains Henry with stories of her peculiar family and her damaged friends, of dead ducks and Alma Mahler.

Van Booy is the author of "The Secret Lives of People in Love" and "Closer to Fine." Joanne Wilkinson wrote in Booklist that Van Booy, "continues to develop his highly original style and his overriding theme of isolation versus connection. His characters are often terribly lonely, so much so that when they do find love, it is treated as a miraculous occurrence... More about what is felt than what happens, Van Booy's stories pay beautiful homage to human connection."

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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 (office) 319-430-1013 (cell),