2011 Fall Literature Preview
For many Buffalo lit lovers, the fall season begins with Babel—but it doesn’t have to end there. There’s no doubt that Just Buffalo Literary Center’s series, which brings some of the world’s finest authors to town to read from and talk about their work, is the king of the curb. Yet that blockbuster program is really just one element of a busy, thrillingly diverse scene.
• Let’s start with the Spree-sponsored Babel, which, in 2011–12, might be embarking on its most ambitious season yet. It opens with two very interesting writers, on October 27 and December 2, respectively: Amos Oz (A Tale of Love and Darkness) and Naomi Shihab Nye (Habibi). And the author of the popular No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith, visits on April 12. But it’s Zadie Smith’s appearance on March 21 that truly excites. Her White Teeth remains one of the most acclaimed novels of the twenty-first century, and her flawed follow-up, The Autograph Man, and “rebound” novel, On Beauty, are equally unique. She’s also a smart, passionate pop-culture observer; her smackdown of The Social Network in the New York Review of Books is nothing if not well reasoned. Cheers to the towering Babel, then, for continuing to top itself. (www.justbuffalo.org.)
• Canisius professor Mick Cochrane is one of the finest authors in WNY, and for the latest installment of the Canisius College Contemporary Writers Series that he coordinates, he’s bringing to town two dynamic, popular writers: novelist Stewart O’Nan on October 6 and Lockport native Joyce Carol Oates on October 24. O’Nan has written about everything from the Boston Red Sox to Edgar Allan Poe, and makes a fine choice for a one-week residency at the college. Meanwhile, Cochrane says he expects the Oates reading, especially, to be “a special night.” Like O’Nan, the startlingly prolific writer has dipped into many different genres, tackling girl gangs, Love Canal, and the life of Marilyn Monroe, among many other subjects, over the course of her lengthy career. In addition, on November 1, the Montante Cultural Center will host a dramatic recital of Irish Famine tale Hunger, which is adapted, devised, and directed by Eamon Grennan and performed by two Irish actors. Grennan, a past series reader, will be in attendance for what should be an intriguing performance. (www.canisius.edu.)
• I wrote about the Center for Inquiry/Just Buffalo Literary Café in Spree’s June issue, and the free, intimate, coffeehouse-style poetry series continues to bring in fine readers and devoted listeners. On September 7, ECC professor Jennifer Campbell, Buffalo State professor David Landrey, and organizer/ECC professor Perry Nicholas—now in his fourth year as host—will read, while acclaimed Cuban-born Jorge Guitart and fellow UB professor Howard Wolf take to the mic on October 5. December 7 features two major names in the world of poetry: Carl Dennis and Sherry Robbins. All readings take place at the Center for Inquiry, 1310 Sweet Home Road in Amherst. (www.justbuffalo.org.)
• Speaking of Perry Nicholas, he will hold a free book launch reading, signing, and party with fellow acclaimed poet Verneice Turner at 6 p.m. on October 9 at Buffalo East, 1412 Main Street. The event will celebrate the releases of Nicholas’s What the World Sees and Turner’s Sweetness.
• The Gray Hair Reading Series, sponsored by Earth’s Daughters Magazine and Just Buffalo, begins its sixth season at 7:30 p.m. on September 21 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. (www.justbuffalo.org.)
• Big Night, Just Buffalo’s two-year-old multi-disciplinary poetry series, is held monthly from October to April. Artistic director Michael Kelleher says it “features at least one poet, usually from out of town, plus two or more representatives of different art forms: film, music, video, drama, or whatever else we can think of. Geoff Gatza, publisher of Blazevox books, cooks up food for everyone, which is included in the price of admission.” Kelleher says an event on October 1 will help commemorate Earth’s Daughters’ fortieth anniversary issue.
• Talking Leaves is always bubbling with lit events, and the fall is filling up. Cofounder Jonathon Welch says that on September 6, the independent bookstore will be “part of a Granta magazine international event—we’ll be hosting a conversation among area writers and perhaps someone from out of town about how the world has changed since 9/11.” This is in conjunction with Granta’s fall issue, which is devoted to the topic; the event will take place at Hallwalls at 7 p.m. Poet Ruth Thompson will read from her new book of poems, Here Along Cazenovia Creek, at 7 p.m. on September 14 at the Main Street location, and November brings novelist Dean Bakopoulos; he’ll read from My American Unhappiness at the Main Street store. And Welch says plenty more is in the works. (www.tleavesbooks.com.)
• The Burchfield Penney Art Center has become a frequent site for poetry readings, and BPAC’s Don Metz says the tentative rundown for 2011-12 (at this point) is Sara Reis and Jana Willoughby on October 6, James Longenbach on December 4, Carol Brown and Craig Warner on March 4, and Irving Feldman on April 15. (www.burchfieldpenney.org.)
• The WNY Book Arts Center needs no introduction for most Spree readers; we’ve covered the events and workshops held at its 468 Washington Street location extensively. Add another literary notch in its belt, as Book Arts presents Richard Tuttle: 8 Poems, An Exhibition, and Book Launch. The poems will be on view from September 3 to October 15, and a free opening reception featuring a poetry reading by Tuttle will be held at 6 p.m. on September 3. A collaboration between the Center and the University at Buffalo Art Galleries, 8 Poems is “an exhibition featuring documentation of three different projects realized by Richard Tuttle over the course of the last year: a book of poetry, site-specific sculptural performances, and a newspaper publication,” explains UB Art Gallery curator Sandra Firmin, adding that the exhibition “will feature photographs, maquettes, correspondence, pieces of the poetry book in progress, presswork, and additional artist books by Tuttle from the UB Poetry Collection. … The poetry book features an inside cover and inside back cover made of handmade pigmented paper cast from wood blocks cut by Tuttle; it has eight pages, entirely letterpressed, each with a single poem and a portion of a ‘continuous line’ conceived by Tuttle that undulates throughout the book; and will be hand-sewn and bound in an edition of 200.” Very cool, and very Book Arts. For more from the Center, call 348-1430 or visit wnybookarts.org.
Associate editor Christopher Schobert’s favorite character in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth was scooter-mad Mod Ryan Topps.