Alan Cheuse reading set at UT

Alan Cheuse. Photo courtesy of NPR
Alan Cheuse. Photo courtesy of NPR

Alan Cheuse, the National Public Radio book critic and author of five novels, will participate in a reading on Thursday hosted by the University of Texas’ Michener Center for Writers.

The reading will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302, at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th streets.

Cheuse is the author of five novels, including “The Light Possessed,” “To Catch the Lightning,” “Songs of Slaves in the Desert” and an upcoming release of a new version of his 1968 novel “The Grandmothers Club” as “Prayers for the Living.”

Parking is available in the nearby UT San Jacinto Garage, and the event is free and open to the public.

Harper Lee: The greatest or not?

FILE: Harper Lee to Publish Second BookThe American-Statesman newsroom got into quite a discussion this morning about the publication of the second novel by Harper Lee.

One editor, who happens to be an Alabama native like I am, said that Lee was America’s greatest living author. And while I admire “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I do not think that qualifies as making her the greatest of our authors.

So, I was challenged to name a few who might be considered better. And in that regard, here’s my list. It’s not extensive. In fact, it’s off the top of my head. But it could make for a lively discussion.

My list would obviously include Cormac McCarthy, whose Border Trilogy is one of the great achievements of our time, especially from a Texas perspective.

Also on the list would be Toni Morrison, author of “Beloved” and many other fine novels.

I’d also add Philip Roth, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Jennifer Egan and Annie Proulx. And there are lots of up-and-comers, including Austin’s Philip Meyer and Brian Hart.

And then there’s the question of whether you would include nonfiction writers among the greatest living authors, and I’d argue that you should. I particularly admire Lawrence Wright, Robert Caro and many others.

So, if you’d like to join the debate, please do. We’d love to hear from you.

New Harper Lee book to be published

FILE: Harper Lee to Publish Second Book
A second novel from Harper Lee, the writer of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” will be published July 14, the publisher Harper announced Tuesday.

The announcement set off a wave of social media reaction, mostly positive, and the publisher said it was planning a first printing of 2 million copies — an ambitious but probably justified move.

The novel is titled “Go Set a Watchman,” and it was completed in the 1950s and only rediscovered last fall, the publisher said. It’s basically a sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” and focuses on Scout as an adult who’s living in New York City and comes back to Alabama to visit her father during the era of the Civil Rights Movement.

The book, which has 304 pages, was actually written before “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The publisher issued the following statement on behalf of the 88-year-old Lee, who’s in assisted living at a facility in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama:

“In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called ‘Go Set a Watchman. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) from the point of view of the young Scout.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

According to publisher Harper, Carter came upon the manuscript at a “secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.'”

The publisher said the book will be released as she first wrote it, with no revisions.

Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but never published a second novel. Since the fame surrounding her first book, Lee has been relatively reclusive and refused interviews. The movie version of the book starred Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the father of Scout and a prominent but small-town attorney.

It was first printed in 1960, and the movie came out in 1962.

“This is a remarkable literary event,” Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham said in a statement. “The existence of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift to the many readers and fans of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee’s classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter’s relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Meyer, Graham to talk about Texas literature

Author Philipp Meyer.
Author Philipp Meyer.

Philipp Meyer, author of the Texas epic “The Son,” will talk about his years of research in writing the acclaimed novel with Texas literary scholar Don Graham at 7 p.m. Feb. 19.

The event, which is sponsored by the UT Michener Center for Writers and the Bullock Texas State History Museum, will take place at the Bullock, 1800 Congress Ave. at West MLK Boulevard.

The event is free and open to the public. It’s part of the Bullock Museum’s Texas Art and Culture Series.

Meyer is a former fellow at the Michener Center and was introduced to Texas novelists in a graduate seminar with Graham while earning his MFA.

Humanities Texas to host annual book fair Dec. 6

Humanities Texas will host its sixth annual Holiday Book Fair, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Byrne-Reed House, 1410 Rio Grande St.

Authors who will be participating are Lawrence Wright, Sarah Bird, James Magnuson, Elizabeth Crook, S.C. Gwynne, Naomi Shihab Nye, Bill Wittliff, Carmen Tafolla, Carrie Fountain, M. M. McAllen, Jacqueline Jones, Richard Parker, Margaret Lewis Furse, John Taliaferro, Wayne Thorburn, Emilio Zamora, Chris Tomlinson, James E. Bruseth, Tracy Dahlby and Steve Wilson. Authors will visit with shoppers and sign copies of their latest books, which Humanities Texas will have available for purchase at a discounted price. Baked good and hot coffee will be available. And there’s free parking in the St. Martin’s Lutheran Church lot on the northwest corner of 15th and Rio Grande streets. All proceeds from the book fair and bake sale will benefit Texas libraries.

For more information, visit www.humanitiestexas.org.