Ransom Center gets grant to digitize archive

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 PHOTO BY: Ulf Andersen/Gamma Liaison. © 1997 Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas has received a $126,730 grant to digitize more than 24,000 pages from the Gabriel García Márquez archive.

The grant came from the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Ransom Center said Monday, with funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Beginning in June 2016, the 18-month project, titled “Sharing ‘Gabo’ with the World: Building the Gabriel García Márquez Online Archive from His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center,” will involve scanning manuscripts, notebooks, scrapbooks, photographs and ephemera from the archive and making them accessible online. The materials date from 1950 through 2013.

“This project is notable for many reasons, including providing online access to copyright-protected archival material by one of the most revered literary figures of our time,” said Stephen Enniss, director of the center. “There are few opportunities for researchers to access digitized archives of contemporary authors. This initiative is possible due to the enthusiastic support and endorsement of García Márquez’s family.”

The archive opened for research on Oct. 21.

MLA convention coming to Austin

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Rolando Hinojosa at his office in Parlin Hall at UT on Wednesday April 30, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

More than 7,500 scholars will hold their first-ever meeting in Austin this week as part of the annual Modern Language Association convention, with about 840 sessions featuring the presentation of academic papers, debates of cultural interpretations of literature and interviews with such noted writers as Colm Toibin and Rolando Hinojosa.

Several of the sessions will be open to the public. Look for a detailed story about the convention in this week’s Austin American-Statesman.

The convention starts Thursday and lasts through Sunday. Most events are at the Austin Convention Center and the JW Marriott downtown.

Also available: a $10 day pass to visit with exhibitors, including 90 publishers, at the convention center downtown.

Here’s a listing of the public events:

1:45 p.m. Thursday, 203, JW Marriott: The Austin Music Scene and Its Publics: Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Doug Sahm, and Friends. Panelists focus on the political, social and cultural significance of Austin music. With performances by Kimmie Rhodes and Bobby Earl Smith.

10:15 a.m. Friday, Lone Star D, JW Marriott: Presidential Plenary: Literature and Its Publics: Past, Present, and Future. By “publics,” the MLA means audiences, and the speakers at the session include Albert Russell Ascoli of the University of California-Berkeley, Bruce Wood Holsinger of the University of Virginia, Deidre Shauna Lynch of Harvard, Marjorie Gabrielle Perloff of Stanford and Ato Quayson of the University of Toronto.

1:45 p.m. Friday, 16A, Austin Convention Center: The Novelist, the Critic, and the Public: An Interview with Colm Toibin. The author of “Nora Webster” and “On Elizabeth Bishop” talks with Stephen Burt of Harvard.

1:45 p.m. Saturday, Lone Star G-H, JW Marriott: A Creative Conversation with Bill Bradley. The former U.S. senator discusses the need for more involved citizens with Kathleen Woodward of the University of Washington-Seattle.

10:15 a.m. Saturday, 4BC of the Austin Convention Center: Rolando Hinojosa: A Celebration of His Life and Work. Speakers include Hinojosa, the longtime University of Texas professor and writer; Norma Elia Cantu of the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Arturo Madrid of Trinity University; and Ralph Edward Rodriguez of Brown University.

1:45 p.m. Saturday, 16A, Austin Convention Center: Writing (on) the Border: A Creative Conversation with Oscar Casares and Rolando Hinojosa.

1:45 p.m. Saturday, Lone Star D, JW Marriott: Grammatology in the Global: Past/Future (Spivak Reopens the Book). This session reflects on the historical, philosophical, political, and literary trajectories and diverse publics of “Of Grammatology” on the 40th anniversary of its English translation by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Panelists discuss the book’s timeliness for interdisciplinary humanities.

3:30 p.m. Saturday, Brazos, JW Marriott: The Artist as Interpreter: An Interview with Caetano Veloso. Marjorie Gabrielle Perloff of Stanford talks with Veloso, the Brazilian singer-songwriter who’s a founder of the Tropicalismo movement.

7 p.m. Saturday, 401, JW Marriott: Regarding Susan Sontag. The special event focuses on the 2014 documentary, “Regarding Susan Sontag,” with independent filmmaker Nancy Kates and Ellen Spiro of the University of Texas.

7 p.m. Saturday, Lone Star A: A Poetry Reading by Antonio Cicero. The Brazilian writer is the author of several books of poetry and philosophy.

10:15 a.m. Sunday, 18D, Austin Convention Center: Austin Authors of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Literatures: Past, Present, and Future. Panelists introduce younger scholars and critics to the beginnings of commonwealth and postcolonial literatures at the University of Texas, and to the importance of these beginnings to current conversations regarding global literatures and their futures.

Lots of great Texas-related books coming up


Despite high-profile arguments to the contrary, I’ve contended for the past few years that Texas literary culture is no longer the backwater that it once was, with numerous young and old writers doing great work.

And a big part of that is happening in Austin, in part because of the University of Texas, where scholars and recent graduates alike are writing intriguing books.

Here are just a few of such titles coming up in the next few months, and some of them sound great. (And please note, this is not a comprehensive list. It’s just based on galleys that I have received in the past couple of months. I’ve tried to order them by date of release.)

  1. “The City at Three P.M.,” a collection of essays by Peter LaSalle. Most of the essays here deal with LaSalle’s travels to places like Buenos Aires, Cameroon, Tunisia, Carthage and Paris. And most have a distinct literary bent, as he retraces the steps of Borges and others. He’s a member of the creative writing faculty in Austin and spends some of his time in his native Rhode Island. Publication: In December, $15.95 trade paperback, Dzanc Books.
  2. “A Friend of Mr. Lincoln,” a novel by Austin’s Stephen Harrigan. It opens with a one-armed man visiting Springfield, Ill., to pay respects to Lincoln’s body on the eve of his burial. But as it turns out, the man is far from a mere onlooker. He was a longtime friend of Lincoln in his early days, with Harrigan exploring, speculatively, his the president’s early days. Publication: February, $27.59, Alfred A. Knopf. (This will be one of 2016’s early highlights, for sure.)
  3. Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century,” by Daniel Oppenheimer, the director of strategic communications at UT. The author focuses on six major political figures who helped reshape American politics – Whittaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens. Publication: February, $28, Simon & Schuster.
  4. “Work Like Any Other,” by Virginia Reeves. Reeves is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers at UT, and her first novel focuses on 1920s Alabama, where a young man realizes the future of electricity, only to face a tragedy that threatens to destroy his family. Kevin Powers, author of “The Yellow Birds” and a former Michener fellow, says it’s an “exceptional novel told in clear, direct, and starkly beautiful language.” And Philipp Meyer, another Michener fellow and author of “The Son,” calls it a “striking debut about love and redemption.” Can’t wait to read it. Publication: March, $25, Scribner.
  5. “The Tombstone Race,” by Jose Skinner. A collection of short stories by an Austin writer who graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and who’s the former director of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Texas – Pan American. Publication: March, University of New Mexico Pres, $19.95. (It’s his second story collection, following “Flight and Other Stories.”)
  6. “The Association of Small Bombs,” a novel by Karan Mahajan. Mahajan grew up in India, but moved to the States and is a graduate of both Stanford University and the Michener Center for Writers. He lives in Austin, and his first novel, “Family Planning,” was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize. The new novel deals with a timely topic – terrorism, and its longstanding effects on family and friends. Publication: March, $25.95, Viking. The book has endorsements from Adam Johson (“Orphan Master’s Son”) and Elizabeth McCracken (“Thunderstruck and Other Stories”). That’s good enough for me.
  7. “The Midnight Assassin,” by Skip Hollandsworth. The Texas Monthly writer and Dallas resident turns his attention to Austin in 1885, when a series of brutal murders rocked the city at a time when the term “serial killer” wasn’t even known. But that’s what Austin experienced, as a killer known as the Midnight Assassin stalked the city. The killings made national headlines, with a dozen men arrested in connection with the murders and an ensuing scandal. But three years later, detectives in London wondered whether the real Midnight Assassin had come to England and become Jack the Ripper. Hollandsworth has been working on this investigation for more than decade, and it sounds fantastic. Publication: April, $30, Henry Holt.
  8. “Sunset City,” by Melissa Ginsburg. A Houston native, Ginsburg is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and teaches creative writing at the University of Mississippi. Her new novel is described as an “erotically charged literary noir set in Houston, about a woman caught up in her friend’s shocking murder and the dark truth she uncovers.” Publication: April, $25.99, Ecco.
  9. “The Regional Office Is Under Attack!” by Manuel Gonzales, the former director of the Bat Cave in Austin and now a writing teacher at the University of Kentucky. His “Miniature Wife” was winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and the John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Publication: April, $27.95, Riverhead.
  10. “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos,” by Dominic Smith. Smith is one of Austin’s best writers, and that’s saying a lot, because we have a lot of great writers. I first came across him when I reviewed his first book, “The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre,” while working at the Dallas Morning News. His other books haven’t disappointed. They’re “Bright and Distant Shores” and “The Beautiful Miscellaneous.” In an author’s note, Smith has this to say: “During the seventeenth century, the Guild of St. Luke in Holland controlled all aspects of professional artistic life, including who could sign and date paintings. Its members included the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, and Jan van Goyen. The historical record suggests that as many as twenty-five women were members of the guild… But only a small handful of those artists produced work that has survived or been correctly attributed. … One gap in the historical record concerns Sarah van Baalbergen, the first woman to be admitted to the Haarlem Guild of St. Luke. …. None of van Baalbergen’s work has survived.” This historic fiction tale tries to get to the bottom of that mystery – and others. Publication: May, $26, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  11. As I was putting this list together, two other titles came to my attention: “No Baggage,” by Clara Bensen and “Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso,” by Kali Nicole Gross. “No Baggage” is a memoir about Bensen and a university professor who decide on a risky adventure: take off on a trip with no plans, no reservations and no baggage while traveling to eight countries. Publication: January, $25, Running Press Book Publishers. “Hannah Mary Tabbs,” meanwhile, is a study of a crime in post-Reconstruction Philadelphia, with racial themes. It’s from an associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at UT. Publication: February, $24.95, Oxford University Press.
  12. And there will be many more books popping up in the next few weeks. I’m sure I’ve left off some good ones that I should have included but got lost in the piles and piles at my desk. If you know of one, please feel free to email me.

Crace, Giardina event set for Dec. 3


Acclaimed authors Jim Crace and Anthony Giardina, who are visiting professors this fall at the University of Texas, will participate in a reading hosted by the Michener Center for Writers at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3.

The event will be held in the Avaya Auditoriaum, POB 2.302, on the UT campus, at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th streets.

Crace won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for “Harvest, the National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award for “Being Dead” and has twice been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, for “Quarentine” and “Harvest.”  His archive is at U.T.’s Ransom Center.

Giardina has written five novels, including “Norumbega Park” and “White Guys.” He’s also a playwright, whose most recent work, “The City of Conversation,” premiered at the Lincoln Center in 2014.

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



T.C. Boyle event on Thursday

Vienna_2012-05-02_T._C._BoyleAuthor T.C. Boyle, who has written 25 novels and story collections, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in an event sponsored by the University of Texas’ Michener Center for Writers.

The event will be held in the Avaya Auditorium, POB 2.302, on the campus at the southeast corner of Speedway and 24th streets.

Boyle’s latest novel is “The Harder They Fall,” which deals with libertarianism, psychosis and violence in American culture.

The Ransom Center at UT has an extensive Boyle archive, and the author’s appearance is supported by the Texas Institute on Literary and Textual Studies.

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


Ransom Center opens Garcia Marquez archive to researchers

ORG XMIT: MXMT105 Colombia's Nobel Literature Prize laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez reads his latest book, titled
ORG XMIT: MXMT105 Colombia’s Nobel Literature Prize laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez reads his latest book, titled “I Didn’t Come Here to Make a Speech”, at his home in Mexico City, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010. The compilation of his speeches about politics, literature and other topics, was presented in Mexico City last Thursday. (AP Photo/Miguel Tovar)

The archive of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez opened today for research at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.

The humanities research center agreed to pay $2.2 million for the archive of the late Colombian author last year and announced the acquisition in November.

The author, who lived in Mexico City during his later years, is best known for such acclaimed novels as “One Hundred Years of Solitude” (1967) and “Love in the Time of Cholera” (1985). He died in April of 2014 at the age of 87.

“This archive, strengthening UT’s world-class humanities collection, not only offers research opportunities to our students and to Texans, but will attract a global research community to Austin,” said UT President Gregory L. Fenves.

The archive contains more than 75 boxes of documents, and researchers will have access to manuscript drafts of published and unpublished works, correspondence, 43 photograph albums, 22 scrapbooks, research material, notebooks, newspaper clippings, screenplays and ephemera.

“With the establishment of the Gabriel García Márquez archive, Gabo has entered history,” said Stephen Enniss, director of the Ransom Center. “Like a character in one of his own novels, he has entered a place outside of time. Somewhere among these papers Florentino Ariza still waits outside the house of his first love; somewhere a colonel waits patiently for the weekly post. An archive is a timeless thing, and for years to come the materials that have been collected here will give up, to those who are patient, insights into the art of García Márquez.”

The Ransom Center has started supplementing the archive by acquiring materials that illuminate both the personal and professional activities of the author. A recent acquisition includes 48 letters written by García Márquez to Colombian writer Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza between 1961 and 1971. The letters reveal García Márquez’s thoughts about his work and his life, including difficulties and successes with writing, the center said.

Other additions include a carbon typescript of García Márquez’s “El colonel no tiene quien le escribe” (“No One Writes to the Colonel”), handwritten notes on personalized notecards, typed letters and a copy of “El general en su laberinto” (“The General in His Labyrinth”) with more than a dozen emendations in the author’s hand.

The archive is supported by the university’s LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, a partnership between the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. LLILAS is regarded as one of the strongest Latin American studies programs in the country, and the Benson Collection is recognized as one of the world’s premier libraries focusing on Latin American studies, the university said.

LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and the Ransom Center will commemorate the opening of the archive with the symposium “Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy” Oct. 28–30.

Scholars, journalists, filmmakers and former colleagues of García Márquez’s will speak about his global influence in the fields of journalism, filmmaking and literature. Registration is full, but the symposium will be webcast live in English and Spanish via www.hrc.utexas.edu.

Author Salman Rushdie will deliver the opening keynote address Oct. 28, while journalist and author Elena Poniatowska will provide the closing keynote Oct. 30.

A selection of materials from the García Márquez archive is on display in the Ransom Center’s lobby through Nov. 1.

In addition to García Márquez, other Nobel laureates represented in the Ransom Center’s collections are Samuel Beckett, J. M. Coetzee, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Doris Lessing, George Bernard Shaw, Isaac Bashevis Singer, John Steinbeck and W. B. Yeats.

It’s a wrap: the Texas Book Festival

The Tart family including Nathan (dad) carrying Parker, 2 and mom Kate walking with Kennedy, 5, attended the festival.   The Texas Book Festival took place in and around the Texas Capitol on Saturday and Sunday, October 17-18th, 2015. The festival includes interviews, book readings, book signings by authors, book sales, entertainment, exhibitors, and live music.  LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Tart family including Nathan (dad) carrying Parker, 2 and mom Kate walking with Kennedy, 5, attended the festival. The Texas Book Festival took place in and around the Texas Capitol on Saturday and Sunday, October 17-18th, 2015. The festival includes interviews, book readings, book signings by authors, book sales, entertainment, exhibitors, and live music. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Texas Book Festival always has a wide variety of free events, from cooking to music to children’s activities to serious conversations about current affairs in the C-SPAN 2 Tent. But this year, it was especially gratifying to see hundreds and hundreds of kids and their parents putting down their cell phones and actually taking time to look at books.

Part of this probably has to do with the excellent lineup of children’s authors who attended this year’s events. Top among them were Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, and Taye Diggs, the actor and author of “Mixed Me.”

Other top kids’ authors were Avi, Monica Brown, Xavier Garza, Katheryn Russell-Brown, Bob Shea, Meg Medina, Kevin Henkes, Joe Cepeda, Edward Carey, Laurie Ann Thompson, Sean Qualls, Salina Yoon, John Rocco, Todd Tarpley, Tad Carpenter, Jonah Winter, Patricia Vermillion, Jared Chapman and Joel Nakamura. But there were many more top young-adult and children’s authors at various venues around the state Capitol.

Part of this year’s success was certainly related to programming, but the weather cooperated as well.

On the adult side, one of the biggest events was the appearance of Margaret Atwood, whose latest is the dystopian “The Heart Goes Last.” She ended up signing copies of her book for about two hours, as the line stretched around the signing tent.

Another big seller was Sandra Cisneros’ memoir, “A House of My Own.” Her event at the Central Presbyterian Church was packed.

To see lots of American-Statesman photos of the event, visit austin360.com/books.

ISIS and the Mideast mess


Michael Weiss, the co-author with Hassan Hassan of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” had some sobering thoughts on Sunday about the current state of affairs in the Mideast, particularly in Syria.

And he thinks the United States doesn’t have a clear strategy for what it wants to accomplish, in part because so many of the people on all sides of the equation are not exactly someone you want to support.

It’s sort of a mess just to figure out who’s fighting whom. Weiss says that Russia is firmly on the side of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and that it’s targeting rebels who oppose Assad – the same people who are fleeing the country, in part because they’ve been persecuted by Assad’s regime. Russia, however, is not targeting ISIS, Weiss said. “Russia’s goal is to destroy any credible alternative to Assad,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United States backs the rebels fighting Assad and prefers to defeat ISIS, Weiss said. But the United States doesn’t really know “what happens if we defeat ISIS. We don’t understand that,” he said.

He’s not arguing that the U.S. shouldn’t defeat ISIS, of course. But he notes that ISIS has lots of members from the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and that they felt humiliated when Hussein’s ouster by the U.S. –led coalition.

He also pointed out that defeat of Hussein “basically turned over Iraq to Iran,” where Shia (or Shiite) Muslims are in control. The struggle between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims is at the heart of the Syrian conflict as well. And how their rivalry is settled will probably shape the future of the Mideast.

Weiss said he knew that some people in the United States are tired of what they call endless war and advocate withdrawing from the conflicts. But Weiss said he didn’t think that was a good idea.

“You may not be interested in the Middle East, but the Middle East is interested in you,” he said.

And Weiss thinks ISIS must be defeated. He said he sees them as similar to the Nazis in Germany and the Stalinists in Russia. “That’s the lens through which you have to view them.”

Book fest authors talk about “Selfish” choices 

The panelists for “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed” Sunday at the Texas Book Festival joked that the title could refer to writers in general. In fact, it’s the title of a collection of personal essays by 16 writers who have chosen not to have children.

The 13 women and three men who contributed to the anthology offer a variety of perspectives about their decisions and about the pressure they feel from themselves and others.

“It’s more taboo to say I thought about it a lot, and it’s not for me,” editor Meghan Daum said, than to make a joke that you’re forgoing parenting so you can buy a Porsche

image1Many of the women who contributed, Daum said, felt the need to stress that they don’t hate children. Writer Geoff Dyer said that’s a pressure he didn’t feel; in his essay, he could “articulate a really ludicrous extreme.”

Women who choose not to have children are often viewed as too independent, Daum said, while the men are viewed as too immature.

The panel, which also included writer Courtney Hodell, talked about how ideas of parenting have to do not only with the society we live in but also the times. Daum said parenting became a verb, became “professionalized” at the same time that women were joining the workforce in large numbers.

“You can have it all became, for many women, you must do it all,” Dyer said

And with growing acceptance of gay marriage and families, Daum said, “Now we have a culture where nobody is off the hook.”

Hodell writes in the book about her brother, who is gay and now has a family. When they were growing up, no one assumed that would be possible. “We were sort of like this little team of two” who would never have kids, she said. “Now I love my niece; she’s the joy of my life. But I love her as an aunt.”

The book is not about trying to convince people not to have children, Daum said. It’s about showing that a full life can be lived in many different ways.

Daum said she hopes things are changing and that younger people “don’t feel the need to apologize” for their choices.

Dyer talked about people using phrases like “my children’s future” when trying to further political causes, as if that would be the only way they could have meaning.

“I’m as ecologically or civically minded as anyone,” he said. “It’s this horrible annexation of civil citizenship that I find increasingly irksome.”

Matters of race at the Texas Book Festival

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Leonard Pitts Jr. jumps back and forth from writing newspaper columns and writing fiction, and he says there’s a big difference. A column has length requirements, and you have to stick to the facts, he says. But in writing fiction, you’re trying to “figure out who you are” and get to “the truth.” He says that’s what he was trying to do in “Grant Park,” which jumps back and forth between 1968, the year of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and 2008, the year of Barack Obama’s election as president.
Despite what some saw as incredible progress since the civil rights movement, Pitts says the theme running through “Grant Park” is “the disillusionment of people of came of age in the Sixties and to see things they thought were won for all time steadily eroded.”

“There’s been a chipping away of rights,” he said.

At the same time, in the C-SPAN2 Tent, author Ari Berman was discussing just that. The author of “Give Us the Ballot” contends that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been steadily under assault by people who “have set their sights on undoing the accomplishments of the 1960s civil rights movement.”

Berman contends the assault has come through the Supreme Court, which has tended to hold a conservative view that the act simply provides “access to the ballot,” rather than the broader view that the act should “police a much broader scope of the election system,” including “greater representation for African-Americans and other minority groups.”

At his session, Berman noted that new barriers to the ballot box have been established in various states, including the voter identification law in Texas and cuts in same-day registration and early voting in North Carolina.

Racial matters also played a key role at another panel on Sunday, but it was a more lighthearted affair. Margo Jefferson, author of “Negroland,” talked about her memoir, which examines growing up as a privileged African-American in Chicago. Jefferson was asked by a member of the audience whether her parents, who imposed rigorous codes of conduct on her, were approving of the rise of African-Americans in pop culture, people like Chuck Berry. She said her parents were never fans of rock ‘n’ roll and preferred jazz. Jefferson was then asked what her parents thought of Elvis Presley. She just smiled and said: “They were very disdainful.”