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Books by NYSWI Fellows Lasdun and Davis in Atlantic Monthly's Top 25 for 2009

December 14, 2009

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James Lasdun

New York State Writers Institute Fellow James Lasdun. (Photo Dominick Figliomeni)

Two New York State Writers Institute Fellows  James Lasdun and Lydia Davis - have written new books named among the top 25 of 2009 by The Atlantic Monthly.

Lasdun's It's Beginning to Hurt, a collection of short stories, was named No. 4, and Davis's Collected Stories rounds out the list.

Lasdun is a critically acclaimed fiction writer, poet, and screenwriter who teaches for the Writers Institute in the spring semester, offering workshops in fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

He encourages his students to be observant, and to quickly turn their observations and feelings into words. He concentrates most on firing their imaginative abilities.

"It should all be enjoyable of course (why else try to write?) and I've found the atmosphere of the (NYSWI) classes I teach at Albany to be consistently lively and constructive, " he said.

In It's Beginning to Hurt, Lasdun reveals the internal turmoil of educated men of financial means from the New York and London areas. Lasdun was born and raised in England.

In September, The Atlantic reviewed Lasdun's book: "This exquisite collection of short stories illuminates the everyday agonies of the mind, its anxieties, obsessions, doubts, and yearnings."

The Atlantic reviewer wrote, "Relentlessly and with intense psychological insight, Lasdun lets his protagonists fret internally, revealing their essential character but remaining unchanged a result both unsettling and true."

Lasdun has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, and in 1999 won the London Times Literary Supplement Poetry Competition.

Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis teaches for the University at Albany English department as well as the Writers Institute. (Photo by Dominick Figliomeni)

Davis, the author of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, is one of two MacArthur Fellowship "genius" awardees on the UAlbany campus (the other being NYSWI founder and Executive Director William Kennedy).

Davis teaches for the University at Albany English department as well as the Writers Institute, where she has in the recent past conducted Master Classes in Fiction.

"The UAlbany writing students have been very receptive and hard-working, in my experience teaching here, and I greatly enjoy being able to spend so many weeks discussing with them the various elements that go into making an effective piece of imaginative writing," said Davis.

The Collected Stories compiles many of her works to date, including Varieties of Disturbance, a 2007 National Book Award finalist. Davis has an uncanny ability to boil down an entire short story to a few pages, a single page or even a paragraph.

Joyce Carol Oates assessed the Collected Stories as "sharp, deft, ironic, understated, and consistently surprising."

Vince Passaro, writing in O, The Oprah Magazine, called Davis "one of the best writers in America."

Davis is also one of the most respected translators into English of French literary fiction. On leave this semester, she has been working on a major new translation of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, which she just completed. 

Writing Fellows are the core faculty for the NYSWI Writing Fellows Program, designed to bring in emerging writers of the highest order and work with them on highly focused projects.

"The Writing Fellows also teach in our tuition-free Community Workshop Program," said NYSWI Director Donald Faulkner. "Our other Writing Fellows are Edward Schwarzschild, Lynne Tillman, and Rebecca Wolff. We are quite proud of them all."

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