CANADIAN AUTHORS MICHAEL ONDAATJE AND LINDA SPALDING TO SPEAK AT RENSSELAER (RPI)
Born in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), a descendant of both the local population and European colonial settlers, Ondaatje is a four-time winner of the Governor General’s Award in Literature in his adopted home country of Canada. His most recent book is the multilayered, experimentally structured novel “Divisadero” (2007). Set in two different periods and places, “Divisadero” follows the fortunes of a trio of characters, Anna, Claire and Coop, raised as siblings on a California farm in the 1970s; it also goes back in time to explore the life of an early 20th century French author, Lucien Segura, with whom Anna has become obsessed. Jhumpa Lahiri called it, “a mosaic of profound dignity, with an elegiac quietude that only the greatest of writers can achieve.”
Ondaatje is married to Linda Spalding, with whom he coedits the literary journal, “Brick.” Hailed by novelist Russell Banks as one of the best literary journals in the world, Brick focuses on literary nonfiction of various genres and subjects — the writing life, travel, film, memoir, interviews with authors, and excerpts from their works.
Linda Spalding, Kansas-born Canadian fiction and nonfiction writer, often explores world cultures and the clash between contemporary life and traditional beliefs. Her most recent book is “Who Named the Knife” (2007), the true story of the murder trial of Maryann Acker, a teenager sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed while on honeymoon in Hawaii. Spalding, who served on the jury, tracks down Maryann eighteen years later in order to reexamine the murder and the question of Maryann’s innocence. In a starred review, “Publishers Weekly” called it, a “delicate yet powerful work.” The reviewer for the “Miami Herald” said, “Spalding is amazing in her ability to seamlessly present a legal paper trail and other research alongside her emotional and honest assessment of herself.”
Spalding’s earlier books include the novels “The Paper Wife” (1996) and “Daughters of Captain Cook” (1989), and the nonfiction book “A Dark Place in the Jungle” (1998), about renowned orangutan expert Birute Galdikas, one of the three female acolytes of anthropologist Louis Leakey known as “Leakey’s Angels” (along with Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey). The reviewer for the “Christian Science Monitor” called the Galdikas book, “An intimate and deeply thoughtful chronicle of a woman’s awakening to the many challenges facing orangutans and the earth as a whole.”