New York State Writers Institute

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author
Garry Wills
Garry Wills
November 15, 2006
(Wednesday)


4:15 p.m. Seminar
Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center
UAlbany Uptown Campus

8:00 p.m. Reading
Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue

UAlbany Downtown Campus

"one of our more muscular thinkers and prolific writers on politics, art and religion." - The Nation

Garry Wills, major cultural historian, bestselling author, and public intellectual, is known for his portraits of American presidents at critical junctures in history, and for his searching studies of the history of the Catholic Church.

"one of our foremost public intellectuals, and perhaps the foremost Catholic intellectual regularly appearing these days in the public sphere." - The Chicago Tribune

What Paul Meant by Garry WillsWhat Jeasus Meant by Garry Wills

Wills' latest books are What Paul Meant (November 2006), a fresh examination of the Apostle's mission, and the bestselling What Jesus Meant (March 2006), a new interpretation of the Gospels. Both books pare away at later traditions that have adhered to early Christianity in order to discover the fledgling movement's authentic message and original intent.

"fascinating new book" declaring that "this book's most significant contribution may lie in its reminder that faith is far too important to be considered solely, or even mainly, in political or ecclesiastical terms….Wills convincingly shows that Jesus was a radical whose essential message to love one another totally and unconditionally is fundamentally at odds with the impulses of those living in a fallen world." - Jon Meacham, New York Times

What Paul Meant is a reconstruction of the beliefs and personality of the Apostle on the basis of seven epistles that most scholars agree were authored by Paul himself. In focusing on this material, and not on later traditions or letters of disputed authorship, Wills mounts a strong argument against the charges of anti-Semitism and misogyny that have come to color modern perceptions of the early Christian leader.

"revelatory" and "dazzingly enlightening" - The Booklist

Throughout history, Christians have debated Paul's influence on the church. Though revered, Paul has been a controversial figure. Second century apocryphal writings charge him with being a tool of Satan. In later centuries, Paul was the target of ridicule among writers from Thomas Jefferson to Nietzsche. Unlike the Gospel writers, who carefully shaped their narratives many decades after Jesus' life, Paul wrote in the heat of the moment, managing controversy and sometimes contradicting himself, but at the same time offering the best reflection of those early times.

As Wills argues in this masterful examination, we can best find out what Jesus meant by studying Paul and how his influence shaped the explosion of belief outside Judea because his writings were more vitally expressive of what Jesus said.

Wills is also the author of a new book-length essay, Bush's Fringe Government (October 2006), about the political ascendancy of the Republican right.

"Garry Wills connects the dots between the rubble of our domestic and foreign policies and the actors from the religious fringes that have become central influences in this White House. From stem cell research to end-of-life issues, from the courts to the role of government itself, Wills shows the leadership on a separate track leading away from both the concerns and the will of the people." - The National Catholic Reporter
Lincoln at Gettysburg

Other books of note by Garry Wills include Henry Adams and the Making of America (2005), St Augustine's Conversion (2004), Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power (2003), James Madison (2002), and Why I Am a Catholic (2002). Earlier books include John Wayne's America (1997), Lincoln at Gettysburg (1992), winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment (1982), Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (1978), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Nixon Agonistes (1970).

Wills' numerous honors include the 1998 National Medal for the Humanities. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and appears frequently on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Garry Wills was also a guest of the Writers Institute at the Telling the Truth Symposium in April 1991.

Times Union Article
Times Union Review