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Author of classic autobiographical novel of middle class black experience, “high cotton”

December 5, 2007



Darryl Pinckney, author of the classic of Black autobiographical fiction, “High Cotton” (1992), which received the “Los Angeles Times” Book Prize, and of several works of literary criticism about African American authors, will speak Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at 8:00 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m. the author will present an informal seminar in Science Library 340 on the uptown campus. The events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, and are free and open to the public.

Darryl Pinckney, prize-winning novelist, playwright, and essayist is best-known for “High Cotton” (1992), his semi-autobiographical satirical novel about growing up Black and bourgeois in America in the 1960s. The book explores a sheltered, educated Black man’s encounters with the world of White society, as well as his participation in the Civil Rights Movement and his complicated love-hate relationship with Black Nationalism.

“High Cotton” received the “Los Angeles Times Book Prize” for fiction. The “New York Review of Books” praised the novel for “delicately, intelligently tracing pieces of an uninvented life. The art is in the selection of the traces and in the angle of vision.” The reviewer, Michael Wood, also said, “Pinckney’s prose—funny, observant, lyrical, self-deprecating—is as good as any now being written in English.”
Pinckney is the author most recently of “Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature” (2002), critical and biographical sketches of three Black authors who lived and worked in Europe: J. A. Rogers, Vincent O. Carter, and Caryl Phillips. “World Literature Today” said the essays, “are eminently readable and flow beautifully.... [Pinckney] is incisive, his touch light but full of conviction.”

He is also the author of a recent essay on the life of Olaudah Equiano, an African ex-slave who campaigned for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in the 18th century. The essay appears in “William Blake and Slavery: Mind-forg’d Manacles” (David Bindman, July 2007), a volume that explores Blake’s keenly felt response to the evils of physical slavery, and his extensive use of slavery as a metaphor for the modern condition of the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition to text by Bindman and Pinckney, the book features over 60 color reproductions of items in the collection of the British Museum, including book illuminations, watercolors and engravings. The book commemorates both the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, and the two-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of Blake’s birth.

Pinckney’s other works include the collection of critical essays, “Sold and Gone: African American Literature and U.S. Society” (2001), and the texts for three theatrical works by leading avant-garde director Robert Wilson, “The Forest” (1988), “Orlando” (1989), and “Time Rocker” (1995). A past recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and the Vursell Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Pinckney frequently participates in the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore University, and is a regular contributor to the “New York Review of Books.”

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at