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Michael Ondaatje, photo by Jeff NolteMICHAEL ONDAATJE

Poet and Novelist

Previous Visit:
March 2, 2000

Linda Spalding, Photo by Helen TanseyLINDA SPALDING

Fiction and
Non-fiction Writer

Previous Visit:
March 2, 2000


NYS Writers Institute, April 14, 2010
4:00 p.m. Seminar | Heffner Alumni House,
Rensselaer (RPI), 1301 Peoples Avenue, Troy
8:00 p.m. Discussion | Darrin Communication Center Room 308, Rennselaer (RPI), 110 8th Street, Troy

Michael Ondaatje, Booker Prize-winning author of “The English Patient” (1992), which was adapted as an Oscar-winning film, and Linda Spalding, author of the real-life murder mystery “Who Named the Knife” (2007), will speak on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. in Darrin Communication Center Room 308, Rensselaer (RPI), 110 8th Street, Troy. Earlier that same day at 4:00 p.m. the authors will present an informal seminar in the Heffner Alumni House, Rensselaer (RPI), 1301 Peoples Avenue, Troy.  The events are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by Rensselaer’s 69th McKinney Writing Contest and Reading, and the New York State Writers Institute.

Canadian authors Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spalding will be the featured speakers at the awards ceremony of Rensselaer’s 69th Annual McKinney Writing Contest. Acclaimed for both fiction and poetry, Ondaatje is best-known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, “The English Patient” (1992), a major international bestseller that was later adapted as an Oscar-winning film. Set in an Italian villa at the end of the Second World War, the novel follows the intersecting stories of a number of characters, including a nameless burned man and his Canadian nurse. “Time” magazine called the book, “A rare and spellbinding web of dreams.” The “San Francisco Chronicle” reviewer said, “Sensuous, mysterious, rhapsodic, it transports the reader to another world.” Nominated for twelve Academy Awards, the film ultimately received nine, including “Best Picture,” “Best Actress” and “Best Director.”

DivisaderoBorn 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.

Who Named the KnifeLinda 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.”

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.