Many people are aware of USCâ€™s Fall Festival of Authors but USC also hosts another unique opportunity for Columbia to meet and discuss the craft of writing with distinguished authors: Caught in the Creative Act. Directed and taught by Janette Turner Hospital, Carolina Distinguished Professor of English and Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, these evening courses are free and open to the public. These classes provide a chance for people to read a book and discuss it in a lecture on Mondays; on following Wednesdays, the class meets with the author of the book.
The first author is South Carolina native, Ron Rash. Heâ€™s written four novels, three collections of short stories, and three poetry collections, all of which have received much critical acclaim. Rash is the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University. The class will be covering his latest novel Serena, which is set in the timberland wilderness of Depression-era North Carolina. The novel was a 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist and has received enthusiastic reviews nationwide, including in The New York Times and The New Yorker. A lecture will be held on Oct. 19 and on Oct. 21 the class will get to met Rash and talk to him personally about the novel and about writing in general.
Next in line are Ceridwen Dovey and her novel Blood Kin.
Born in South Africa and the daughter of academics, Dovey has quite a pedigree for one so young. She attended Harvard with a focus on Social Anthropology and Visual & Environmental Studies and created a documentary about South African wine farm empowerment projects for her Honors thesis. Blood Kin was written as her thesis for her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Cape Town. The novel was short-listed for the 2007 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for British/Commonwealth authors under the age of 35 and for the 2008 Commonwealth Writersâ€™ Prize for Best First Book in Africa. The novel tells the story of a fictional coup from the perspective of the ousted leaderâ€™s barber, portraitist, and chef. The lecture will be held on Oct. 26, and Dovey will meet with the class on Oct. 28.
TIME magazineâ€™s book critic, Lev Grossman, will be the focus of the next session. His book, The Magicians, is billed as a Harry Potter for intellectuals (though some have quipped itâ€™s Potter meets Less than Zero). It has received good reviews from a wide variety of sources. Termed â€œthe best urban fantasy in years â€ by The Onion AV Club, The Washington Post said it was â€œExuberant and inventive ... Fresh and compelling.â€The New Yorker dubbed it a â€œgripping novelâ€ with â€œa darkly cunning story.â€ Lecture is on Nov. 2 and Nov. 4, Grossman will speak.
Tom Perrotta and his novel Little Children are next for Caught in the Creative Act. Perrotta is a Yale graduate who studied writing under both Thomas Berger and Tobias Wolff. His novel Election was made into a movie in 1998 with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick.Little Children was turned into Golden Globe-nominated movie in 2004; the movie starred Jennifer Connelly and Kate Winslet Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay with director Todd Field, and they received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Lecture on Perrottaâ€™s novel will held on Nov. 9, and Perrotta will visit the class on Nov. 11.
The final book of the 2009 session is The Sisters Antipodes by Jane Alison. Alison was born in Australia but attended public school in Washington DC. She studied the classics at Princeton and Brown, has worked for National Endowment for the Humanities, and studied writing fiction at Columbia University. The Sister Antipodes is an intimate memoir about two sets of sisters and the drastic consequences of a wife swap in the 1960s. Nov. 16 is the lecture, and Alison will meet the class
on Nov. 18.
Caught in the Creative Act will be held Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:45 to 7:00 p.m. in the Gambrell Auditorium on the USC Columbia campus. On nights of the authorsâ€™ visits, priority will be given to people registered with the course, and proof of registration will be required after 5:45 p.m. So if you want to meet with the author without registering for all the classes, you must be in the auditorium before5:45 p.m. There will be a book signing on these days, and books will be available for purchase.
To register, you can mail, fax, or e-mail your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address to Caught in the Creative Act, Dept. of English, USC, Columbia, SC 29208, 777-9064 (Attn: CICA/ English Dept.), or firstname.lastname@example.org You can read more about the program and the authors by visiting the website at: www.cas.sc.edu/cica/.