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NEW TIME: Best-selling author Joyce Carol Oates to read at APSU

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Every fall, bookies in Vegas and Atlantic City make calls to English professors and book critics to find out who’s a “sure-thing” in the literary world. They collect the information because, for a small group of gamblers, the announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is more important than the Super Bowl.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Every fall, bookies in Vegas and Atlantic City make calls to English professors and book critics to find out who’s a “sure-thing” in the literary world. They collect the information because, for a small group of gamblers, the announcement of the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is more important than the Super Bowl.

            Last October, the odds makers gave Joyce Carol Oates 18-to-1 odds to win the world’s top literary award. She was the top American author on that list, followed closely by titans such as Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy and Philip Roth. The prize last year ultimately went to Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, but if an American were to break this country’s 18-year slump in receiving the coveted award, Oates appears to be the “sure thing.”           

            “Miss Oates is one of our most audaciously talented writers,” Erica Jong, of The New York Times, wrote about the author. “Her gift is so large, her fluency in different genres – poems, short stories, novels, essays – so great, that at times she seems to challenge the ability of readers to keep up with her.”

           At 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25, Oates will visit Austin Peay State University’s Music/Mass Communication Building’s Concert Hall in Clarksville for a free reading of her work. The best-selling author of more than 40 works, she is the recipient of numerous prestigious literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction and the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement. Her 1996 novel “We Were the Mulvaneys” was previously featured in Oprah’s Book Club.

            The Feb. 25 reading is part of a series of major events hosted by APSU this year in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the University’s Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts.

            “For 25 years, the Center of Excellence has been bringing some of America’s finest writers and poets to our campus to give readings and meet with students,” Barry Kitterman, author and APSU creative writing professor, said. “The list of names reads like an American academy of writers – Gary Snyder, Galway Kinnell, Marge Piercy, Richard Wilbur, Louise Erdrich, Al Young, Nikki Giovanni and many others. This year we wanted to simply out-do ourselves.

          “We were thrilled when Joyce Carol Oates agreed to come. Many of us have been teaching her work for years. On any list of the country’s most influential living writers, Joyce Carol Oates would be there at the top. She’s an amazing writer, and this is a wonderful opportunity for Clarksville and APSU.”

            The APSU Center of Excellence was established in 1985 by the Tennessee General Assembly as part of then Gov. Lamar Alexander’s program to improve higher education in the state.  Oates’ visit will mark the third event celebrating the Center’s anniversary. In September, the two-time Grammy-winning Nashville Bluegrass Band performed a tribute concert to country music legend Roy Acuff. A month later, the multifaceted artist and MacArthur Genius Award recipient Meredith Monk presented her seminal mixed-media work “Education of a Girlchild Revisited.”

            The anniversary celebrations end this March when acclaimed modern dancer and choreographer Molissa Fenley brings her dance company to the concert hall. These events provide art patrons in the middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky areas with the opportunity to see in person the top talents in their respective fields. And for those who attend the Feb. 25 reading by Oates, they might just be meeting the next Nobel Laureate in Literature.

           “There’s nothing she can not do and do brilliantly,” Christopher Burawa, director of the APSU Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, said. “She’s among the foremost innovators of what could be called American Gothic, but really her work continues to defy categorization. Her books continue to astound and inspire readers and writers alike.”

          For more information on Oates’ reading or this year’s 25th anniversary of the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, call Burawa at 221-7876.