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U.Va. Authors Among the Major Characters in Upcoming Festival of the Book

The Virginia Festival of the Book, to be held March 19-23, will herald spring in Charlottesville and the University of Virginia for the 20th season this year.

More than 200 events – most of which are free – will feature almost 450 writers in venues on Grounds and around town. The authors’ work represents a range of genres and covers a variety of topics, including fiction, poetry, memoir, crime and mystery, publishing, children’s books, history and other academic fields.

Presented by the U.Va.-affiliated Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, many events are co-sponsored by University programs and departments. More than 30 U.Va. professors and about a dozen alumni will read and discuss their work or participate as moderators of sessions.

The festival’s five-day schedule and information about all participants is available here. For more about the festival’s U.Va. flavor, read on.

One of the main events will bring poet and U.Va. English professor Gregory Orr to the Culbreth Theatre stage March 19 at 8 p.m. to read poems from his most recent volume, “The River Inside the River,” and other books. Patricia Smith of New Jersey will also read her poetry. Orr chose her 2012 book, “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah,” as the winner of the Academy of American Poets Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

Jane Alison, a fiction writer who joined Orr and the Creative Writing faculty last fall, will read from her latest book, published last month, “Change Me: Stories of Sexual Transformation from Ovid.” The book comprises translations of the Roman poet’s opus, “Metamorphoses,” and other works. The Classics Department is hosting her reading on March 19 at 4 p.m. in the auditorium of the Harrison/Small Special Collections Library.

Daniel Mendelsohn, a 1982 U.Va. alumnus who majored in classics, will give a talk March 20 at 6 p.m. in the Harrison/Small auditorium on “An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic,” co-sponsored by the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures. Mendelsohn’s new work chronicles a yearlong reading of Homer’s Greek epic, “The Odyssey,” that he undertook with his ailing father.

The New York Review of Books deemed Mendelsohn “arguably the best writer and critic at work today.”

University professors will also discuss other enduring literature or historic periods.

Italian professor Deborah Parker, editor of “The World of Dante website, and her husband, Mark Parker, will discuss their book,Inferno Revealed,” which focuses on adaptations and appropriations of Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” – specifically the “Inferno” section – in elite and popular cultures. Their talk will be held March 22 at 4 p.m. in the U.Va. Bookstore.

English professor and medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger, who recently branched into fiction with his debut novel, “A Burnable Book,” will be one of four writers in the session, “Crime Wave: When History Involves Murder,” on March 22 at 2 p.m. in the Omni Hotel, ballroom C. Set in the 14th century, Holsinger’s thriller features Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower as two of the main characters.

Moving back to nonfiction, history professor Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy will discuss his recent book, “The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of Empire,” announced this week as the winner of the New-York Historical Society’s annual American History Book Prize. O’Shaughnessy, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, will tell stories about the leaders and share the real reasons rebellious colonials achieved their surprising victory in “British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of Empire” on March 20 at 5 p.m. in the Monticello Visitors Center.

U.Va.’s best-known Civil War specialist, Gary Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War, will talk about the war’s battles March 22 at 2 p.m. in the U.Va. Bookstore. Gallagher’s latest book is “Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty.”

U.Va. will welcome another scholar on the Civil War and slavery to the history faculty in the fall, but enthusiasts will be able to hear Alan Taylor speak at the book festival on March 23 at 1:30 p.m. at Ash Lawn-Highland. He will discuss his most recent book, “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.” His previous books include “William Cooper’s Town,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for American History in 1996.

Rex Bowman and Carlos Santos, journalists who have written about Virginia for some 50 years, will tell stories from their recent book, “Rot, Riot and Rebellion: Mr. Jefferson’s Struggle to Save the University That Changed America,” published by the U.Va. Press. Their talk will be held March 21, 10 a.m., in the U.Va. Bookstore.

Several U.Va. faculty and staff members will participate in sessions focusing on current events, issues and trends.

Writers and readers interested in the transformation of publishing in the digital age will have a few opportunities to get the latest news from Jane Friedman, Web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Friedman has spent more than 15 years in the publishing industry as an editor, publisher and professor and teaches digital publishing at U.Va.

A former publisher of Writer’s Digest, she will give advice about digital publishing in four sessions, three of which will be held March 22, the book festival’s “Publishing Day.” She will explain the “Digital Publishing Landscape” at 10 a.m. in the Omni Hotel, ballroom A; at noon in the same location, she will talk about how to build an author’s platform. At 2 p.m., she will join a panel discussion in CitySpace on “Publishing Alchemy: How Romance Authors Quickly Master New Publishing Trends.”

“The Basics of Independent E-Book Publishing” will be her subject on March 23 at 1 p.m. at the independent organization, WriterHouse on Dale Avenue. Registration and a fee – $65 for WriterHouse members, $75 for non-members – are required for that talk. James W. Ceaser, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics and author of “After Hope and Change: The 2012 Elections and American Politics,” will address “The United States in the World” with history Ph.D. Robert Rakove, author of “Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World.”

Bob Gibson, director of the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership, will moderate the discussion on March 19 at 2 p.m. in the U.Va. Bookstore. Understanding and Interpreting Environmental Change” will be the topic three environmental sciences researchers discuss March 21 at 10 a.m. in the Clark Hall Science and Engineering Library. The event features Henry H. Shugart, G. Carlton Ray and Jerry McCormick-Ray.

U.Va. anthropology professor Frederick H. Damon will moderate a panel discussion of diverse authors on “The Environment as Humans Shape and Adapt It,” with Paul Bogard (“The End of Night”); Keya Chatterjee (“Zero Footprint Baby: How to Save the Planet While Raising a Healthy Baby”); Bill Gammage (“The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia”); and William F. Ruddiman (“Earth Transformed”). It will be held March 19 at 6 p.m., also in the Clark Hall Science and Engineering Library.

For the first time, the book festival will be able to offer a bilingual story-time to youngsters, thanks to U.Va. student Chelsea Ortiz of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority. On March 22 at 10:30 a.m. at the Omni Hotel, she will read books such as Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon” – in Spanish, “Buenas Noches Luna.”

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