Lynne Tillman, Rea Visiting Writer in Fiction, Brings New York Views to U.Va.

March 17, 2009 — One reviewer described Lynne Tillman's novel, "American Genius, A Comedy," as "what we'd get if Jane Austen were writing in 21st-century America — a book that expands the possibilities of the national novel and of the female protagonist."

Tillman, associate professor of English and writer-in-residence at the State University of New York at Albany, will be the Rea Visiting Writer in Fiction at the University of Virginia March 23-27. She will talk about writing on March 24 and read from her work March 26. Both events will be held at 8 p.m. in the English department faculty lounge, Bryan Hall 229.

"As writers our desires and our limits enter our stories, dressed up as events and characters," Tillman writes in an early book of essays, "The Broad Picture." "As readers, through our desires and limits, we take up these events and characters, or their lack, and make them ours, or don't. The most bedeviling question for writers, I think, is whether any of us can turn our unconscious and conscious desires and our historically and psychologically determined limits, our necessities, into virtues, and whether our vices can become our books' virtues."

Tillman's other novels include "No Lease on Life" (1998), which was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; "Cast in Doubt" (1992), "Motion Sickness" (1991) and "Haunted Houses" (1987). She also publishes short stories, essays and other non-fiction.

Tillman has written columns called "Madame Realism," which have appeared in the journal Art in America since 1986.

Publishers Weekly calls "American Genius," her fifth novel, "an often dazzling, totally disorienting interior riff, with authority on loneliness, denim, Eames chairs, the history of silk, the vicissitudes of friendship, Puritanism, the blissfulness of sleep and the pleasures of 100 percent cotton socks. ... This loopy trip through a meandering, fretful mind proves worthwhile."

Tillman is also the author of "This Is Not It" (2002), a series of short stories written in collaboration with visual artists. "A kind of career retrospective for Tillman, this collection of formally innovative stories from the last 20 years follows a cast of artists and grunts from a vanishing New York City bohemia," says Publishers Weekly.

"Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co." (1999), a nonfiction account of a beloved literary landmark on Manhattan's Upper East Side, features a preface by Woody Allen. Two essay collections include "The Broad Picture" (1997) and "Absence Makes the Heart" (1990). She is also the author of the pictorial history, "The Velvet Years: Warhol's Factory 1965-67" (1994), with photographs by Stephen Shore.

The Rea Visiting Writers program of the U.Va. Creative Writing Program in the English department is sponsored by the Dungannon Foundation and Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, in memory of her husband, the late Michael Rea. Rea visiting writers spend a week in residence at U.Va., working closely with M.F.A. students.

— By Anne Bromley