Conversations with Mona Simpson and Michelle Huneven: Exploring Love in Storytelling

Michelle Huneven croppedThe final Macaulay Author’s Series event ended wonderfully with two interesting books by best friends, Michelle Huneven and Mona Simpson. Huneven’s Off Course and Simpson’s Casebook both deal with infidelity.

 

Huneven started off the event by reading an excerpt from her book, which follows the story of Cressida Hartley, a student who retreats to her family’s mountain cabin to finish her dissertation.Cressida gets bored of writing and seeks distractions— one of them a married man named Quinn Morrow. Off Course is beautifully crafted with its impressive descriptions and colorful characters. Then, Simpson read an excerpt of her book, which follows the story of a couple’s disintegrating marriage through the eyes of their son, Miles. Simpson masterfully crafts Mile’s character, allowing the reader to really get into his mindset and learn about love as he does. Following the reading, the authors sat down for a short Q&A.

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I was really intrigued by both these books. As soon as both of the authors finished reading their excerpts, I couldn’t wait to finish the rest of the books. I look forward to finishing them and I’m glad to have participated in this event.

 

Carina Gomez

The Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, Class of 2017


Michelle Huneven and Mona Simpson: A Student’s Perspective on Love, Growth, and Adulthood

 The final Macaulay Author Series event of 2014 concluded with Mona Simpson and Michelle Huneven. These two friends both wrote about infidelity in their books and read delightful excerpts from Casebook and Off Course.

Simpson’s Casebook follows the story of Miles, who often ends up snooping on his parents in the hopes of learning about adulthood. Told from the point of view of this young boy, the novel offers a unique view of growing up. Huneven explores love and procrastination, as her character struggles to complete her dissertation on time. Being a college student with numerous essays, I certainly can relate!

Overall the event was a great success, full of fabulous books and unique perspectives.

Klaudia Gozdz

The Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, Class of 2017


A Student’s Consideration of Amanda Vaill, the Spanish Civil War and Its Implications for the the World of Journalism

5C7A4839“Amanda Vaill’s Hotel Florida:Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War offers an extraordinary in depth view at the lives of Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Arturo Barea, Ilsa Kulcsar, Robert Capa, and Gerta Pohorylle during the Spanish Civil War. Vaill shed some light on the experiences of these young journalists in Spain and her process at crafting her work at a talk at Macaulay Honors College.

Vaill came to life when she spoke about her book. She talked about how these journalists staged photographs of wounded soldiers and about the relationship between Ernest Hemmingway and Martha Gellhorn. I found myself immersed in the world of the Spanish Civil War when Vaill read excerpts from her book. She wonderfully crafts history with great detail and brings these events to life. She heavily researched her topic—going through diaries, letters, film, and other documents— in order to provide a narrative that allows the reader to visualize the events these young journalists lived through. It was a lovely evening. I’m glad I attended the event and was able to learn something new about the Spanish Civil War.”

Carina Gomez

The Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, Class of 2017


A Student’s Interpretation: Amanda Vaill and Hotel Florida

Hotel_Florida“Amanda Vaill’s new book Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, centers on three couples trying to survive the war.

The amount of research that Vaill put into her book is truly fascinating. She used “raw material of unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, and recovered reels of film”, as is written in her book, which is humorous, clever, and riveting. As she read her excepts, one could imagine themselves on location, risking it all for photojournalism, or being enthralled by meeting Hemingway at a bar.

While the characters encounter numerous hardships (although bomb threats count as more than simply hardships), they continue to exhibit passion for their crafts, as Vaill does for hers.”

 

Klaudia Gozdz

The Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, Class of 2017


A Student’s Perspective: An Evening with Carl Hoffman

Savage_Harvest“Carl Hoffman wrote on Michael Rockefeller and how he died in a remote, primitive village with a history of cannibalism in New Guinea, during a Dutch raid. In order to prove that Dutch records of the raid were correct, he traveled all the way to Asmat to find out what the villagers said about the event. For a short time, he actually lived among the villagers and learned how rich their culture actually was.  He spoke in detail at the Macaulay Honors College about how much he enjoyed his time in the village, and how much camaraderie he felt there. He experienced a different lifestyle in this remote area, despite the violence he knew used to exist there.

We started out the evening with him discussing his experience of the research that went into writing his book. Then an interview with Patricia Cohen from the New York Times followed his lecture. Hoffman then held a Q&A session, with many interesting questions on his book and his travels. To end off the meeting, everyone met in the reading room to enjoy some light snacks and to have Hoffman sign their copies of the book. Overall it was a wonderful evening, surrounding the Savage Harvest.”

 

Raechel Eliasen

Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island, 2015


Savage Harvest, Michael Rockefeller, and the Truth about the Asmat: A Student’s Take

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“As a student at Macaulay, I had the wonderful opportunity not to spend hours waiting at Barnes and Noble to meet an acclaimed author. Instead, I was able to participate in a a book event for Carl Hoffman’s Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest For Primitive Art right at my own school. The book relives the fascinating story of Michael Rockefeller (as the title implies) and required countless hours of study and research by the author. What interested me the most about the story is the Asmat people of New Guinea, who still follow their indigenous traditions. I was happy to have paritcipated at this event and learned about a topic that I never would have known about otherwise. Now if you excuse me, I have a book to finish…”

 

Klaudia Gozdz

Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, 2017


A Stellar Lineup of Writers for Spring 2014

Lara-Vapnyar-THUMBNAILBrilliant minds come together: the @MACAULAY AUTHOR SERIES announces a stellar lineup of exciting writers for its Spring 2014 season.

February 5: Novelist Lara Vapnyar with Ben Greenman
March 18: Investigative reporter Patricial Cohen with travel writer Carl Hoffman
April 8:  Biographer Amanda Vaill with historian Joseph Kanon
May 5: Novelists Mona Simpson and Michelle Huneven with Dan Jones (more…)


Get to know your novelists!

So in case you couldn’t make it to our evening with John Freeman and Edmund White, I and a fellow student have written blog posts about the event!

Even if you aren’t familiar with John Freeman, the literary critic and former editor of Granta, you’ve definitely heard of one of the novelists he’s interviewed.  In his new book, How to Read a Novelist, Freeman highlights some of his interviews and interactions with prominent authors.  Through his writing, you get a glimpse into the personalities of the writers behind your favorite novels.  This doesn’t necessarily change the way you read the book, but it may change how you relate to it, and how you understand it in it’s broader context.  This gives you another level on which to understand your favorite novels–it makes me want to go back and read some over again!

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Tonight: John Freeman and Edmund White @Macaulay!

Hey everyone,

If you haven’t already, be sure to RSVP for tonight’s @Macaulay Author Series event–seats are filling up quickly! Tonight’s book reading and discussion features book critic and literary interviewer John Freeman speaking about his latest book, How to Read a Novelist.  He will be interviewed by cultural critic and novelist Edmund White.

John Freeman is the former editor of Granta and former president of the National Book Critics Circle.  Not only has he held these influential positions, but he has interviewed internationally renowned authors such as Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan, Toni Morrison ,and John Updike.  In his new work, Freeman profiles many of the authors he has interviewed and discusses what readers can learn from them.  Edmund White is known for his gripping and honest autobiographical novels and his often shocking depictions of homosexuality in his work. White is currently a professor at Princeton University.

If you’re interested in either of these authors and their work, RSVP here for what promises to be a compelling discussion!  If you can’t make it, be sure to check back here for blog posts detailing the event afterward.  Hope to see you there!

 


Changing Perceptions of Norman Rockwell

So in case you couldn’t make it to our book launch evening with Deborah Solomon and Daphne Merkin, I and some of my fellow students have written some blog posts about the event!

Many of us are familiar with Norman Rockwell–or at least, the conventional side of Norman Rockwell.  You may have seen his pastoral landscapes, his paintings of small town life, and his iconic Four Freedoms posters, which were inspired by then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech and used to sell war bonds during World War 2.  He seems to be a man who longs for an idealistic, nostalgic, and rural version of America.

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