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Leithauser and Zarin to Read from New Works March 13

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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

March 8, 2002

Leithauser and Zarin to Read from New Works March 13

Photo: Michael Malyszko

Brad Leithauser

His jaw hangs slack: impossible to believe:/Yet here it is what couldn't be upon his wrist::/The world's most beautiful butterfly: a thing/Whose colors go well beyond astonishing..." Brad Leithauser's new novel-in-verse, Darlington's Fall (Knopf 2002) tells the story of an imaginary turn-of-the-century naturalist whose specialty is butterflies. Winged insects also dart through The Watercourse (Knopf 2002), Cynthia Zarin's new book of poems, where "...flocks of blue/moths flit/to the mallow,/their wings a shock/of the lost/word..."; and "...your lips are moths in my snarled hair." Leithauser will read from Darlington's Fall, and Zarin will read from The Watercourse, Wednesday, March 13, at 4 pm, in the Stimson Room of the MHC library. The event is part of an English department series. Next to appear will be novelist Gloria Naylor on April 9.

"It's long, I know, for a poem (5,708 lines) but short for a novel...," says the author's note that precedes Darlington's Fall. Leithauser, at age forty-nine—author of five novels and four books of poetry—has combined his metiers as poet and novelist, and his interests in science, literature, and faraway places to produce, says John Updike, "an amazing merger of art and science, verse and narrative. [...] Not since Nabokov has the miracle of consciousness been celebrated with such erudite passion, such lofty wit." The story details the life of the lepidopterist Russ Darlington. As a young man, the naturalist embarks alone on his first tropical field trip, but on a stopover in Micronesia, he has a fall that leaves him partially crippled and ends his career as a field biologist.

Besides being his first novel-in-verse, Darlington's Fall represents another first for Leithauser. His brother Mark Leithauser, chief of design at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., collaborated with him on the book, creating the graphite drawings that appear throughout Darlington's Fall. The brothers spent a month in Italy working together on the project. Says Brad Leithauser, "My notion, which [Mark] agreed with, was that he would do one drawing as a chapter head for each of the twelve chapters. [I wanted him to] convey something of a nineteenth-century atmosphere."

Photo: Tom Hurwitz

Cynthia Zarin

In addition to the March 13 reading at MHC, the public is invited to "An Evening with Mark and Brad Leithauser" on April 18 at the Hollis Taggart Gallery in New York City. Along with a book signing and lecture, the drawings made for Darlington's Fall and a few oil paintings by Mark Leithauser will be on view there through May 4. The gallery is located at 48 East 73rd Street. For details on the gallery event, call Molly Eppard at 212-628-4000; reservations are required. In addition to writing novels and books of poems, Brad Leithauser is the author of a collection of essays, Penchants & Places, and editor of The Norton Book of Ghost Stories and No Other Book, the selected essays of Randall Jarrell. A former MacArthur Fellow and Guggenheim Fellow, Leithauser is Emily Dickinson Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at MHC, a position he shares with his wife, Mary Jo Salter.

"Lithe, grave, sensuous, radiant, and full of surprises, every line in The Watercourse," says Judith Thurman, "reminds one why, especially in dark times, we can't live without our poets." The Watercourse looks at the themes that weave through our lives as we age, growing in and out of relationships, raising children, accompanied, always, by the joys and fears that surround that journey. "In this book I tried to address the responsibilities that one has as one grows older," says Zarin, forty-two, who notes that The Watercourse is centered on "how much more a person in the world one is as one matures." Zarin says, too, that her "earlier books were written more quickly; it took me eight years to write [The Watercourse] because my life is much more complex now that I have children."

The Watercourse is Zarin's third book of poems; the others are The Swordfish Tooth and Fire Lyric. She is also the author of three children's books. Zarin has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ingram Merrill Foundation. She is an artist-in-residence at New York's Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

The Odyssey Bookshop will be selling The Watercourse and Darlington's Fall at the March 13 reading.

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