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January 24, 2003

Books and Coffee program to explore literature with history

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue University English department and the Purdue Student Union Board have teamed up to launch the 52nd annual Books and Coffee program, in which free coffee flows while a professor leads a discussion on a selected literary work.

The first discussion will take place at 4:30 p.m. Thursday (1/30) in Stewart Center, rooms 302 and 306. John Kirby, a professor of foreign languages and literatures, will review the literary classic "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. First published in 1954 and controversially voted the greatest book of the 20th century, "Lord of the Rings" has become familiar again through Peter Jackson's cinematic trilogy. Coffee and tea will be served at 4 p.m. prior to the discussion.

The programs are free and open to the public. Future Books and Coffee dates and titles include:

  • Thursday, Feb. 6 "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage." Sharon Solwitz, a creative writing professor, will lead a discussion about the latest collection of short stories from Canadian writer Alice Munro. 

  • Thursday, Feb. 13 "The Emperor of Ocean Park." English professor Ryan Schneider will lead a discussion of a legal thriller that became an acclaimed bestseller. The novel is set in two privileged worlds: the upper-crust African-American society of the Eastern Seaboard, composed of old families who vacation on Martha's Vineyard each summer, and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school. Written by a Yale law professor, "The Emperor of Ocean Park" tells the story of a complex family with a secret link to crime.

  • Thursday, Feb. 20 "Baudolino." History professor Marta VanLandingham will bring her expertise on medieval Europe to bear on the latest work from historical novelist Umberto Eco. Set in the 12th century, "Baudolino" tells the story of an Italian peasant caught up in the political events of the Middle Ages.

  • Thursday Feb. 27 "Angels in America" and "Homebody/Kabul." English professor Wendy Stallard Flory will discuss the dramas of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner. Kushner is most recently the author of "Homebody/Kabul," a 2001 play about Afghanistan's long and tortured relationship with the West.

    The discussion will serve as a prelude to a speech by Kushner on the creative process at 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 31, at Purdue's 2003 Literary Awards Banquet in the Purdue Memorial Union's North Ballroom. Tickets for the banquet and a reception prior to the event can be purchased in Heavilon Hall, Room 324, or by phone at (765) 494-3740. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for the general public.

    A free public event, sponsored by Purdue Libraries, will follow the banquet at 8 p.m. in Loeb Playhouse. Kushner will be interviewed by Flory and will answer questions from the audience.

    Emily Allen, Books and Coffee director and assistant professor of English, says she hopes many people will take an opportunity to meet Kushner. She also encourages readers to warm up with a cup of coffee and an invigorating discussion of what it means to know the past.

    "I suppose I would say that all of these works are fascinated with history, especially with the burden and responsibility of historical knowledge," Allen says.

    CONTACT: Emily Allen, (765) 494-1478, elallen@purdue.edu; Jennifer Kaufman, PSUB director of traditional events, (765) 494-8976, jdkaufma@purdue.edu; Heather Owen, PSUB program adviser, (765) 494-8909, owenh@purdue.edu; Dino Felluga, director of literary awards, (765) 494-3770, felluga@purdue.edu.

    Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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