David Blair and Steve Almond
Essays on Poetry and Place
William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life
This event includes a book signing
July 22, 2019
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning poet DAVID BLAIR and bestselling author STEVE ALMOND for a discussion of their new works of literary criticism, Walk Around: Essays on Poetry and Place and William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life. This event is co-sponsored by Mass Humanities.
About Walk Around
Reading David Blair’s book of essays is like taking a walk with a smart, well-read friend—and before you know it, you’ve learned an enormous amount about a wide range of topics: Ella Fitzgerald, Robert Lowell, and Tomaž Šalamun, with references to Welcome Back, Kotter, and Cosmo Topper along the way. In prose that is frank and intimate, Blair brings his world to life, in a way that is at once both literary and street-wise—the description of the worst poetry reading of all time is worth the price of admission alone—always keeping the reader in the presence of flesh and blood.
About William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life
Stoner is a 1965 novel by the American writer John Williams. It tells the story of William Stoner, who attends the state university to study agronomy, but instead falls in love with English literature and becomes an academic. The novel narrates the many disappointments and struggles in Stoner's academic and personal life, including his estrangement from his wife and daughter, set against the backdrop of the first half of the twentieth century.
In his entry in the Bookmarked series, author Steve Almond writes about why Stoner has endured, and the manner in which it speaks to the impoverishment of the inner life in America. Almond also uses the book as a launching pad for an investigation of America’s soul: in the process, writing about his own struggles as a student of writing, as a father and husband, and as a man grappling with his own mortality.
Praise for Walk Around
"In the first essay in this wonderful book, David Blair says that as you walk, 'you become intensely aware in two directions'—to the outer world and into your own headspace. Also that while walking, you do what writers need to do: 'you get out of your own way.' Blair’s essays are just like that. They’re so fresh because they are, as he writes of Seamus Heaney, 'the opposite of self-impressed.' His own intense awareness extends in multiple directions. And as his thoughts stroll in and out of focus in these relaxed, funny, improvised pieces, we’re with him every step, 'blended,' as he writes, 'in kinship.'" —Sebastian Smee
"For poet David Blair, in this engaging collection of essays, his definition of a 'walk around' is affably loose-limbed. He takes us on observant rambles around a city, or through a poem, or down the Mean Streets of a movie on TV ('The movies,' he writes, 'are pretty good poetry teachers'). He tips his hat with equalizing sincerity to Robert Lowell and Ella Fitzgerald, Seamus Heaney and screwball comedy. His stroll through an African American literature syllabus is one of the best pieces I know about what makes a good teacher. Blair is a great guide—undogmatic, wide-eyed—and a terrific teacher, the kind who’ll try anything to get us to open our eyes wider, and then open them wider still." —Lloyd Schwartz
"David Blair has a wild, restless imagination and he uses language like a saw, a hammer, a velvet whip. His music, his diction, his refusal to use (ever!) cliches, his syntax all drive hearts forward." —Thomas Lux
Praise for William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life
“The books we love best begin the life-long conversations we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. Gazing into William Stoner with candor, humility, tenderness, his customary wit and an ocean of compassion, Steve Almond finds there, himself, flawed, flayed, but weirdly whole in spite of everything. Stoner is a theorem that proves art saves lives.” ―Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek, Finding Hope In The High Country
“This is a clear-eyed and frankly goddamn beautiful story of one reader’s relationship with one book. Almond clings to Stoner like the merciful lifeboat it is. William Stoner and the Battle for the Inner Life is criticism as literature.” ―Peter Orner, author of Am I Alone Here?
“A brilliant, sorrowful, hopeful, hilarious, painfully honest love letter, not just to Stoner but to writing, marriage, teaching, reading, parenting, even death. Which makes this book, like the one it praises, a love letter to life.” ―Matthew Zapruder, author of Come On All You Ghosts and Why Poetry
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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