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College of Arts and Sciences

Dean's Blog

The Open Book

March 27, 2014

By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick

What do Colum McCann, Ian McEwen, John Banville, and Martin Amis have in common?  They have all visited Columbia to speak to the community about their work in the popular series, The Open Book.

For the third spring, Professor Elise Blackwell, director of our MFA Writing program and well-known novelist in her own right, has put together another outstanding five week literary series and community read, featuring well-known authors (Yiyun Li, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl; David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas; Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad; Charles Johnson, Middle Passage, and Martin Amis Time’s Arrow.)

Each week on Monday (March 17–April 16) we have the opportunity to hear Elise (or a guest scholar) explaining and discussing the structure, writing strategy and popular and critical response to a particular book, followed by the author's appearance each Wednesday.  Because of Elise’s talent, charm and dedication, the Columbia community is treated to presentations from a stellar array of well-known writers: National Book Awa d, Pulitzer and Man Booker prize winners. But we also hear from rising stars and will have the opportunity someday to say that they came to Columbia early in their careers and we heard them speak at the Open Book.  Elise takes special care that these writers are known for their ability to present their work to the public.  And as the hundreds of people in the audience each week have usually read the book, making the question and answer sessions most illuminating.

An important aspect of this series for me as dean is the fact that Elise insures that out students have the opportunity to meet and interact with these authors during their visits. To serve our community and our students at the same time, even as we build our reputation for excellence and commitment to the humanities and the arts, is important to me as a leader in a public research university. Every dollar needs to do double or triple duty and under Elise’s careful direction, this series accomplishes all of those  goals.

Wherever I go in the community, someone comes up to me to thank me for funding the Open Book.  The credit goes to Elise and to David Bajo and all the faculty in the Department of English Language and Literature who support this series.

The 2014 Open Book series runs March 17-April 16, with book talks each Monday and author appearances each Wednesday. All talks and author appearances will begin at 6 pm in the Program Room of the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collection Library. (Enter through the Thomas Cooper Library.) The five author appearances will be followed by refreshments, opportunity for discussion, and author book signing.

 I look forward to seeing you.

Read Previous Posts By Dean Fitzpatrick.