The Lannan Foundation's Readings and Conversations series kicks off this week, and as in years past the organization is bringing some of the biggest names in the literary world to Santa Fe. Here are a few of the highlights.
The series begins with a conversation on Wednesday, Sept. 22, between experimental fiction writer and cultural critic William Gass and Saudi-born author Micheline Aharonian Marcom. Gass' latest work is a collection of essays on literature, politics and religion titled Tests of Time. Marcom's influential fiction has frequently focused on Turkey's historic oppression of Armenians.
On Wednesday, Dec. 1, bestselling Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood will talk with Valerie Martin, whose most recent novel, Salvation, is a highly personal account of the life of St. Francis de Assisi. Short story writer George Saunders, another huge name in fiction, will take to the Lensic stage with Michael Silverblatt, host of public radio's "Bookworm," on Wednesday, April 20.
Lefties, along with those interested in listening to the analyses of left-wing intellectuals, will want to show up at the Lensic on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 2 p.m. That evening Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, will chat with Amy Goodman, host of the provocative left-wing radio news magazine, "Democracy Now!"
Those attracted to the left hand side of the political dial will also want to get tickets for Noam Chomsky's conversation with Tariq Ali on Wednesday, Jan. 26. Chomsky, of course, is a renowned linguist at MIT who's idiosyncratic critiques of American foreign policies have been ticking off right-wingers since the '60s. Ali is a novelist and cultural commentator whose most recent book is Bush in Babylon: The Recolonization of Iraq.
Other notables in the 2004-2005 season include poet and novelist Luis Alberto Urrea (Oct. 13), novelist Gilbert Sorrentino (Nov. 10), novelist Louise Erdrich (Feb. 2), former United States Poet Laureate Louise Glück (Feb. 16) and novelist Rikki Ducornet (March 9).
All these events take place at the Lensic Performing Arts Center (211 W. San Francisco St., (505) 988-1234, www.lensic.com) beginning at 7 p.m. Buy tickets as early as possible, then make sure to arrive at the Lensic as soon as the doors open at 6:30 p.m. These are very popular events, and I've personally made the mistake of either procrastinating to buy tickets until an event is sold out or arriving too late to get into the packed theater.
If you can't learn from my mistakes, these events are also broadcast on KSFR 90.7 FM the Sunday following each reading and conversation from 2 to 3 p.m. Free audio files are also available on Lannan's website, www.lannan.org, 10 days after the events occur.