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From left to right: authors Oakley Hall, Michael Chabon, Vikram Chandra, Daniel Mason, and Melanie Abrams.
 

Fiction readers get their moment in the campus spotlight
Story Hour in the Library series debuts next week

| 16 January 2008

The campus's popular Lunch Poems series will gain a prose companion when Story Hour in the Library debuts next Thursday, Jan. 24, at 5 p.m. in Doe Library's Morrison Library. Oakley Hall, author of more than 20 novels, including Warlock, a finalist for the 1958 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, will be Story Hour's inaugural reader.

Story Hour's spring lineup

Oakley Hall with Michael Chabon
Thursday, Jan. 24, 5 p.m. Morrison Library, Doe Library

Vikram Chandra
Thursday, Feb. 21, 5 p.m. Morrison Library, Doe Library

Daniel Mason
Thursday, March 20, 5 p.m. Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler

Melanie Abrams
Thursday, April 17, 5 p.m. Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler

For information, visit storyhour.berkeley.edu.

Robert Hass, professor of English and recent winner of a National Book Award for Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005, who oversees Lunch Poems, helped get the fiction series off the ground. English department lecturers and novelists Vikram Chandra and Melanie Abrams - who are husband and wife - will be hosting Story Hour.

Chandra, whose latest novel, Sacred Games, was recently published in paperback, sees Story Hour as a way to remind students that excellent writing is not simply a thing of the past. "Even students majoring in English think of writers as dead people. In my classes, I require students to attend a couple of readings each semester so they start thinking about writing produced by living people and addressing living issues."

In its initial semester, the series will focus on Bay Area writers. Both Chandra and Abrams will be reading - her first novel, Playing, is being published in April by Grove/Atlantic. Daniel Mason, author of The Piano Tuner (2002) - currently in production as a film - and last year's A Far Country, will read in March.

In the future, non-local writers will be part of the mix, says Abrams, as will training the spotlight on young writers in addition to more established ones. Future plans include making each semester's final Story Hour a student reading - similar to the traditional Lunch Poems semester finale.

Abrams notes that the great interest in creative writing on campus is not necessarily matched by opportunity. "For my creative-writing class last semester, I had 15 spaces and more than 100 applications. There's a lot of desire among students to be involved in writing fiction and poetry. The best way to become a better writer is to read and write a lot. Story Hour is just another way to get students exposed to good fiction."

Writing and fostering good fiction has been Oakley Hall's focus for longer than half a century. He published his first novel, Murder City, in 1949, and his most recent, Love and War in California, last year. Hall, who directed the writing program at UC Irvine for 20 years, is considered the dean of West Coast writers. He's also the co-founder of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, a highly respected annual writers' conference.

Among the writers Hall has influenced are Thomas Pynchon, Richard Ford, and Michael Chabon, the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (which won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction) and, more recently, Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure. Chabon, who studied with Hall at UC Irvine, will be interviewing his former teacher before the reading.

Chabon was recently named as the first author trustee on the campus's Library Advisory Board, with a term running until Dec. 3, 2010. The details of the position are still evolving.