Davis continues ‘telling stories’ in new novel with a twist to an old theme

unnamedINDIANAPOLIS — Thomas J. Davis’ third and latest novel brings something new to the age-old tale of a man selling his soul to the devil.

In The Devil Likes to Sing (Cascade Books), Davis, professor of religious studies and associate dean for academic programs in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, tells the story of Timothy McFarland, a failed theology student who begins writing fiction. Feeling he’s a hack, McFarland strikes a deal with Lucifer, who offers to shape him into a success.

“The book is a look at self-identity,” Davis said. “How we think of ourselves, who we are, whether or not we accept ourselves. Within all of us we have these self-doubts, thinking there is a way to change who we are that will make us more acceptable to others.”

Struggling with self-identity and self-doubt often opens protagonists up to searching for change.

“That’s where the notion of temptation comes in—at what price is one willing to make changes . . .” Davis said. “Once you hit the notion of temptation—especially for me, because I’ve spent my scholarly life studying the history of Christianity—the devil becomes an interesting tool by which to explore temptation because the devil as an image has the benefit of representing both an external force as well as something deeper, an internal struggle.”

Bringing something new to the age-old concept of the deal with the devil story was the author’s challenge. How could his devil differ from interpretations such as Milton’s Paradise Lost, the German myth of Faust, contemporary portrayals such as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, and even Saturday Night Live?

Davis’ solution is a devil who can be funny, witty and enjoy sublime Anglican church music as well as American rock and roll.

“The character needed balance—a balance of lightheartedness and darkness, gravitas and humor, familiarity and distance, friendship and contempt,” Davis said. “That was the hardest thing to maintain while writing the devil. He had to appear almost friendly, almost helpful, almost fun while currents of evil still ran beneath him. That had to leak out around the edges, but not too much.”

The Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor wanted to be a storyteller long before his first foray into fiction, but he focused instead on his education and academic career. The professor’s jump into novel writing was eventually triggered by boyhood memories of stories told by his father.

“My father was grieving about the disappearance of a way of life in the north Georgia mountains that he had known as a boy,” Davis says. “He would tell stories about when he was a kid, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to capture my father’s sense of wonder in a novel and write about north Georgia through his perspective.’”

That exercise grew into his first novel, The Christmas Quilt (Rutledge Hill Press), a story about a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother’s final months of life. The book earned a Reader’s Choice award and was a selection in the Doubleday Book Club. “That book came from my need to pay homage to my ancestry,” Davis said.

Storytelling also plays a role in his classroom. “Much of what I teach is the history of Christianity, and it tends to be very narrative driven—I tell a lot of stories in class,” Davis said. “I’ve noticed that students tend to be drawn in with a good story.”

In Davis’ new novel, the devil also takes the storytelling approach, only he twists religious history to suit his needs. Davis warns that the epigraphs that open the book—selections from Milton, Blake, and the New Testament on the nature of the devil—are important for the reader. The book also ends with a warning that readers shouldn’t take the devil’s word on matters of Christian faith and practices at face value.

“He is, after all, somewhat biased,” Davis said.

Randa Jarrar, Award-Winning Novelist, Coming to IUPUI

A Map of HomeAs part of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Symposium, the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute in collaboration with the IUPUI Library and the Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series invites you to join us on the evening of November 17 for a presentation by Randa Jarrar.

Time: 7:00-8:30 pm
Date: November 17, 2014
Location: Basile Auditorium, Eskenazi Hall (Herron School of Art and Design)
Tickets are free, but registration is required.

Randa Jarrar is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, essayist, and translator. In 2010, a collaborative project between the Hay Festival, Beirut UNESCO’s World Book Capital 2009 celebrations, Banipal magazine and the British Council recognized her as a member of the Beirut39 — 39 of the world’s most promising Arab writers under the age of 39.

Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and moved to the US after the first Gulf War.  Her first novel, A Map of Home, has been published in half a dozen languages and won a Hopwood Award, an Arab-American Book Award, and was named one of the best novels of 2008 by the Barnes and Noble Review.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Utne Reader, Salon.com, Guernica, The Rumpus, The Oxford American, Ploughshares, Five Chapters, and others. She has received fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Hedgebrook, Caravansarai, and Eastern Frontier.

About Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here at IUPUI

On March 5, 2007, in the middle of the Iraq war, a car bomb killed dozens and injured over a hundred people.  It also devastated al-Mutanabbi Street, a busy avenue of cafés and bookstores that had served as a meeting place for generations of writers and thinkers.  In response to the attack, San Francisco bookseller Beau Beausoleil rallied a community of international artists and writers to produce “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here,” a collection of letterpress-printed broadsides (poster-like works on paper), artists’ books (unique works of art in book form) and an anthology of writing focused on expressing solidarity with Iraqi booksellers, writers and readers.

“Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” includes 260 artists’ books; a publication titled “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the March 5, 2007, Bombing of Baghdad’s ‘Street of the Booksellers,’” plus 130 broadsides — one for every person killed or injured in the bombing.  Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will serve as one of only three repositories in the world to hold the complete collection.  It will also sponsor three biennial conferences to explore the themes and implications of the collection through papers, panels, posters and presentations with international scholars, artists and writers from a range of disciplines.

 

IUPUI University Library joins with community partners to share perspectives on Muslim culture

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Lilly Auditorium, IUPUI University Library

Faculty, students and community members are invited to “Muslim Journeys, Human Journeys,” an exploration of the people, places, histories, beliefs and cultures of Muslims in the U.S. and beyond. IU School of Liberal Arts professor Edward Curtis will speak about key themes from a series of books highlighted by a current program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The NEH’s “Muslim Journeys” program engages the power of the humanities to promote understanding of and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures and perspectives within the United States and abroad. Through the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, NEH and the American Library Association are providing a collection of 25 books, three documentary films, a one-year subscription to Oxford Islamic Studies Online, and a DVD of short films titled “Islamic Art Spots” to a variety of libraries across the country, including University Library at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Curtis is Millennium Chair of the School of Liberal Arts and professor of religious studies at IUPUI. He is the author or editor of several books, including Muslims in America: A short history, which was named one of the best 100 books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly. A former NEH Fellow at the National Humanities Center, Curtis has been awarded Carnegie, Fulbright and Mellon fellowships. He is also a founding co-editor of the Journal of Africana Religions.

The Ivy Tech Community College library and the Center for Interfaith Cooperation are co-sponsoring this event with the IUPUI University Library. Parking will be provided for community guests in the North Street garage at the corner of Michigan and Blake streets.

Bolivian author and poet María Cristina Botelho presentation

María Cristina Botelho, renowned author of several books of poetry and short stories, will give two presentations on Monday, October 7, 2013. From 12:00 – 1:15 she will be presenting on the culture and politics of her native Bolivia, “Cultura y política de Bolivia,” in CA 211. From 1:30 – 3:00 in CA 508, Ms. Botelho will be speaking on her own literary works, especially her latest book of short stories, and her inspiration as an author and how she acquired a love for reading and writing from her father.

Ms. Botelho is the daughter of famed Raúl Botelho Gosálvez, who wrote eight novels and was the winner of the highest literary award in Bolivia, but who is known also for his diplomatic appointments. Both presentations will be in Spanish.

Sponsored by the Spanish Club and the Program in Spanish in the Department of World Languages and Cultures. For information please contact eardema@iupui.edu.

genesis presents biennial literary editors panel

On Thursday, October 3, 2013, genesis, the art and literary magazine of IUPUI, is proud to present our biennial literary editors panel to be held in room CE 309 at 4:30 PM. Join us to learn about literary editing, publishing, and writing through a panel discussion and Q&A session with these professionals in the field:

Katie Moulton serves as Editor of Indiana Review. Her fiction and nonfiction have recently appeared in Quarterly West, Ninth Letter, Post Road, Devil’s Lake, and others. In her life before the IU MFA, she was a music and culture critic for Village Voice Media and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Chad Redden is the author of Thursday (Plain Wrap Press, 2013). He is the creator and editor of NAP, an online literary press. Chad has worked in editing and layout design for other literary magazines such as genesis, Quarter, and POP SERIAL. He lives in Indianapolis. Links to some of his work can be found at lablablabs.net.

Barbara Shoup is the author of seven novels and the co-author of Novel Ideas: Contemporary Authors Share the Creative Process and Story Matters. Her short fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous small magazines, as well as in The Writer and The New York Times Travel Section. She is the Executive Director of the Indiana Writers Center.

For more information, visit the genesis website.

Alison Bechdel, Graphic Artist and Novelist, to Speak in Indianapolis

The IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute Lecture Series and The Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series present:

Alison Bechdel

February 28, 2013; Dean and Barbara White Auditorium, Indiana State Museum; 7:00 pm

Tickets: free to the public; available here

Sponsored by the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, The Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series, Office for Women, Office of Housing and Residence Life, Office of Student Involvement, IUPUI Women’s Studies Program, IUPUI Department of English, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI

Alison Bechdel is the creator of the long running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.  Judith Levine in Ms. Magazine called Bechdel’s work, “one of the preeminent oeuvres in the comics genre, period.”  In 2008, Dwight Garner of the New York Times reported that the weekly comic strip, published for over 20 years, “has been as important to new generations of lesbians as landmark novels like Rita Mae Brown’s “Rubyfruit Jungle” (1973) and Lisa Alther’s “Kinflicks” (1976) were to an earlier one.”

In 2006, Bechdel published the graphic memoir Fun Home, hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by numerous sources, including The New York Times, amazon.com, The Times of LondonPublishers Weekly, salon.com, New York magazine, and Entertainment WeeklyTime named it the best book of 2006, calling it “a stunning memoir about a girl growing up in a small town with her cryptic, perfectionist dad and slowly realizing that a) she is gay and b) he is too. … Bechdel’s breathtakingly smart commentary duets with eloquent line drawings. Forget genre and sexual orientation: this is a masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other.” Fun Home was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award in the memoir/autobiography category.

Bechdel released her second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?, in May 2012.  Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Everything is Illuminated called the book “a work of the most humane kind of genius, bravely going right to the heart of things: why we are who we are. It’s also incredibly funny. And visually stunning. And page-turningly addictive. And heartbreaking.”

In her work, Bechdel is preoccupied with the overlap of the political and the personal spheres. Dykes to Watch Out For was an explicitly community-based and politically engaged project. But in her deeply intimate memoirs about her father’s life before the gay rights movement and her mother’s life before the women’s movement, she turns a microscopic lens on the internal mechanisms of oppression and liberation.

Bechdel edited Best American Comics 2011. She has drawn comics for Slate, McSweeney’s, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times Book Review, and Granta. Her work is widely anthologized and translated.

In the spring of 2012, Bechdel was a Mellon Residential Fellow for Arts and Practice at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center at the University of Chicago. She is also the recipient of a 2012-13 Guggenheim Fellowship.

The IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute was founded in 2012. Its mission is two-fold. First, it serves as a liaison between IUPUI and the greater Indianapolis community, supporting collaborations and running public programs such as lectures and performances. Secondly, it fosters interdisciplinary faculty research and creative activity in the arts and humanities at IUPUI.

The Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series is presented by the Department of English in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. It was founded in 1997 in honor of former English Department chair Rufus Reiberg and his wife, Louise. The Series annually brings national and regional writers to the IUPUI campus to present their work.