Award-winning poets and novelist headline Fall 2014 Reiberg Reading Series

INDIANAPOLIS — The Fall 2014 Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis features poets Marcus Wicker and Marianne Boruch and novelist Randa Jarrar.

The Department of English in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI is the series sponsor. All events, which take place at various locations on the IUPUI campus, are free and open to the public.

MarcusWicker

Marcus Wicker

The series kicks off with poet Marcus Wicker at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 9 in the IUPUI University Library Lilly Auditorium, 755 W. Michigan St. This event is co-sponsored by the O­ffice for Academic Affairs at IUPUI.

D.A. Powell selected Wicker’s poetry collection, “Maybe the Saddest Thing” (Harper Perennial), for the National Poetry Series. Wicker received a 2011 Ruth Lilly Fellowship and his work has appeared in American Poetry Review and many other magazines. Wicker is an assistant professor of English at the University of Southern Indiana.

Wicker served as the final judge for the 2014 IUPUI Poetry Contest. Contest winners and finalists will share their original poems in an awards ceremony preceding the Wicker reading.

MarianneBoruch

Marianne Boruch

Poet Marianne Boruch will read her work at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30 in the Emerson Hall Anatomy Lecture Hall, 545 Barnhill Drive. This event is co-sponsored by the IU School of Medicine, the Medical Humanities and Health Studies Program in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, and the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute.

Boruch is the author of the recently published poetry collection, “Cadaver, Speak,” along with eight other books of poetry. Her poetry has been anthologized in the 1997 and 2009 editions of “The Best American Poetry.” Boruch, a Fulbright visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2012, currently teaches creative writing at Purdue University.

RandaJarrar

Randa Jarrar

Novelist Randa Jarrar will conclude the fall series with a reading at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at the Herron School of Art & Design Basile Auditorium, 735 W. New York St. This reading is part of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Symposium and is co-sponsored by the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute in collaboration with the IUPUI Library. This event is free but registration is required.

Jarrar is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, essayist, and translator. She grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and moved to the United States after the first Gulf War. Her novel, “A Map of Home,” was 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. In 2010 Jarrar was named one of the most gifted writers of Arab origin under the age of 40.

The Rufus & Louise Reiberg Series was founded in 1997 in honor of former IUPUI Department of English chair and Professor Emeritus Rufus Reiberg and his wife, Louise. The series is made possible by the generous support of the Reiberg Family; the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute; the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research; the Office of Academic Affairs; University College; and University Library.

Visitor parking for the readings is available in the North Street Garage, 819 W. North St.; the Vermont Street Garage, 1004 W. Vermont St.; and the Sports Complex Garage, 875 W. New York St.

For additional information, contact Terry Kirts at tkirts@iupui.edu or 317-274-8929 or visit http://liberalarts.iupui.edu/reiberg. Facebook user can “like” the series’ page at The Rufus & Louise Reiberg Reading Series @ IUPUI.

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

unnamed

Stock Photo

INDIANAPOLIS — 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.