Novelist Orner to launch fall reading series

Novelist Peter Orner, the visiting Fannie Hurst Professor of Creative Literature in the Writing Program in Arts & Sciences, will read from his fiction at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13. In addition, Orner will lead a talk on the craft of fiction at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20.

Both events — which launch The Writing Program’s Fall Reading Series — are free and open to the public and take place in Hurst Lounge, Room 201 Duncker Hall.

Orner is the author of “The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo” (2006), winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Set in the African nation of Namibia — where Orner lived and worked in the early ’90s, shortly after the nation’s independence — the book follows Larry Kaplanski, a white American who volunteers to teach at a remote all-boys Catholic school. Sharing quarters with his male colleagues, Kaplanski soon falls in love with the principal’s sister-in-law, Mavala Shikongo, a former guerilla fighter now teaching kindergarten.

“(Orner) has written a starvation diary about desire, with as much sexual tension as a bodice-buster,” noted The New York Times Review of Books. praises “Mavala Shikongo” as “the standard by which all writing of this southern African region should be set,” while the Boston Globe adds that “with this staggering debut novel, Orner has joined the first rank of American writers.”

Orner is also the author of the collection “Esther Stories” (2001), a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and winner of the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction as well as the Rome Prize from the Academy of Arts and Letters. His work also has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and “Best American Stories 2001.” He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006.

Born in Chicago, Orner is currently a writer-in-residence at Bard College.

For more information, call 935-7130 or e-mail

Subsequent events take place at 8 p.m. in Hurst Lounge.

• Sept. 27 — Short story writer ZZ Packer, author of “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” reads from her work.

• Oct. 25 — Susan Wheeler, visiting Hurst professor, reads from her work. Wheeler is author of the novel “Record Palace,” as well as four poetry collections: “Bag ‘o’ Diamonds,” “Smokes,”Source Codes” and “Ledger.”

• Oct. 30 — Susan Wheeler gives a talk on the craft of poetry.

• Nov. 8 — Poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, author of “The Maverick Room,” “The Good Junk” and the forthcoming “Breakfast and Blackfist: Notes for Black Poet,” reads from his work.

• Nov. 29 — University alumna Kathleen Finneran, author of “The Tender Land: A Family Love Story,” will read from her work.