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SUB hosts literary festival

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Monday, February 13, 2012

Four renowned authors will visit campus this week for the annual Notre Dame Literary Festival (NDLF). 

Sponsored by the Student Union Board (SUB), the 45th annual festival begins today and ends Thursday. The event is organized by a committee of students and co-chaired this year by junior Arnav Dutt and sophomore Aubrey Butts.

Dutt, who worked on the committee last year before becoming co-chair this year, said he was pleased with this year’s lineup of writers. 

“We are very excited because we were able to get all of the people we invited, and that’s a big deal to us because it’s not easy to do,” Dutt said. 

The set includes poet Daniel Borzutzky, novelists Jaimy Gordon and Blake Butler, and Bonnie Jo Campbell, novelist and short story writer. 

Dutt said the NDLF committee selects which writers to invite by reading a variety of literary works and then consulting with professors.

“We took a lot of recommendations from professors in the English department, and read stuff by the authors to try to determine who we’d be able to bring,” he said. 

Dutt said English professor William O’Rourke helped bring author Jaimy Gordon, winner of the 2010 National Book Award for fiction, to campus for the festival.

Gordon won the award for her best-selling novel, “Lord of Misrule”. 

“The professors here are well-connected with other authors, so they’re a big help,” Dutt said.

O’Rourke, who teaches “Lord of Misrule” in his fall graduate fiction workshop, said he had first intended to bring Gordon to campus for a reading sponsored by the Creative Writing Program.  

“I’ve known Jaimy Gordon for over thirty years, and since she won the 2010 National Book Award for fiction, I knew she would be getting a lot of requests for readings,” O’Rourke said. “In the fall, I mentioned to [Dutt] that I had arranged for her to come in the spring and suggested, because of her prominence, that we could share her with the literary festival if they were interested.”

Borzutzky’s Tuesday night poetry reading will take place in the Geddes Hall coffeehouse and the other readings will be held in the Eck Visitors Center. 

Dutt said that he hopes the readings will have appeal for non-English majors as well.

“We expect to get the reading major types in the audience, but we like to think that we’re serving the whole student body, that there’s something in these authors that anyone can get behind,” Dutt said.

Gordon and Campbell will also hold a panel discussion, titled “Writing and Weathering the Literary World in the 21st Century,” in the Notre Dame Room of LaFortune Student Center on Thursday.

Dutt said the panel will emphasize taking questions from students. 

“They’ll talk about what it’s like to be a writer and really focus on connecting with students,” he said.  

Dutt said he expects the Borzutzky and Butler readings to be very accessible, even to students who are not familiar with their work. 

“Gordon and Campbell are more of ‘writers’ writers’ in the sense that you appreciate them more if you’ve read their novels, but Borzutzky and Butler are very accessible for someone who just wants to go on a lark,” Dutt said.