SOURCE: Purchase College-SUNY

September 04, 2013 10:25 ET

Top Book Critic James Wood; Famed American War Novelist Tim O'Brien to Be Featured at Purchase College, SUNY Lectures This Fall

PURCHASE, NY--(Marketwired - Sep 4, 2013) - Storytelling these days comes in many different forms, and the fact the fiction form still matters as much as ever will come into sharp focus this fall at Purchase College with lecture appearances by two influential conveyors of the written word -- renown book critic James Wood and famed American war novelist Tim O'Brien.

Wood will speak on Thursday, September 19, as part of the Burt Sachs Memorial Lecture series, while O'Brien will give the Royal and Shirley Durst Distinguished Lecture on Wednesday, October 9. The lectures, both to be followed by a book signing and reception, are free and open to the public.

"These lectures provide a great opportunity for Purchase College students, staff, and the community to interact with some of today's greatest minds; in this case, with two of today's greatest writers," says Ross Daly, chair of the School of Humanities and a journalism professor at Purchase College.

James Wood will deliver "Why: Fiction and the Biggest Question" at the College's Neuberger Museum of Art Study at 4:30 on September 19.

Cited by many as "the most important book critic of our time," Wood is a staff writer and book critic for the New Yorker and a Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University. Prior to joining the New Yorker, he was the chief literary critic at the Guardian in London from 1992 to 1995 and a senior editor at the New Republic from 1995 to 2007. He is the author of four books of criticism -- The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature; Belief and The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel; How Fiction Works and, most recently, The Fun Stuff. He's also written a novel, The Book Against God.

Tim O'Brien will present "How To Tell A True War Story," October 9, beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the college's Performing Arts Center Recital Hall.

Recently named the recipient of the 2013 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing (the first time ever given to a fiction writer), O'Brien is well known for writing about the Vietnam War and the impact that war had on the American soldiers who fought there.

His best known work of fiction is the critically acclaimed The Things They Carried, a collection of semi-autobiographical, inter-related short stories inspired by O'Brien's own wartime experience in Vietnam, where he served from 1968 to 1970.

"We are delighted to have James Wood and Tim O'Brien talk about their work," says Professor Daly. "The distinguished writers we've hosted as Durst and Sachs lecturers complement our programs in creative writing, dramatic writing, screenwriting, journalism, and literature, along with our Writers Center and enrich the School of Humanities and the College."

About the Burt Sachs Memorial Lecture: This annual lecture, by a public intellectual whose work exemplifies the mission of the humanities, is supported by the family and friends of the late Burt Sachs, long-time Chair, Steering Committee, Friends of Humanities. The first two Sachs lectures were given by Eric Foner, author of Abraham Lincoln: The Fiery Trial in 2011 and James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare and the Jews in 2012.

About the The Shirley and Royal Durst Distinguished Lecture: This program, supported by an endowment from the late Shirley Durst and her family, brings to Purchase College distinguished writers and visibility in the wider community. Past Durst lecturers have included poet Sharon Olds, playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, graphic novelist and editor Art Spiegelman and author and graphic novelist Alison Bechdel.

About Purchase College - SUNY: Purchase College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) network of 64 universities and colleges, was founded in 1967 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. His aspirations for Purchase were to combine on one campus conservatory training in the visual and performing arts with programs in the liberal arts and sciences. Today, Purchase College-SUNY is a community of students, faculty, and friends where open-minded engagement with the creative process leads to a lifetime of intellectual growth and professional opportunity. For more information about the College, visit

Contact Information

  • Media Contact:
    Lonny Unger
    Purchase College Public Relations/Media Relations
    914-251-6959 (office)
    914-262-6351 (cell)