Critic's Corner

April 21st, 2007

Among the 2005 Whiting Award winners were Thomas Sayers Ellis '95 MFA for his debut book of poetry, The Maverick Room (Graywolf ), and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum '95 for her first novel, Madeleine is Sleeping , (Harcourt). (The previous year, Bynum's novel was a finalist in the fiction category of the National Book Award competition.) Also in 2005, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn '78 were finalists in the National Book Award's nonfiction category for 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (Times Books). Frances Hwang '94 won a 2005 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award to work on Transparency , her upcoming collection of short stories exploring the lives of Chinese immigrants and their American-born children.

What to do with the emotional fallout of a breakup? If you're as resiliently joyful as singer-songwriter Erin McKeown '00, you fly. Her fourth CD, We Will Become Like Birds , is all about rising through adversity. The opening song, "Aspera," takes as its refrain the Latin phrase per ardua, ad astra ("through hardship to the stars"). And that's where this ebullient CD goes - without ever sounding Pollyanna-ish or clichŽd. While Latin may not be the peppiest of languages, McKeown makes of it a starting point for a collection that's rooted in sadness but refuses to stay down. Ironically, McKeown, who lives in western Massachusetts, recorded the album in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit. After the CD's release, she toured the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, entering winter back on the East Coast.

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Related Issue
January / February 2006