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Award-winning fiction writer Yiyun Li to read at Hallwalls tonight

Chinese-American fiction writer Yiyun Li will read from her much-praised new novel "Kinder Than Solititude" (Random House) tonight at 7 p.m. at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, 341 Delaware Avenue ( at Tupper Street) as sponsored by Talking Leaves Books and the Brooklyn-based literary magazine A Public Space.  A question-and-answer session and book signing with Ms. Li will follow the reading.  The event is free and open to the public.

Li, a Beijing native who came to the United States in 1996 to study immunology at the University of Iowa, but eventually found her way into the Iowa Writers Workshop, is the author of two story collections and two novels.  Her debut story collection "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers" (Random House, 2005) won both the PEN/Hemingway Award for fiction and the 2005 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and inspired immediate comparisons of her work to that of Chekhov and Alice Munro. Two of the stories from the collection were adapted into 2007 films, one  ("The Princess of Nebraska") directed by Wayne Wang and the title story, for which Li herself wrote the screenplay. 

Her first novel, "The Vagrants" was set in 1979 during the vestigial stages of  the Chinese Cultural Revolution in a provincial industrial town called Muddy River, and was framed by the public denunciation and execution of two women deemed as counterrevolutionary by the shifting ideologies of the Communist Party.  Far from being a purely political novel, though, it was a finely-crafted and shifting, almost minimalist approach toward the effects the betrayals and brutality had upon family, community, and the inner lives of Chinese citizens of that era.

Li's second story collection "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl" (Random House, 2010) won her an even wider readership and comparisons to an even more diverse range of classic international short story masters, from Guy de Maupassant  to the writer she herself has cited as her own greatest influence, the Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer William Trevor.

She was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2010, and named to both Granta's Best Writers Under 35 in 2007 and The New Yorker's 20 under 40 in 2010.  She lives in Oakland and teaches at the University of California, Davis.

Her new novel "Kinder Than Solitude" is set in both the China of 1990's and contemporary China and the United States.  It follows the trajectory of three characters--a man and two women--who were involved in the poisoning and twenty-three year coma of a fourth woman acquaintance in the China of that earlier era, but escaped from detection as perpetrators of the crime, except to one another.  Following the death of the poisoning victim, they re-establish contact to survey, along with the reader, the damage their secret has wrought on their lives and futures.  Like all of Li's writing, the book has been hailed for its subtlety and understatement: her ability to insinuate her   narrative voice into that of her characters without seemingly fixing them to the page.  There is always a certain sense of  mystery and indeterminacy to her characters.  As a reader, you can't know them fully, but that's precisely why you want to.

Ms. Li's reading tonight at Hallwalls is co-sponsored by A Public Space, the Brooklyn-based literary magazine founded and edited by Buffalo native Brigid Hughes, the former Executive Editor of The Paris Review and immediate successor to founder George Plimpton at the magazine. A Public Space was named Best New Literary Magazine by The Village Voice in December 2006 and Ms. Hughes received the prestigious PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing for "her commitment to quality literature and for her larger purpose" in 2011.  Ms. Li is a contributing editor to the magazine.

--R.D. Pohl

Bass legend Billy Sheehan will come home with the Winery Dogs in July

Winery dogs

The Winery Dogs, a hard rock supergroup featuring Talas/Mr. Big/Niacin bassist Billy Sheehan, guitarist Richie Kotzen, and drummer Mike Portnoy, will perform at the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) on Saturday, July 26th. Tickets will go on sale April 28th. They're priced $25 advance, $27 day-of-show, and will be available through, the Tralf Music Hall box office, and 

- Jeff Miers

Buffalo Common Council may revive public art program

Coronation Day

Kenneth Snelson's "Coronation Day," from 1980, is the latest large-scale piece of public art in downtown Buffalo. Picture from Buffalo Arts Commission.

A longstanding and long-ignored provision requiring the city to set aside 1 percent of the money for capital projects over $1 million for public art may be revived on Tuesday by Buffalo's Common Council.

According to News Reporter Jill Terreri, councilman Michael LoCurto has drafted a resolution that calls for the program -- officially incorporated into the city charter in 1999 -- to be fully enforced. The resolution "supports reviving the 1% for Art in Public Places Program, and requests responsible City officers and departments develop and coordinate internal processes and mechanisms that will help ensure this law is enacted to the fullest extent by the beginning of fiscal year 2014-2015."

It also requests that Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak compile a list of current and future capital projects that qualify for the program and submit it to the council by May 27.

"It not only adds to the urban experience and what makes city living interesting, but it’s also supporting local artists, which is always a good thing," LoCurto told me in an interview about the stalled program last year. "We have such a vibrant arts and cultural community that I think it’s important for the city to do what it can to support it."

The council may vote on the resolution as early as Tuesday, or at its next meeting on April 29.

Here is a copy of LoCurto's resolution:

--Colin Dabkowski

Video: Candidates audition for BPO associate conductor post

The BPO held its first round of auditions for associate conductor. Accomplished conductors from around the country and Canada came to make an impression.

City of Night puts out a call for site-specific work

City of Night, the grassroots multi-arts festival which will take over Silo City on June 28, is seeking proposals for "performance art, installations, sound art, murals, dance, theater, and light-based works."

Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo, the group behind the popular festival, released a teaser video in hopes of inspiring Western New York creative types to apply. Check out the City of Night website if you're interested in applying. Here's a look:


And a handy walkthrough of the site for artists interested in exactly what they're applying to:

 --Colin Dabkowski

Albright-Knox curator Douglas Dreishpoon to scale back

Albright-Knox Art Gallery Chief Curator Douglas Dreishpoon will scale back his duties in May. Photo by Derek Gee / The Buffalo News

Mark Sommer reports today that Douglas Dreishpoon, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's chief curator, will be stepping into a more limited role at the gallery as of May 1.

Dreishpoon's move, which he said was inspired by his desire to spend more time writing and organizing exhibitions in Buffalo and elsewhere, is the latest in a series of changes to the gallery's top staff. Here's a timeline of the changes since Louis Grachos' departure in 2012:

2012: Former director Louis Grachos departs for the Contemporary Austin, followed shortly thereafter by curator Heather Pesanti

April 2013: Janne Sirén becomes the 11th director of the Albright-Knox

October 2013: Longtime deputy director Karen Spaulding leaves for the Oishei Foundation. Gallery announces hiring of Cathleen Chaffee as new curator

January 2014: Joe Martin Lin-Hill begins his tenure as the gallery's new deputy director

April 2014: Aaron Ott becomes the gallery's first public art curator

The gallery has not announced its plans to fill Dreishpoon's position.

Here's a look some of our coverage of Dreishpoon's exhibitions over the years:

Edwin Dickinson: Dreams and Realities” (2002)

Robert Mangold: Beyond the Line, Paintings and Project, 2000-2008” (2009)

Guillermo Kuitca: Everything, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1980-2008” (2010)

Ken Price: Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Works on Paper, 1962-2010” (2013).

The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery” (2011)

DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002-2012” (2012)

--Colin Dabkowski

Live chat at noon: Miers on Music

Leading Greek novelist Amanda Michalopouou to read at Hallwalls tonight

Leading Greek fiction writer Amanda Michalopouou will visit Buffalo today for a series of appearances at the University at Buffalo culminating in an Exhibit X Fiction and Prose Series reading at 7 p.m. tonight at Hallwalls Cinema, 341 Delaware Avenue (at Tupper Street) in Buffalo.  The event is free and open to the public. 

Michalopouou, who cites Laurence Sterne, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, and Jean Rhys among her literary influences, as well as the Greek writers Margarita Karapanou,  Ilias Papadimitrakopoulos, and the poet Miltos Sachtouris, is the author of six novels, two short story collections, a successful series of children's books, and has won several of Greece's highest literary awards, including the Revmata Award for her story “Life is Colorful Outside” (1994) and the Diavazo Award for her highly-regarded novel "Jantes, Wishbone Memories"(1996).

The American translation (by Karen Emmerich) of her story collection  "I’d Like" (Dalkey Archive Press) won the International Literature Prize from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008. The same book was also nominated for the “Best Translated Book Award” (University of Rochester) that same year.  Her 2013 novel "Why I Killed my Best Friend," also translated by Emmerich ( a comparative literature professor at the University of Oregon), will be published this month by the University of Rochester's Open Letter Books.  It has been described as a narrative about the friendship of two cosmopolitan girls—one from Athens by way of Africa, the other from Paris—and how their love and competitiveness “translates” into a difficult relationship: what the narrator calls ‘odiodsamato.” 

As a Greek writer who has spent significant portions of her adult life in Germany, France, Switzerland and the U.S. , Michalopoulou's fiction explores Situationist theorist Guy Debord’s notion of “psychogeography,” investigating how our operative senses of space, identity, and self, are constantly being reinvented in the technology-warped contemporary moment. "Like an actress, foreign countries give me the freedom to invent other identities – and yet I cannot escape my Greek identity," Michalopouou has commented on her own work, "This combination is an ideal breeding ground for the imagination." But she cautions, "Characters are the vehicles of ideas, but they have to work as characters. If not, you’re writing theory, not literature."

When the writer George Fragopoulos interviewed Michalopoulou in 2008, he asked her about the tendency of critics to identify her work as "non-linear" writing and  "metafiction."  She responded: "I always felt that my life, and everyone’s lives nowadays, is not linear, and that whenever we do something this something is broken up by another activity or event; there isn’t such a thing as a linear life anymore, and fiction always imitates life, and it is interesting to do the same in fiction, for me anyway. And the way I narrate stories is in a very Greek way, a very southern-Mediterranean pattern."

--R.D. Pohl

Thursday Theater Roundup: Strong work at Ujima, BUA, Subversive and Torn Space


Jimmy Janowski stars a Buffalo United Artists production of "Blanche DuBois Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire."

"Blanche DuBois Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire," through April 27 in a Buffalo United Artists produciton in the Main Street Cabaret. ★★★

"A View from the Bridge," through May 3 in a Subversive Theatre production in the Manny Fried Playhouse. ★★★½

"The Trojan Women," through April 19 in a co-proudction of Ujima Theatre and Buffalo Public Theatre in TheatreLoft. ★★★

"Mud," through April 13 in Torn Space Theatre's Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle and Library. ★★★

Dirty Dozen Brass Band & Dive House Union to play the Tralf in June

Revered New Orleans trad-jazz, Be-Bop and funk ensemble the Dirty Dozen Brass Band will play the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24th. The band is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its debut album, "Twenty Dozen". Buffalo's own soul-blues powerhouse Dive House Union will open the show. 

Tickets, priced $21 advance and $24 day-of-show, are on sale now at the Tralf Music Hall box office, through, and via 716-852-2860. 

- Jeff Miers 

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