The third installment of the fall reading series sponsored by the American Book Review at the University of Houston-Victoria, features writer/critic/publisher R. M. Berry Thursday, Oct 25. The event takes place in Alcorn Auditorium from noon to 1:30 p.m. and is free to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
Berry, chair of the English Department at Florida State University, is the author of the novels "Frank" (2006) and "Leonardo's Horse," a New York Times "notable book" of 1998.
His first collection of short fictions, "Plane Geometry and Other Affairs of the Heart," was chosen by Robert Coover as winner of the 1985 Fiction Collective prize. His second story collection was "Dictionary of Modern Anguish" (2000). Berry's essays on philosophy and experimental fiction have appeared in UHV’s journal of philosophy and comparative literature symploke and in such books as "Ordinary Language Criticism: Literary Thinking After Cavell After Wittgenstein" (2003) and the forthcoming "Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature," edited by Richard Eldridge.
Most recently, Berry collaborated with ABR Editor and Publisher Jeffrey R. Di Leo and ABR Assistant Editor David Felts on the essay collection, "Fiction's Present: Situating Contemporary Narrative Innovation," forthcoming in December from SUNY Press.
Berry is a native of Atlanta. He attended Young Harris College, Furman University, and Wesley Theological Seminary at American University and received an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Since 1985, he has been on the faculty at Florida State, where he specializes in 20th Century Literature and Critical Theory.
Berry’s talk will address a range of topics concerning the state of innovative fiction, including his literary motives for re-visioning the classic 19th-century British novel, Mary Shelley’s "Frankenstein."
Critic Joseph Tabbi said of the work, in his 2006 review of “Frank” in the American Book Review, "[T]he novel 'Frank' is an 'unwritten' classic cast into racial, class, imperial, and gendered terms... and recalls events not available to Mary Shelley but always there in potential, at the edges of an already post-Romantic, proto-feminist, multiracial awareness....Unwriting, like retrofitting a brownstone for electricity, DSL, and single-family living, requires demolition as much as reconstruction. And ‘Frank’ is certainly a destroyer."
Berry, since 1999, has also served as publisher of Fiction Collective Two (FC2), the independent publishing concern started by American Book Review founder Ronald Sukenick, and others, in 1973. According to the brief history written by Berry and Jeffrey De Shell for the fc2 website (http://fc2.org), the need to start a cooperative fiction publishing venture was urgent.
In a collective statement Berry and De Shell wrote, "Fiction that redefined the rules, innovative and experimental work, was having the most trouble finding a home in what was clearly (though unacknowledged) a publishing establishment increasingly attuned to the bottom line."
After more than thirty years of operation, the Fiction Collective and its successor FC2 have published nearly two hundred titles by more than one hundred individuals. FC2 presently has offices at three universities (Florida State, Alabama and Illinois State), and its membership spreads throughout the United States and Europe. It publishes six new books annually, three in fall, three in spring, and it reprints up to four books a year. The average press run is 2000 and, per the FC2 charter, the works never go out of print.
"Berry is a writer's writer," ABR Publisher and UHV Dean of Arts & Sciences, Jeffrey Di Leo said. "His fiction always implores one into a philosophical dialogue not only with the modernist and postmodernist narrative traditions, but also, with the masters of 20th century language philosophy such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Stanley Cavell, and Samuel Beckett. I’m sure his presentation at UHV will offer us much to think about."
"Dr. Berry epitomizes the selfless writer/scholar who works tirelessly to cultivate and expand appreciation of the liberal arts," said UHV President Tim Hudson. "Publishers such as fc2 and journals like our own American Book Review remind us of the importance of bringing attention not only to popular books, but to 'important' books—works of literature that are going to be part of university curriculums one-hundred years from now."
The American Book Review is an internationally-distributed literary journal with a circulation of about 8,000 copies. This month, the transfer of ABR will be complete with the journal's layout, printing and distribution moving from Illinois State University to Victoria.
Past speakers for the ABR Reading Series have included Graciela Limón, Justin Cronin, Angela Ball, Raymond Federman, Andrei Codrescu, Chitra Divakaruni and Dagoberto Gilb.
For more information on R.M. Berry, or the ABR Reading Series, contact ABR Managing Editor Charles Alcorn at (361) 570-4100.