Chestertown, MD, September 21, 2005 — Novelist Benjamin Anastas, author of An Underachiever's Diary (Dial Press, 1998) and The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001), will give a public reading of his works on Thursday, October 6 at 4:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge. The event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.
Anastas is currently serving as Interim Director of Washington College's Rose O'Neill Literary House and visiting assistant professor of English. Prior to joining the College's English and creative writing faculty, he was executive director of the Ledig House International Writers' Colony in Ghent, New York. He has also taught creative writing for the New School's Eugene Lang College and Columbia University's graduate writing program.
A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and a former fiction editor of The Iowa Review, Anastas won Story Magazine's College Fiction Competition in 1992 for "A Voice from Somewhere Else" and GQ's coveted Frederick Exley Fiction Prize in 1994 for his short story "Ice Fishing." His most recent short fiction, "Versace Enthroned with Saints Margaret, Jerome, Alex, and the Angel Donatella," was published in The Yale Review and received the publication's Smart Family Foundation Prize in 2005. Anastas has also published essays and reviews in The New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, The New York Observer, Bookforum, and Salon.com.
The New Yorker has called An Underachiever's Diary "bitterly funny" with "veils of irony [that] are light enough to charm even the coolest reader", while Thomas Mallon, editor of GQ, wrote, "From the first paragraph, Benjamin Anastas has got you. His witty, sorrowful hero speaks in a voice that snares the listener as fully as Salinger's Seymour Glass once did." The novel has been optioned for the screen by Warner Brothers. His second novel, The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance, was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times and has been called "the novel of the year" by Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. Both novels have been translated into German, Spanish, and Italian. The Italian version of An Underachiever's Diarywas a bestseller in 2002.
The reading is sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Committee, which works to carry on the legacy of the late Sophie Kerr, a writer from Denton, Md., whose generosity has done so much to enrich Washington College's literary culture. When she died in 1965, Kerr left the bulk of her estate to the College, specifying that one half of the income from her bequest be awarded every year to the senior showing the most "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor" and the other half be used to bring visiting writers to campus, to fund scholarships, and to help defray the costs of student publications.