Talking Volumes 2012: Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Toobin, Abraham Verghese, Erin Morgenstern

  • Article by: CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 28, 2012 - 10:57 AM

Four well-known writers will appear at the Fitzgerald Theater this fall as part of the book-club series.

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Junot Diaz

Talking Volumes, the live-event book club series, continues in 2012 with a Pulitzer Prize winner, a high-profile legal affairs journalist and two best-selling authors.

That would be Junot Diaz, Jeffrey Toobin, Abraham Verghese and Erin Morgenstern.

The series, a community-wide effort bringing together leading contemporary writers and devoted readers, is a partnership of the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio, in collaboration with the Loft Literary Center. Each author is profiled in the Star Tribune and does a live interview at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul with Kerri Miller of MPR. Authors sign books after each event.

The season begins Sept. 18 with Junot Diaz, who won the 2008 Pulitzer in fiction for his debut novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," which also won a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Diaz, who was born in the Dominican Republic, teaches creative writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and contributes to the New Yorker and other publications. His Talking Volumes visit coincides with publication of "This Is How You Lose Her." This second collection of stories by Diaz looks at love in its many forms -- ill-advised, unrequited, obsessive, romantic, maternal.

This is Diaz's first book since 2007's "Oscar Wao," which Star Tribune reviewer Cherie Parker praised as "a grand, sweeping melodrama" and "an engrossing tale of a cursed Dominican family." A starred review in Booklist of the new Diaz stories said that "each taut tale of unrequited and betrayed love and family crises is electric with passionate observations of off-the-charts emotional and social intelligence."

Jeffrey Toobin, who reports on legal affairs and politics for the New Yorker and as a correspondent on CNN, will appear Sept. 26 to discuss his timely new book about President Obama and the Supreme Court. Toobin's national profile has been sky-high recently, as he has reported on the Supreme Court's landmark June decision about the Obama health care plan. His new book is "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court," due out in mid-September.

Toobin, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has also written "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court" and "A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President."

Abraham Verghese is a professor, a physician and a writer whose books have been bestsellers, so it's easy to think of him as an overachiever. But what comes through in his best-selling novel "Cutting for Stone," said one reviewer, is his "compassionate authorial generosity toward his characters."

Verghese will appear on Oct. 10 and will talk about how he manages to keep writing even as he practices medicine and teaches at Stanford University. Verghese, born in Ethiopia to Indian parents, pursued a career in medicine before taking time off to attend the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Before turning to the novel form, Verghese wrote "My Own Country" and "The Tennis Partner," memoirs that touched on his years working with AIDS patients at a Tennessee hospital and described a close physician friend who struggled with addiction. "Cutting for Stone," an epic novel of twin brothers set in Ethiopia and the United States, remained on the New York Times bestseller list for two years, and is now out in paperback.

The final Talking Volumes guest is Erin Morgenstern (Nov. 9), author of "The Night Circus." Like Verghese, Morgenstern saw a debut novel hit the bestseller list. "Circus" found a wide readership drawn to its post-Harry Potter fantasy cast of characters in a nocturnal Circus of Dreams that pops up in various cities (London, Paris, New York) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Published in 2011 and issued this year in paperback, "The Night Circus" has more than 650,000 copies in print. It propelled its thirty-something author, a Massachusetts native who had been working as a temp and doing visual art part-time, into what the Boston Phoenix called "fiction's next pop star."

"The Night Circus," which has been optioned for a movie, appeals to readers of various ages. "Although it's written for adults, you could give this book to a bright 12-year-old and not feel creepy about it," said the Phoenix.

This season introduces Twin Cities singer/songwriter Aby Wolf as music director. She'll be lining up the music for the show's interludes, and performing herself. In 2011, the lineup brought Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, Chuck Palahniuk and Stacy Schiff to the Twin Cities.

Claude Peck • 612-673-7977 • Twitter: @claudepeck

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  • Erin Morgenstern

  • Abraham Verghese

  • Jeffrey Toobin

  • TALKING VOLUMES

    What: The 13th season of the community-wide book-club and reading series.

    Where: Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul. All shows begin at 7 p.m.

    Tickets: $80 for season tickets (on sale Tuesday ), $25 for single shows (on sale Friday), with $2 off for members of MPR, the Loft and the Star Tribune's Talking Volumes Club. Call 651-290-1200.

    Web: www.startribune.com/books or http://fitzgerald theater.publicradio.org.

    Twitter: Follow Talking Volumes at #talkingvolumes.

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