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April 09, 2010
Vol. 51 No. 19

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Fincke to read his new book

Susquehanna Professor Gary Fincke, professor of English, will share his latest work, "The Canals of Mars," at a reading on Monday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Isaacs Auditorium.

Fincke is the Charles B. Degenstein Professor of English and Creative Writing and the director of the Writers' Institute, the university's nationally recognized writing program.

He has also received several awards, including the 2003 Flannery O'Connor Prize for Short Fiction, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry Magazine and the Rose Lefcowitz Prize from Poet Lore.

Fincke said "The Canals of Mars," a work of nonfiction, is a memoir that explores and ponders weakness.

"I grew up in a family where everything from having asthma to being an alcoholic happened because you were weak and couldn't take care of yourself," Fincke said.

"The solution was not to ask anyone for help and keep any problems to yourself," he said.
"This memoir is about coming of age and understanding how absurd that is, yet still being unable to shake those beliefs off," he added.

In the book, Fincke meditates on the disappointments he suffered--in his body, his mind, his work--because he was convinced that he had to be "perfect."

Anything less than perfection was weakness, and as he was taught from an early age, no one wants to be weak.

Tom Bailey, professor of English, said of Fincke: "Gary is one of the most intelligent and insightful writers of creative nonfiction I've ever read. Call it pure genius."

"These essays are way better than merely extraordinary," Bailey said of "The Canals of Mars." "There's nothing 'common' about them, except that he makes the common, everyday moments of our lives shine, illuminating not only our ideas of ourselves but lighting the way for our own experiences with our pasts and our presents, our parents and children-our very lives."

Six of the chapters in the book have been cited in Best American Essays.

The chapter that provides the book's title, won a Pushcart Prize and was included in "The Pushcart Book of Essays: The Best Essays from a Quarter Century of the Pushcart Prize."
Fincke's reading will be free and open to the public. Other books he authored will be
available for purchase and signing following the reading.

The next reading will be given by Jay Varner '03 during the launch of RiverCraft, an annual publication that showcases poetry, short stories and novellas written by university writing majors.

Varner is the former editor of the national magazine Ecotone, and the author of the memoir "Nothing Left to Burn," which will be published by Algonquin later this year.

Varner's reading will take place Monday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Isaacs Auditorium.

For more information about programs sponsored by the Writers' Institute and upcoming events, please visit


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