Award-winning novelist and educator Marlon James will read from and discuss his work Thursday, Oct. 12, at 4:30 p.m. in Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, Klarman Hall.
The reading is free and open to the public as part of the Fall 2017 Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series, presented by the Cornell Department of English Creative Writing Program. Books will be available for purchase from Buffalo Street Books, and a book signing and free catered reception in the English Department Lounge, 258 Goldwin Smith Hall, will follow the reading.
James often speaks on the writing process, issues pertaining to the history of the Caribbean, race and gender in the United States and the United Kingdom, and youth subcultures as expressed in literature and music such as hip-hop and reggae. In addition to acclaim for the exhilarating renderings of history in his fiction, James made a video – “Are you racist? ‘No’ isn’t a good enough answer” – that went viral and received millions of hits in early 2016. The first book in his Dark Star Trilogy, a fantasy series set in African legend, will be published in 2018.
In 2015, the epic novel “A Brief History of Seven Killings” made James the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the U.K.’s most esteemed literary award. In the book, James explores Jamaican history through the perspectives of multiple narrators to confront the untold violent history of Jamaica in the 1970s – including an assassination attempt on reggae musician Bob Marley and the country’s clandestine battles during the Cold War. James is adapting the novel for an HBO television series.
He cites diverse influences on his writing including Greek tragedy, William Faulkner, crime novelist James Ellroy, Shakespeare, Batman and the X-Men, as he crosses and combines the political thriller, the oral biography and the classic whodunit. The book also was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the American Book Award, among other honors.
New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani said of “A Brief History of Seven Killings”: “It’s epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting – a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent.”
His first novel, “John Crow’s Devil,” following a biblical struggle in a remote Jamaican village in the 1950s, was rejected 70 times by publishers and went on to become a New York Times Editor’s Choice and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Commonwealth Writers Prize. His second, “The Book of Night Women,” about an early 19th-century slave women’s revolt on a Jamaican plantation, was a National Book Critics Circle Award and NAACP Image Award finalist.
His nonfiction has appeared in Esquire, Granta, Harper’s, The Caribbean Review of Books and The New York Times Magazine.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970, James graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1991 with a degree in language and literature, and earned a master’s in creative writing in 2006 from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania. He lives in Minneapolis and teaches English and creative writing at Macalester College.
Lynn Lauper is events coordinator for the Department of English.