By Kevin Johnson
Author Robin Hemley will conduct a reading in the UNO Art Gallery at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 22. He is the first of three published writers scheduled to visit the university this semester as part of the Writer’s Workshop/Missouri Valley Reading Series.
The son of short-fiction writer Elaine Gottlieb and poet Cecil Hemley, Robin Hemley is the author of *The Last Studebaker*, *Turning Life into Fiction*, *The Big Ear* and *All You Can Eat.* He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Nelson Algren Award, the George Garrett Award and a Pushcart Prize. Hemley currently teaches in the University of Utah’s MFA program.
Hemley will be reading from his most recent work, *Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art and Madness.* The work is an unconventional memoir that centers on the lives of his mother and his much older half-sister, Nola. Nola, who is described as an intelligent, up-and-coming scholar with a deep interest in spirituality, was diagnosed as schizophrenic at age 22 and died of an accidental Thorazine overdose when she was 25.
Hemley incorporates excerpts from his sister’s journals into his book, with light strikeovers indicating the sections his mother had wanted removed. Letters, Hemley’s own memories and even some sections of fiction also make up the book.
Hemley makes no excuses for his truth-bending. He writes, “Even a liar wants to convince you to shake off your skepticism and I have to say that perhaps I’m lying here … And I say that not to manipulate you, but so that we may question together how truly or falsely words can ever relate an experience and to say that it is not only the truth of an experience that matters, but the telling, the transformation that happens in the telling, the power of words to create new experience, a new truth that the distortions are not what matters, or at least not for the ordinary reasons.”
Hemley’s visit is made possible by a grant from the Ronald F. Kinney Foundation.
The next Missouri Valley visiting writer will be poet Frederick Zydek on at 7:30 p.m April 2.