Registration for Bristol’s inaugural BookFest opens today

Nationally renowned speakers will be coming to town to facilitate study of preeminent American political novel

Posted 1/24/20

Online registration opens Friday, Jan. 24, for Bristol BookFest, a free two-day public humanities program March 27 and 28 that takes a close look at Robert Penn Warren’s “All the …

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Registration for Bristol’s inaugural BookFest opens today

Nationally renowned speakers will be coming to town to facilitate study of preeminent American political novel

Posted

Online registration opens Friday, Jan. 24, for Bristol BookFest, a free two-day public humanities program March 27 and 28 that takes a close look at Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men,” probably the best novel about American politics ever written.

To register, visit www.bristolbookfest.com.

Speakers include the legendary Texas political consultant George C. Shipley and the country’s two leading Robert Penn Warren scholars: Ernest Suarez of The Catholic University of America and John Burt of Brandeis University. Joining them are film historian Alexandra Keller of Smith College and Bristol-based historian Charles Calhoun.

“We’re excited to offer the community an intellectually challenging event that brings together serious general readers and a really big book,” said Calhoun, who is a BookFest co-founder.

Warren’s 600-page novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947, tells the story of the rise and fall of Willie Stark, a charismatic politician based on the real-life populist demagogue Huey Long of Louisiana, assassinated in 1935. “We’re going to ask George what advice he would have given Stark had he lived to run against FDR,” Mr. Calhoun said.

An optional gala dinner featuring Cajun-Creole cuisine and the opportunity to dine with the speakers takes place on Friday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the DeWolf Tavern and costs $80 per person, including wine, tax, and tip. Dinner reservations can be made online when registering.

The BookFest, which its founders plan to make an annual event, is designed as a late winter addition to the town’s cultural calendar and a boost for cultural tourism.

The program is a collaboration with Arts In Common in partnership with the Friends of Rogers Free Library, Linden Place, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, Roger Williams University, and various private donors.

Serving on the steering committee with Mr. Calhoun are BookFest co-founder Joanna Ziegler, Elizabeth Brito, Douglas Popovich, Rebecca Riley, Elisabeth Lavers, Joan Abrams, and Amy Vitale.

“In Texas, politics is a contact sport, so I’m intrigued to hear insights around populism and politics from Mr. Shipley,” said Mr. Popovich, who is also chairperson of Arts In Common. “And I’m eager to be part of the literary-minded audience digging deep into the uniquely Southern, very human political drama of All the King’s Men.”

For more information, email Hello@bristolbookfest.com or visit www.bristolbookfest.com

Bristol BookFest speakers

George C. Shipley is a well-known Austin, Texas, political consultant and polling analyst who is also a pioneer in the field of legal research assistance. He was immortalized in the writings of Molly Ivins, especially for his role in helping Ann Richards win the Texas governorship in 1991. He has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Virginia. In retirement he continues to volunteer his skills in aid of candidates in Texas’s emerging “blue wave.” He is a lifelong student of the South’s particular brand of identity politics, including the saga of the Long family of Louisiana.

Ernest Suarez is Chair and David M. O’Connell Professor of English at The Catholic University of America and executive director of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. His fields of interest are 19th and 20th century American literature, especially writers of the American South, and the intersections of poetry, the blues, rock, and jazz. He is an occasional music critic for the Washington Post.

John Burt is Paul E. Prosswimmer Professor of American Literature at Brandeis University, where he has taught since 1983. He is a specialist in 19th and 20th century American literature, especially poetry and Southern Gothic fiction. He is the author, among other works, of “Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict” (2013) and “The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren” (1998). He is the executor of Robert Penn Warren’s literary estate.

Alexandra Keller is director of the Film and Media Studies Program at Smith College. She is a specialist on the American Western as well as on such areas as consumer culture in mid-20th century America and the impact of new media on the art of cinema. She is the author of “James Cameron” (2006) and “The Endless Frontier: Western and American Identity from the Reagan Era to the Digital Age” (forthcoming).

Charles Calhoun is a Bristol-based biographer and historian with a special interest in 19th-century America, notably the Civil War era. He is the author of “A Small College in Maine: Two Hundred Years of Bowdoin” (1993) and “Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life” (2004). He has a law degree from Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

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