October 10, 2021

Friends & Foundation of the Albany Public Library Readings

Back in the pre-pandemic days, the FFAPL ran weekly book reviews & readings on Tuesdays at Noon at the Washington Ave. branch of the APL. The events were well attended & presented a wide variety of literary genres, including novels, non-fiction on a plethora of topics, even poetry. I have been blessed over the years by not only attending these sessions but also to be asked to present book reviews of poetry anthologies & biographies of poets.

Of course the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that. As more & more people have been vaccinated things have opened up somewhat in the Albany Library system. One favored site has been the Bach Branch on New Scotland Ave., which, happily is only about 2 blocks from where I live.

Miki Conn

On September 9 I walked over to hear poet & author Miki Conn talk about & read from her books. She began by talking about the topic & the book by the title Integrating Delmar 1957: The Story of a Friendship (2011 & 2020), by Margaret B. Cunningham & Arlen R. Westbrook, & edited by Miki Conn. It chronicles a middle class African American family’s search for housing during the summer of 1957 and the results of the decision by a white couple to rent their house to them. The lasting friendship that developed is an important part of their story. The book is based on private journals kept by the two women, neither knowing that the other also kept a journal. 

She followed that discussion with a reading of her poems from Out of My Mind: A Quirky Look at Life through Poetry (2019), poems spanning from the 1970s to 2017, illustrated by her original artwork. Then on to her children’s book The Story of a House (2020) inspired by her own fascination with abandoned houses. 

You can find her books online & at local bookstores.

Eugene Mirabelli

October 2 was a beautiful Fall day with apples falling from the tree in the Bach Branch courtyard. This was a book-signing & reading by one of this year’s Literary Legends Gene Mirabelli (the other is Lydia Davis) to promote his novel Renato! (McPherson & Company, 2020). The publisher, Bruce McPherson, began by reading from the Introduction to the novel by Douglas Glover, “… Mirabelli has reinvented the peculiarly Italian, extravagantly melodramatic and often comic vision — the opera — in the novel form.”

Renato! brings together in over 500 pages Mirabeli’s 3 earlier novels, the earliest parts which were written in 1975. Mirabelli read from the beginning chapters of the first book The Goddess in Love with Horse, starting with the provocative first sentence, then briefly from Chapter 2, & a more extensive reading from the 3rd Chapter that begins the multi-generational saga that began in the 1860s at the time of Garibaldi’s unification of what was to become modern Italy.

Back when I was a student at what was then SUNY Albany I took a course with Eugene Mirabelli on 20th Century British poets. I think I would have enjoyed more a course with him on 19th Century Italian history. 

On October 16, 2021 Mirabelli & Lydia Davis will be (or have been) honored as the 2021 Literary Legends. Visit the website of the FFAPL to find out more about the continuing work they do promoting the stellar writers in this region. 

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