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'Book of Ruth' author to speak at Anderson Center

Jane Hamilton, whose best-selling books include two novels that were named Oprah's Book Club Selections, will make her first local public appearance April 19 at the Anderson Center Barn.

It's not a first visit to Red Wing or to Tower View for Hamilton, who graduated from Carleton College in Northfield in 1979 as an English major.

She has two very good friends with strong local connections -- a poet who has done artist residencies at the Anderson Center and a former Red Wing woman.

The poet, Marianne Boruch, introduced her to Tower View.

"I visited her at the Anderson Center many times," Hamilton said. "I look forward to being back in Pretty Red Wing."

The public can meet Hamilon, hear her read from a new work and get books autographed at the free April 19 event, which will begin at 7 p.m. with a reception. The program will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Born and reared in Oak Park, Ill., Hamilton had early literary success with short stories. "My Own Earth" and "Aunt Marj's Happy Ending" were published in Harper's magazine in 1983, and "Aunt Marj's Happy Ending" appeared in "The Best American Short Stories" in 1984.

Her first novel, "The Book of Ruth," was published in 1988. It received numerous awards, including the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award and the Wisconsin Library Association Book Award.

In 1996, it was an Oprah's Book Club selection, and in 2004 it was made into a television film.

Her second novel, published in 1994, was "A Map of the World." An international bestseller, it also was adapted for film and also was an Oprah selection. "A Short History of a Prince" followed in 1998; it was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book that year.

"Disobedience" followed in 2000, then "When Madeline Was Young" in 2006, and "Laura Rider's Masterpiece" in 2009.

Hamilton lives in an orchard farmhouse in Rochester, Wis., but will be coming to Red Wing from Chicago, where she is teaching a fiction workshop at Columbia College this semester.

For the Anderson Center presentation, she plans "a conversation about reading and writing and all that entails," Hamilton said. "I will talk about the phenomenon of having readers -- what it means to have a reader."

The presentation is inspired by a bizarre encounter that got her thinking about the pressure a writer feels from people who read her works, she explained.

"It's a fun story," Hamilton assured, adding that she expects people who hear it to "feel good that they are better readers than the one I encountered."

Hamilton is an avid reader herself. In a recent interview published in the Northwestern University journal of writing, she said, "There's nothing better than reading a great book or story" to inspire a writer.

"I feel a deep appreciation for the experience of being in the novel, and keeping company with both the characters and the author. When I'm finished reading, I want to sit down immediately and try to do just what that author has done -- make a world, and live in it."

Quizzed about books that have inspired her, she added, "I go back to dead authors, and living authors, too. ... Any time I'm in the presence of a master of the craft, it is inspiring."

Typically, Hamilton said, she finishes a story about once each three years -- allowing her plenty of time to enjoy the world she is creating.

While at the Anderson Center she will read from her novel-in-progress, tentatively titled "The Girl Who Lived Near the End of the World," Hamilton said.

"I have really enjoyed living in this particular fictional world."

People will be able to purchase copies of her books and get them autographed following the presentation.

If you go ...

Who: Novelist Jane Hamilton

What: Reading and book signing

When: 7 p.m. April 19

Where: Anderson Center Barn

Cost: Free

More info: 651-388-2009 or