(LENOX, Mass.) – In back-to-back events, authors Darryl Pinckney and Kate Bolick will kick off Touchstones: Conversations at The Mount, a series featuring writers discussing modern cultural issues or “cultural flashpoints,” on Thursday, September 17, 2015, at 7:30pm, followed by poet Gjertrud Schnackenberg, who will deliver the annual Amy Clampitt Memorial Poetry Reading at the Mount on Friday September 18, at 5pm. Pinckney and Bolick are expected to discuss contemporary race relations and the enduring influence of James Baldwin. Pinckney is editor of “James Baldwin: Later Novels.”
Touchstones, in its second year, is hosted by journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick. Bolick wanted this year’s line-up to highlight writers who are expanding contemporary conversation around cultural flashpoints — race, gender, class, and family — in unexpected ways, from novels and personal essays to literary criticism and international reporting. The series debuts on September 17 and continues for four consecutive Thursdays through October 8. Tickets for each event are $15 in advance and $18 at the door and include a book-signing. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Touchstones: Conversations at The Mount or call 413-551-5100.
“These writers are so dynamic and thoughtful on the page that I have no doubt they’ll be great conversationalists in real life. I greatly admire how each addresses his/her area of inquiry with nuance, depth, and originality, rising above the temptations of polemic. That’s not easy to do, and they all do it beautifully.” says Bolick. “Last year we focused on the memoir form, and so conversations were necessarily very personal. This year will still be personal, of course, but also more expansive. I expect to walk away with a better understanding of a host of issues that affect us all.”
“Edith Wharton was a master at social and cultural observation. Everything she wrote contained a commentary on contemporary life.” says Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount. “Touchstones and the writers who participate are reviving her spirit here at the home she loved.”
About the Participants:
Kate Bolick (host) is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own,” a contributing editor for The Atlantic, and a freelance writer for The New York Times, Slate, and Vogue, among other publications. Previously, she was executive editor of Domino and a columnist for The Boston Globe. She has appeared on NBC’s Today show, CNN, MSNBC, and numerous NPR programs across the country. A recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she holds a master’s in cultural criticism from New York University, where she also taught writing.
Darryl Pinckney is a longtime contributor to The New York Review of Books, and the author of the novel “High Cotton.” Pinckney also authored “Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature,” part of the Alain Locke Lecture Series, as well as “Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy.”
The Gjertrud Schnackenberg reading, sponsored by the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, includes a book signing and reception. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for members of The Mount, and free for students. This program is made possible through support from the Amy Clampitt Fund, a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Additional generous support for lodging comes from Canyon Ranch of Lenox.
Schnackenberg, a pillar of American poetry, was born in Tacoma, Washington. Her work has been described as “a gift of diction on scientific wonderments, the horrors of history, and on the religious and philosophical texts of the past,” (Publisher’s Weekly). Praised by The Yale Review, Slate Magazine, and The New York Times, Schnackenberg’s poems have appeared in numerous publications including The Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s. She has written six previous collections and among her many honors, has received the 2011 Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Rome Prize in Creative Literature, and the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin.
Since 2004, The Mount has hosted the Amy Clampitt Memorial Reading, and has brought some of the finest American contemporary poets to the Berkshires, including Sharon Old, Robert Pinsky, Mary Jo Salter, Rita Dove, and Kevin Young. “Edith Wharton had a lifelong passion for poetry,” says Susan Wissler, Executive Director of The Mount. “Both her first published book, Verses, and her final one, of which she was co-editor, Eternal Passion in English Poetry, were volumes of poetry. We want to continue that legacy and connect serious, influential writers with earnest, thoughtful readers.”
About The Mount:
The Mount is a National Historic Landmark and cultural center that celebrates the intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian legacy of Edith Wharton. We engage a diverse audience by providing context to Wharton’s life and achievements through our educational and public programs and the conservation and preservation of her historic estate and gardens.
Each year, The Mount is host to over 40,000 visitors. Daily tours of the property are offered May through October, with special events throughout the year. Annual summer programming includes a joint exhibit with SculptureNow, Wharton on Wednesdays, Music After Hours, and the celebrated Monday Lecture Series. Exhibitions explore themes from Wharton’s life and work.
In recent years, The Mount has become the literary hub of the Berkshires, regularly hosting esteemed writers—including novelists, poets, biographers, scholars, and journalists—for readings and discussions. Writers who have appeared recently at The Mount include David McCullough, Nigel Hamilton, Matthew Pearl, Mark Strand, Sharon Old, Andre Dubus, and Susan Orlean.