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The Daily Wildcat


Final UA Prose Series event of the semester showcases two writers

Michelle Tomaszkowicz
Elena Passarello speaking at the UA Prose reading series on 4/13/17

The UA Poetry Center showcased two prose writers on April 13 at 7 p.m., during the final event of the UA Prose Series for the 2017 spring semester. 

The UA Prose Series, curated by Creative Writing Program faculty, was founded in 2001. The series celebrates writers of distinction, including David Shields and Elena Passarello, both of whom were at the April 13 event.

Ander Monson, associate professor in the Department of English, the director of the UA Prose Series and the author of six books, opened the floor to the special guests who would present the evening’s readers. Caleb Klitzke introduced Passarello, author of “Let Me Clear My Throat,” by speaking about ‘the hype man’ in relation to Passarello’s works.

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“The title of Passarello’s first essay collection, ‘Let Me Clear My Throat,’ shares its name with the 1996 song by DJ Kool,” Klitzke said. “In a way, the song ‘Let Me Clear My Throat,’ is the epitome of the hype man.”

Klitzke went on to explain why he enjoys tracing the references of Passarello’s works, while sharing other connections between Passarello’s works and the hype man. A hype man is a rapper who supports the main rapper of a song or performance with exclamations and interjections.

“She is a powerful writer and magnificent reader,” Klitzke said before Passarello took to the podium.

Passarello appeared grateful for the introduction.

“I have never been introduced to that effect before,” Passarello said.

Passarello prefaced her readings by explaining that the works found in her new book center around animals that have become celebrities, of sorts– those animals with some sort of pop-culture background.

Passarello opened by reading her story about Sackerson, a bear found at one of the bear-baiting arenas in William Shakespeare’s London. As she read, her hands accentuated the words she spoke as she told of the relationship between a jealous Shakespeare and the bear, Sackerson.

Passarello next read other pieces from the work, including one about Koko the gorilla, and another about Wolfgang Mozart and his starling. The crowd applauded Passarello as she concluded her performance, and Dorian Rolston approached the podium to introduce Shields.

“It is my honor, this year-end Prose Series night, to introduce David Shields,” Rolston said.

In his introduction, Rolston provides the audience with a definition of prose.

“Prose, the dictionary says, is all talk – plain words, nothing more,” Rolston said. “Ordinary – non-poetry.”

Rolston commented on Shields’s schedule during the Festival of Books 2017, where Shields held a writing workshop, and made enough time to sign copies of his newest book, “Other People: Takes & Mistakes.” 

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Shields, author of 20 books including “The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead” and “Handbook for Drowning: A Novel in Stories,” read a series of four short essays from “Other People: Takes & Mistakes.” Shields read a passage from , “Radio.”a Philip Roth novel before diving in to his own work.

“Radio” is based on scenes from Shields’s childhood, one of which depicts children in the sixth grade sharing a pseudo-joke involving polar bears.

“The joke, of course, was that there was no joke, and the point was to prove how compliant all us sixth graders were,” Shields explained.

Shields also read his short essay, “White Bronco,” based on an encounter with OJ Simpson at an ice cream parlor, before ending with the short essay, “Love This,” which he said was based on the “Rothian themes.”

At the conclusion, Shields was asked about his interest in literature. Shields said both of his parents were journalists, and though he struggled with a speech impediment, it was no surprise that he was drawn to both written word and speech.

Following the readings was a short Q&A, after which attendees had the opportunity to approach the authors for autographs and questions.

Danielle Bishop, an administrator for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said she enjoyed the event and came to see Passarello read.

“It was a great event, and I am glad I came,” Bishop said.

If you are interested in the material that was presented but could not attend the event, most of the readings, such as the ones mentioned above, can be found via the Poetry Center’s audio video library, voca on the UA Poetry Center website at

Follow Kirshana Guy on Twitter.

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