The recently organized Stories on Stage Davis series returns Saturday, Jan 11, at the Pence Gallery, with visiting author Anthony Marra on hand for a reading from his novel “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” to be voiced by poet and UC Davis English professor Andy Jones.
“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” is a first novel set partially in Chechnya during wartime, starting in a small Chechen village caught up in the fighting between Russian troops and Chechen rebels. As the book begins, a young girl’s father has been taken away by Russian soldiers, and she is rescued by her father’s friend who is the village’s incompetent doctor.
Though the main story takes place over five days, it goes backward and forward through time and reveals the devastation war has caused for so many people.
Published in May 2013, the book was favorably reviewed by the New York Times, and Marra was interviewed by NPR. Then in July, the novel was picked by NPR as one of the “Best of the Summer: Six Books The Critics Adore.” It is reported that President Barack Obama bought a copy of the novel in November.
Marra is the winner of a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, The Atlantic‘s Student Writing Contest and the Narrative Prize, and his work has been anthologized in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. He holds a master’s of fine arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University.
Jones has taught in the UCD English department and the University Writing Program since 1990. Originally trained as a poet and interpreter of poetry, he has taught classes on T.S. Eliot, the Poetry of the Beat Generation and Close Reading of Poetry, as well as the Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop.
Jones was named Educator of the Year by the Associated Students of UCD in 2006. He also enjoys co-hosting the bimonthly Poetry Night Reading Series at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis.
Also featured will be a short story titled “The Foreigner” written by Maria Kuznetova of Oakland — the story received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers.
Kuznetova’s story will be read by Gia Battista, an actress/playwright/director living in Davis. She is one of the founding artistic directors of the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble, and created the original piece “Nightingale,” which was workshopped at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and then performed in Davis and at the San Francisco Fringe Festival, where it picked up an award.
A donation of $5 is requested. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the reading starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Pence Gallery, 212 D St. For more information, visit storiesonstagedavis.com.