's Master of Fine Arts in Writing & Literature program on Wednesday borrowed the director of Brooklyn College's own MFA program in Fiction Writing — acclaimed novelist Joshua Henkin — for the latest installment of its Writers Speak series.
At the campus' Radio Lounge, Henkin, read from his 2007 novel “Matrimony” and gave a preview reading of “The World Without You,” due out in June, to an audience that included many aspiring writers.
The new novel is a compassionate story spanning three days and three sisters who come together to honor their dead brother, Leo, a journalist who had been killed the year before on assignment in Iraq. During July 4th weekend, the Frankel family reconvenes in their Berkshire home for a memorial. The characters struggle with emotional distance, grief and loving one another despite all.
Henkin discussed the use of time in his novels in the lively Q&A that followed.
“In 'Matrimony,' I wrote in two points of view, moving through a 20-year span. In 'The World Without You,' the challenge was moving eight points of view through compressed time of three days,” Henkin said.
As a professor of both undergrad and graduate students at Sarah Lawrence and Brooklyn College, Henkin admitted to being a compulsive reviser and a realist, getting out of the way to tell the story.
Henkin writes from what he knows, and an uncanny ability to see from a woman’s perspective. He’s Jewish, surrounded by women — two daughters and a wife, Beth, who is a rabbinic literature professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. He came from an academia-saturated background; his father taught law at Columbia for 50 years and his mother is a lawyer for the Aspen Institute Organization and both of his brothers teach history and music.
Henkin is the recipient of numerous accolades including the James Fellowship for the Novel, the Hopwood Award, the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and a grant from the Michigan Council of the Arts.
His first novel, 1997's “Swimming Across the Hudson,” was named a Los Angeles Times notable book. “Matrimony” was named a New York Times Notable Book. His short stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, The Yale Review, The North American Review, The New England Review, Boulevard and more.
"It was a pleasure to have Joshua join us," said Assistant Professor Susan Merrell, the coordinator of Writers Speak and associate editor of The Southampton Review. "Writers Speak is an important part of the educational process here at Stony Brook Southampton. It gives students a sense of how people actually live as writers — incentive to model themselves after.”
Henkin said it was his first time on the Southampton campus. "It was great to be at Southampton, and especially to read to the MFA students. One MFA student in a reading crowd is the equivalent of 10 regular folks. They're so engaged, and ask such interesting questions."
One of those MFA students, Joe Labriola, said, “Joshua was funny, insightful and a great writer. As an aspiring teacher, I liked that he said you can’t teach good writing, but you can train enough times like a tennis player for certain skills to become intuition.”
Visit Henkin at www.joshuahenkin.com.
The next Writers Speak, which is free and open to the public, is April 25 at 7 p.m. with , the author of "The Dive from Clausen's Pier" and "Songs Without Words," inside the Radio Lounge on the second floor of Stony Brook Southampton's Chancellor's Hall.