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Salinger biographer Kenneth Slawenski added to Broward literary fest.

March 17, 2011

Hazel Rowley

While the book world mourns the sudden death of acclaimed biographer Hazel Rowley, the organizers of Literary Feast 2011 in Fort Lauderdale have moved quickly to fill her spot in next weekend’s festival. She will be replaced by Kenneth Slawenski, author of Salinger: A Secret Life.

Slawenski is a good choice, and, on such short notice, probably a lucky one. His book is the first biography of J.D. Salinger since the revered and reclusive author died early last year at the age of 91. The culmination of 10 years of research, Salinger has been praised for its new insight into Salinger’s wartime experience, his Buddhism, and his decision to retire to Vermont and stop publishing.

A starred review in Publisher Weekly cites Slawenski’s “assiduous research” that ” allows him to identify and assess many obscure and unpublished stories,” and calls the book “an invaluable work that sheds fascinating light on the willfully elusive author.”

Rowley was only 59 when she was felled in Manhattan by a series of strokes arising from an “undiagnosed infection,” according to The New York Times. Born in London, raised in Australia, she had long lived and worked in the United States.

Kenneth Slawenski

Author of four biographies, Rowley made her name in 1993 with Christina Stead, the life of a relatively obscure Australian novelist who wrote one great book, The Man Who Loved Children. She showed the breadth of her interests and abilities with her next book, a biogaphy of trailblazing African-American novelist Richard Wright. She also wrote about the odd relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre.

Her most recent book, Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage, came out last fall.

In replacing Rowley with not only another biographer, but also one with an important recent book, the Broward County Library Foundation has maintained the exact literary balance of this year’s Literary Feast weekend.

Slawenski joins a slate of authors ranging from literary novelists (Scott Spencer, Julia Glass, Elizabeth Nunez) to mystery writers (Tim Dorsey, Ellen Crosby) to biographers (David Eisenhower, Jane Leavy) to nonfiction writers (Kendall Coffey, Mike Capuzzo, Les Standiford), memoirists (Caitlin Shetterly, Lisa Napoli), a humorist (Lisa Birnbach) and the author of a feel-good dog-rescue book (Larry Levin).

All told some 21 authors will be on hand for Literary Feast 2011. Saturday evening features Night of Literary Feasts, a gala fund-raising event for the library (tickets: $150 each). On Sunday afternoon the authors will take part in free lectures and panel discussions at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

There will also be a literary lunch on Friday at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, featuring Lisa Birnbach, author of The Official Preppy Handbook. Tickets aare $65.

For more information, visit the Broward County Library Foundation website.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    March 17, 2011 2:19 pm

    I read Slawenski’s book about Salinger earlire this year. Liked it. Literary Feast 2011 will be a blast. Wish I could be there.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 17, 2011 3:45 pm

      Come on down. You can sleep on my couch.

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