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Albany Book Festival author spotlight: Mary Gaitskill and Garth Greenwell

Let's introduce a pair of featured authors coming to our 4th Annual Albany Book Festival on Saturday, September 25, at the University at Albany: Mary Gaitskill, novelist, essayist, and short story writer, and Garth Greenwell, novelist, poet, literary critic, and educator.

Both acclaimed writers are frequent visitors to the NYS Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College, but this year will be their first appearances at the Albany Book Festival. We're pairing them up in today's post because each will participate in conversations at the book fest with Robert Boyers, director of the NYS Summer Writers Institute held annually at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, where Bob is an English professor.

Mary Gaitskill

11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Mary Gaitskill is celebrated for her explorations of sexuality, abuse, self-destructive behaviors, and female friendship.

Her forthcoming book is The Devil’s Treasure (October 2021), a daring hybrid of fiction, memoir, essay, and visual art.

Her novels include This Is Pleasure (2019), a nuanced examination of gender relations in the #MeToo era, and the National Book Award finalist, Veronica, a tale of friendship set amid the excesses of the 1980s art scene.

Always popular with our audiences, she has been a NYS Writers Institute Visiting Writer Series guest in 2001, 2006, and 2015.

"This is Pleasure" The New Yorker, July 8, 2019

"Mary Gaitskill: ‘Literature is not a realm for politeness’" The Guardian, July 2016

Garth Greenwell

1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25

Garth Greenwell’s first novel, What Belongs to You (2016)—named a Best Book of the Year by more than 50 major publications— tells the story of a gay American teacher of English and his search for love in Sofia, Bulgaria. His second novel, Cleanness (2020), revisits the same Bulgarian milieu.

New York Times critic Dwight Garner called it “Incandescent,” and said, “[Greenwell's] writing about sex is altogether scorching. You pick his novels up with asbestos mitts, and set them down upon trivets to protect your table from heat damage ...Greenwell has an uncanny gift, one that comes along rarely.”

This will be his first visit to the NYS Writers Institute.

"Garth Greenwell & Mitzi Angel On Writing About Sex", FSG Works in Progress, July 2019 | | |

Robert Boyers, director of the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College, is the author of The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, The Academy, and the Hunt for Political Heresies (2019), a provocative essay collection about the decline of civility and academic freedom promoted by excesses of political correctness. Jamaica Kincaid said, “The life of the academy should remain sacred, and this book makes a splendid case for it.”

Buy the books

The books of Mary Gaitskill, Garth Greenwell, and Robert Boyers are available at the local, independent Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

About the Albany Book Festival

The fourth annual event, on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the University at Albany, will be held in-person for the first time since 2019. Events will begin at 10:30 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. More information at

The list of Albany Book Festival guests includes (subject to change):

  • Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (Friday Black: Stories),

  • Ayad Akhtar (Homeland Elegies),

  • Robert Boyers (The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, The Academy, and the Hunt for Political Heresies),

  • Elizabeth Brundage (The Vanishing Point),

  • Mary Gaitskill (This is Pleasure),

  • Garth Greenwell (Cleanness),

  • Farah Jasmine Griffin (Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature),

  • Janell Hobson (When God Lost Her Tongue: Historical Consciousness and the Black Feminist Imagination),

  • Quiara Alegría Hudes (My Broken Language: A Memoir, co-wrote the Tony Award-winning stage musical "In the Heights" with Lin-Manuel Miranda.),

  • Amitava Kumar (A Time Outside This Time),

  • Reif Larsen (Uma Wimple Charts her House),

  • Emily Layden (All Girls),

  • Ed Lin (David Tung Can’t Have a Girlfriend Until He Gets Into an Ivy League College),

  • George Makari (Of Fear and Strangers: A History of Xenophobia),

  • Bethany C. Morrow (So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix),