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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

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.

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),

  • Peter Osnos (An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen),

  • Jay Parini (Borges and Me: An Encounter),

  • David Pietrusza (Too Long Ago: A Childhood Memoir. A Vanished World.),

  • Nathaniel Philbrick (Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy),

  • David Rohde (In Deep: The FBI, the CIA, and the Truth about America’s “Deep State”),

  • Ed Schwarzschild (In Security),

  • Dana Spiotta (Wayward),

  • Simon Winchester (LAND: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World).

The book festival will also include a Local Authors Marketplace, readings by young local writers published in Skribblers magazine; and readings from banned books to help kick off Banned Books Week beginning September 26 with the theme, “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” The festival’s children’s programming is organized by Skribblers and the Albany Public Library.

More information at

Albany Book Festival Sponsors

The NYS Writers Institute is grateful for the following individuals and businesses whose donations help fund this year's Albany Book Festival.


Bruce Piasecki & The Creative Force Fund


Pernille Ægidius Dake / George and Kathleen McNamee / Renaissance Corporation of Albany

Charles Touhey and Alice Green / University Auxiliary Services


Times Union / Ellen Jabbur / Stuyvesant Plaza


Laurie Bank and Stuart Freyer / A. Andrew Casano, MD & Bella Pipas / Bernard F. Conners Foundation / The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza / Susan Novotny / CDPHP / Fenimore Asset Management / FAM Funds / Doris Fischer Malesardi / The Foy Fund / Henry Greenberg / Paul and Mary Grondahl / Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C. / William and Dana Kennedy / William & Mary Jean Krackeler / Betsy Lopez / Mackin & Casey / Modern Press / Jeffrey Pollard / Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC / Roberta and Bob Redmond / Mary Scanlan / Herb and Cynthia Shultz / Jim and Teresa Stellar / Steve McKee Foundation / UAlbany William L. Reese Emeritus Center Three Voices Grant Program


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