New York State Writers Institute to digitalize writers on tape

For 35 years, “big name” writers have visited the New York State Writers Institute at the University of Albany to read from their work and talk about their work in interviews. Soon, the Times Union reports, all of those taped sessions from roughly 2000 writers will be digitalized and made available to the public.

“John Updike is in there, tucked away. Fellow novelists Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Norman Mailer, Russel Banks. The filmmaker Edward Burns. The poets Derek Walcott and John Ashbery, who both died last year. Isaac Bashevis Singer and Saul Bellow—the first visiting writer from 1984, just a year after William Kennedy created the Institute.”

Some of the earliest recordings were made on reel-to-reel tape. Digitalizing everything is a huge undertaking, but Institute director Paul Grondahl thinks they can complete the task in about a year.

Not all of the 2000 writers interviewed yielded literary gems.

“It’s this sea of incredible literature magic that happened here,” Grondahl said. “But you gotta dig deep to find the pearls. You gotta dive down.

Until then, scholars and the merely curious can access snippets that have been posted on The Writers Institute You Tube channel or keep checking luna.albany.edu for progress.

 

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