Oncologist, Writers' Workshop alum to read at Dey House


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Just days ago, writer Chris Adrian finished a short story to share for the first time with an Iowa City audience today.

The author is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop as well as a fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of California-San Francisco. He also recently earned a divinity degree from Harvard.

At 8 p.m. today, Adrian will give a reading in the Dey House's Frank Conroy Reading Room as part of the Jonathon Goldsmith Visiting Author Series. He will also host a question-and-answer session at 11 a.m. Friday in the Frank Conroy Reading Room.

"He's just a genius," said friend and fellow Writers' Workshop graduate Nathan Englander. "And I'm happy to scream that from the rooftops."

Recent projects Adrian has completed dealt with exploration of his medical work that he placed in imaginative fictional worlds. His most recent book is the novel The Great Night, a retelling of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He has also completed the works A Better Angel: Stories and Gob's Grief: A Novel.

"[Adrian] has an unusual ability to combine the sort of physical information about the world with a tremendous imaginative and fantastic understanding of the depth of emotion in the human experience," said Samantha Chang, the director of the Workshop.

Now, the author shifts gears to compose a project that deals with Puritan history. The story he plans to share with the Iowa City community today is the title story of this collection in progress.

"The questions that are getting tossed around in the story are from the time I spent in divinity school," Adrian said. "In my thesis from divinity school, these were an outline for the whole project.

He does not consider his various areas of study to be mutually exclusive. Whatever is interesting about each of the fields tends to tie into and cross over with his other areas of expertise, he said.

"It's hard, but it's probably a good thing," Adrian said. "It is a good thing to be a little confused and have that sort of professional identity crisis."

Englander referred to Adrian's wide-ranging professional life as a type of mobius strip that has no definite beginning or end.

While Adrian and Englander exchange many drafts with each other for review, Englander said the Iowa City audience will see a draft of the story Adrian will present today before he does.

"I think it's very brave," Englander said. "I think it's awesome to read something you have just finished, and there's nothing more terrifying than workshop."

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