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Released October 4, 2004

HATTIESBURG--The University of Southern Mississippi will host award-winning novelist Matthew Sharpe for three days, Oct. 11-13, as part of the visiting writers program. Sharpe's most recent novel, The Sleeping Father, was selected by Susan Isaacs for the Today Show Book Club last spring and received praise from George Saunders, Anne Tyler, The New York Times and a host of other publications. During his residency at the Center for Writers, Sharpe will facilitate an afternoon workshop with graduate students and meet with them individually for one-on-one consultations. A reading, open to the public, will be held at the Southern Miss Alumni House at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11.

The Sleeping Father tells the story of Chris and Cathy Schwartz, teenagers who spend their inheritance trying to rehabilitate their father, comatose after combining incompatible antidepressants. Despite the dark premise, Sharpe offers a humorous and affectionate portrait of family life in contemporary America. Short story writer George Saunders says, "Matthew Sharpe's vision of American life is fresh, original, and very funny, funny in the way that occasionally makes you sob, original in the way that makes you look at everything--hospitals, suburban shrubs, grousing, sad-faced families--in a new and kinder light." The New York Times remarked, "He's a rare find: an ironist who actually seems to like other people." In addition to being selected by the Today Show, The Sleeping Father was also awarded the Independent Publishers Award and has been optioned by Warner Brothers.

Sharpe's reading is a terrific contribution to the Hattiesburg cultural calendar, while his extended interaction with the Center for Writers graduate students will provide them with insight and professional guidance beyond the school's already distinguished faculty. A graduate of Columbia University's MFA program in fiction, Sharpe has been on the faculty of Bard College, the Bronx Academy of Letters, the New College of Florida and Wesleyan University. His fiction has also appeared in Bomb, American Letters and Commentary, Nerve, Zoetrope, Harper's, Southwest Review, Mississippi Mud, Witness, The Quarterly, Fiction, and elsewhere. Additionally, his nonfiction work has appeared in Outside, Details, Elle, Conde Nast Traveler, Teachers & Writers magazine, and others.

Additional visitors are scheduled throughout the 2004-2005 academic year. For more information about the Southern Miss Center for Writers, contact Rie Fortenberry at (601) 266-5600.


"And my favorite this week is a fresh, funny, quirky book called The Sleeping Father by Matthew Sharpe ..." Anne Tyler

"Sharpe's arch tone is charmingly at odds with the sprawling, inclusive structure of The Sleeping Father....He's a rare find: an ironist who actually seems to like other people." Claire Dederer, The New York Times Book Review

"[A]cidly funny....Readers...should appreciate Sharpe's clearly drawn characters and his thoughtful, if withering, examination of the contemporary hierarchies of family and authority." Publishers Weekly

This novel is fluent and funny, clever and wise. It is so skillfully constructed and its tempo so beautifully modulated that it slowly becomes sad without you noticing and then frightening and then funny again. In The Sleeping Father, Matthew Sharpe proves himself a master conjuror of tones.

-Colm Toibin


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November 23, 2004 9:23 AM