Lecture Review: Knopf editor Judith Jones charms audience

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Two authors bracket the illustrious editing career of Judith Jones -- John Updike and Julia Child.

They were the fiction and food cornerstones of Alfred A. Knopf, the quality New York publisher, and Jones was present at the creation of their long careers.

While she continues to edit books, at 84, Jones has finally stepped into the public eye as a writer after more than 50 years of working behind the scenes. The author of a 2007 memoir, "The Tenth Muse," she charmed the audience at the final Drue Heinz Lecture last night at the Carnegie Music Hall with her stories and insights into both writing and food.

"Cooking wasn't a very interesting subject until Julia came along," said Jones, who championed the hefty manuscript of what was to become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

"The food industry had pretty much convinced us by the 1960s that American women shouldn't be kitchen slaves and that it would take care of cooking for us," she said, "then this book landed on my desk and I realized it was exactly what I was looking for. It taught me how to cook like the French."

Imitating perfectly Child's high voice, Jones said the author told her, "Judith, we're at the right place at the right time."

"Her book not only allowed Americans to appreciate food, but it opened the way for the food revolution."

At the same time Jones was shepherding Child and other chefs like Edna Lewis and Marcella Hazan into print, she was working with then-emerging novelist Updike. Jones steered his more than 60 books into print, including his final posthumous efforts, "My Father's Tears and Other Stories" and "Endpoint," a collection of poems including several written after he learned he was dying of cancer. Updike died Jan. 27 at 76.

To close her talk, Jones read from those final works.

News of local literature

Manil Suri, prize-winning novelist and Carnegie Mellon University graduate, is part of a two-character "drama" Friday at the University of Pittsburgh.

As well as author of "The Death of Vishnu" (2001) and "The Age of Shiva"(2008), Suri earned a doctorate in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon in 1983 and now teaches at the University of Maryland.

He was selected to evaluate Pitt senior Cory Tamler's senior thesis, "God's Dice: A Dramatic Exploration of Quantum Mathematics," a work that includes a one-act play, "City Lights, Receding."

Suri will appear with Tamler in the Studio Theatre in the basement of the Cathedral of Learning. The free program begins at 6:45 p.m. and includes a talk by Suri and a reading of Tamler's play. Suri will also appear Thursday at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2705 E. Carson St., South Side.

State entry in poetry performance

Molly Stoltz, a junior at Du Bois Area High School, is Pennsylvania's entry in Poetry Out Loud, the National Endowment for the Arts poetry recitation contest.

She was one of 13 regional contestants including Rebecca Martinelli, a senior at South Fayette High School. Top prize was $200.

Stoltz will compete against other state winners in Washington at the end of the month.

Correction/Clarification: (Published April 8, 2009) The University of Pittsburgh student who will appear with novelist Manil Suri on Friday at Pitt is Cory Tamler. Her name was misspelled in this story as originally published April 7, 2009.

Contact Bob Hoover at bhoover@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1634.


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