New interest in book inspired by sensational Stanford murder

Stanford's 'Another Look' book group invites community to discuss book by Stanford poet, novelist

A novel inspired by a sensational 1933 murder on Stanford's Faculty Row is the subject of Stanford's "Another Look" book club -- a campus initiative by writer Tobias Wolff that is open to the community.

Readers will meet Feb. 20 to discuss the short novel "The Wife of Martin Guerre," one of a series written by the late Stanford poet and novelist Janet Lewis that focuses on historical trials that were swayed by circumstantial evidence.

Published in 1941, Lewis's book became the subject of an opera, a play, several musicals and a film. Atlantic Monthly called it "one of the most significant short novels in English."

Lewis, who taught at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley, died at 99 in 1998.

Lewis's husband, the well-known Stanford poet and critic Yvor Winters, became involved in the aftermath of the Stanford murder, in which David Lamson, a young sales manager with Stanford University Press, ultimately was acquitted of bludgeoning his wife, Allene, in their campus home. Winters campaigned for Lamson's acquittal, writing a 103-page pamphlet that emphasized the dangers of circumstantial evidence.

After a colleague gave Winters and Lewis a 19th-century book, "Famous Cases of Circumstantial Evidence," Lewis delved into the 16th-century story of Martin Guerre and his wife, Bertrande de Rols, for her book.

Stanford's "Another Look" book club is the creation of Wolff, an award-winning writer and Stanford professor of English who kicked off the series in November with William Maxwell's 144-page novel "So Long, See You Tomorrow."

This month's gathering, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the Stanford Humanities Center's Levinthal Room, will be moderated by English Professor Kenneth Fields, who was a friend of Lewis and Winters.

Fields will be joined by Wolff as well as by award-winning Irish poet Eavan Boland, both professors of English. An audience discussion will follow.

The community event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and available on a first-come basis.

The "Another Look" book club focuses on short masterpieces that have been forgotten, neglected or overlooked. Registration at the Another look website is encouraged for regular updates on the selected books and events.

The group's third event, planned for May, will be a discussion of Anita Loos' comic masterpiece "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," hosted by Hilton Obenzinger, a planning project coordinator in the Department of American Studies.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff


Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2013 at 11:34 pm

"Sensational" murder? Shame on the Weekly.

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