Author Mary Cappello

Mary Cappello composes essays, memoir, literary nonfiction and experiments in prose. Her seven books include a mnemic collage based on a twinned legacy of violence and creativity in her Italian/American family; an anti-chronicle meant to thwart the ritualized routine of breast cancer treatment in the US; a Los Angeles Times bestselling detour on awkwardness–ontological, diplomatic, aesthetic, and social; a lyric biography of a medical pioneer and his cabinet of swallowed and aspirated things; the mood fantasia, Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack; and most recently a speculative manifesto on the lost arts of the lecture, the notebook, and the nap. LECTURE was the inaugural title in Transit Books’ Undelivered Lecture Series. She is also the co-author, with James Morrison and Jean Walton of Buffalo Trace: A Threefold Vibration, featured on Michael Silverblatt’s bookworm (where he says he read it in a “state of a kind of ecstasy”) and described by Charles Baxter as “one of the great books about education.”

She has been variously honored with Guggenheim and Berlin Prize Fellowships in Literary Arts/Nonfiction; the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize for her documentary work with new immigrants to Italy; and the Bechtel Prize for Educating the Imagination from Teachers and Writers Collaborative. Her groundbreaking work on polymath humanitarian, Chevalier Jackson and the patients in his care set the stage for multi-modal performances in diverse locales from Brooklyn’s Observatory to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (London), from The Smithsonian Institution to numerous Grand Rounds in Pediatric Otolaryngology, from the Velaslavasay Panorama (LA) to serving as Presidential Lecturer for the ABEA (American Bronchoesophagological Association).

Keen to re-conceive the forms nonfiction takes in public to meet the pressing political needs of our time, she has authored projects like the essay as collaborative mood room, and the inter-active anti-panel, while also calling for a return to the lecture as a sounding, contemplative art.

Based on the last two weeks of her poet-mother, Rosemary Cappello’s life’s, her most recently completed book, Frost Will Come: Essays from the Bardo is a tribute to the tumultuous and visionary place of her mother’s “bardo,” her transition from a deeply lived life to a difficult, beautiful, and uneasy death.

Cappello’s work has been featured in The New York Times, on NPR, as notable essays of the year in Best American Essays; in Lit Hub, The Paris Review, The Millions, The Georgia Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Salmagundi, to name a few.

A former Fulbright Lecturer at the Gorky Literary Institute (Moscow), she is Professor Emerita of English and Creative Writing at the University of Rhode Island.

She is currently writing a book on dormancy and dormant states in a culture that is dream-averse and sleep-deprived.

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