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Author Richard Pollak to Read from his Latest Book, “After the Barn”, a Compelling Memoir of Sibling Death, Epilepsy and Lost Memory at the Friday Local Author Series

Wednesday, December 31 - 7:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: Author Richard Pollak to Read from his Latest Book, “After the Barn”, a Compelling Memoir of Sibling Death, Epilepsy and Lost Memory at the Friday Local Author Series

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“Tell him you’ll punish him if he doesn’t stop hiding!” Those were the words Pollak shouteICFJ dinner 2009 all lettersd down to his parents as he played hide-and-seek with his 11-year-old brother in the loft of a barn. Moments later, Stephen slipped through a hole camouflaged by hay and fell to his death. To this day, Pollak remembers virtually nothing of that hot summer afternoon, as he recounts in this riveting memoir.

Pollak shines a powerful light on himself and his family in a book that is by turns investigative and introspective, a remarkably candid and probing reflection on the life-long impact of his brother’s death, his own struggle with epilepsy (the “falling sickness”), and the elusiveness of memory.

The author, who moved to Portland this year, will read from After the Barn at noon on Friday, August 29, in Meeting Room No. 5 at the main Portland Library. Afterwards, he will answer question and inscribe copies of the book.

Many readers will know Pollak as the author of The Creation of Dr. B, his much-praised biography of Bruno Bettelheim, which exposed the late University of Chicago child psychologist’s many deceptions. The New York Times Book Review called the work “a startling and thorough account of a life of lies.” The daily Times called it a “devastating” book written with “exquisite politeness.”

In After the Barn, Pollak brings the same nuance and toughness to his own life, producing “a gripping story of how a family deals with tragedy, and with secrets. But it is also a testament to the bravery inherent in seeking the clues to one’s intimate past,” writes Daniel Okrent, first public editor of the New York Times, and author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

Pollak is also the author of The Colombo Bay, an account of his five-week voyage on a container ship after the 9/​11 terror attacks; Up Against Apartheid: The Role and the Plight of the Press in South Africa, and The Episode, a novel that deals with epilepsy. He is a contributing editor of The Nation, which he has served as executive editor and literary editor. He was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University, where he created and taught a course in “The Politics of Journalism,” which he also taught for several years at New York University.

He and his wife, the pianist Diane Walsh (, have settled on Munjoy Hill and, in his words, “are still glowing from the warm welcome we have received from so many Portlanders.”

About the Series » Friday Local Author Series

The Local Author Series is a new series featuring Maine authors.  Authors are scheduled on a weekly basis and are encouraged to invite their readers for a lecture and question and answer session.  Books will be available for purchase and signing through the authors.  Free and open to the public.  Feel free to bring your lunch!

The Friday Local Author Series is held from 12pm-1pm in the Main Library’s Meeting Room 5.

Authors: To be considered for PPL’s Friday Local Author Series, please send information to our Programming Manager, Rachael Weyand.