Magic Barrel returns to fight hunger

Words have the power to change the world, and Saturday, local authors will prove it by using their words to fight against hunger.index.2

The annual Linn-Benton Food Share fundraising event The Magic Barrel takes place 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, at a new location, the Corvallis High School Theater. Music begins at 6:30 p.m. The event features food, music, autographed books and most importantly, authors reading from their own works.

A number of the participants have ties to Oregon State University, including the evening’s emcee, Karen Holmberg. Her first book, “The Perseids,” was published in 2001. A Discovery/The Nation award winner, her work has appeared in such magazines as The Paris Review, The Nation, Slate, Quarterly West, Southern Poetry Review, Hotel Amerika, and West Branch. She teaches literature and poetry writing at OSU and has previously read some of her work for Magic Barrel.

Holmberg said she is involved with the Magic Barrel because she wants to motivate the audience to find ways to use their own talents to solve problems and address intolerable conditions.

“Oregon ranks as the third hungriest state in the nation. According to the Oregon Hunger Task Force Web page, 17 percent of Benton County’s 80,000 citizens are in poverty,” she said. “This should make clear why, as a community, we have to bring our talents and determination to bear on solving this problem, or at the very least, making people more aware of it.”

John Larison teaches in the OSU English department, and has just published his first novel,”Northwest of Normal.” An attendee of the Magic Barrel for several years, this is Larison’s first time as a performer.

In “Northwest of Normal” the protagonist arrives via driftboat to the Cascadia Carnival, an event Larison said he modeled after the Oregon Country Fair.
“What hadn’t changed was the smell: first the purple sweetness of ripe blackberries, then deeper, the green spice of Doug fir needles. Deeper yet was the chocolaty musk of the river at dawn, its fog ghosting over the riffle…. This was the Ipsyniho he remembered, and Christ had he missed it,” he writes in his new novel.

Larison worked for several years as an English teacher in a school for disadvantaged youth.

John Larison, author, instructor with the OSU English department

John Larison, author, instructor with the OSU English department

“Many of my students got their one meal a day from the school’s free lunch program,” he said, “and I saw first hand the effects of chronic hunger. People don’t learn when they’re hungry.”

He said he hopes the audience at Magic Barrel sees the power of literature to not only inspire but to organize people behind important missions.

Another OSU English department member, Ted Leeson will also read at Magic Barrel. He has been a freelance writer for over 20 years and has authored three books of essays, “The Habit of Rivers,” (1994), “Jerusalem Creek” (2002) and most recently, “Inventing Montana” (2009).

Other readers include Margaret Anderson, Geri Doran, George Estreich, Gregg Kleiner, Aria Minu-Sepehr, Cindy Smith and Jana Zvibleman of the OSU Research Office.

Suggested admission: $7, no one will be turned away from lack of funds.  All proceeds go to Linn-Benton Food Share.

Can’t make it to the Barrel this year? You can still be part of the action by making a contribution to Linn Benton Food Share. You can make it on behalf of The Magic Barrel? To make it extra easy, you can donate online , at

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