Novelist Chris Bachelder to hold free public reading on Sept. 14

August 28, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Every year, a group of middle-aged men gathers to re-create a sports moment known to millions of American fans. And that moment is when Lawrence Taylor sacked Joe Theismann and snapped the quarterback’s leg in two before a national audience in 1985 on “Monday Night Football.”

The play was real, but the reunion is the plot of an acclaimed, hysterically funny and insightful novel titled “The Throwback Special,” which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award in fiction. The book’s author, Chris Bachelder, will be visiting Penn State to read from his work and meet with students on Sept. 14 and 15, through a partnership between the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, the Mary E. Rolling Reading Series, and The Paterno Family Professorship. Support is also being provided by the Center for the Study of Sports in Society. 

Bachelder’s public reading is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in Carnegie Cinema (113 Carnegie Building) on the University Park campus.

Called “wistful and elegantly written” by The New York Times, the novel is unconventional in the sense that important information is left out. Bachelder doesn’t tell the reader how this annual ritual started, why the friends settled on this particular play, or even how they know each other. But all of that serves to move the focus toward how the men are handling their lives as they grow older, and the once-a-year meeting serves as a kind of snapshot amid a number of events that occur at each gathering.

“It might seem unusual for a sports journalism program to be involved in hosting a novelist,” said John Affleck, who directs the Curley Center and is the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society. “But Chris is an amazing writer, and I thought it was appropriate to look at his attention to detail and the idea that sports carries themes that are much greater than the games themselves.

“It’s also gratifying to partner with the University’s highly regarded creative writing program and to be part of the Rolling Reading Series.” 

“The Throwback Special” is Bachelder’s fourth novel. Bachelder, who teaches at the University of Cincinnati, is also the author of the novels “Bear v. Shark,” “U.S.!,” and “Abbott Awaits.” He was awarded the Terry Southern Prize for humor from The Paris Review, as well as an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

Mary E. Rolling Reading Series events are free and open to the public. The series is a project of Penn State’s Creative Writing Program in English. It receives generous support from the College of the Liberal Arts, the Department of English, the Joseph L. Grucci Poetry Endowment, the Mary E. Rolling Lectureship in Creative Writing, and University Libraries.

For a full listing of readings in the series, visit

  • Chris Bachelder

    Chris Bachelder

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Last Updated December 19, 2017