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Jane Smiley's take on 'King Lear' still resonates with Iowa audiences 30 years after its release

The 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear — one that takes place on an Iowa farm. Now, an opera based on the story is in the works. The Des Moines Metro Opera will perform the world premiere of A Thousand Acres July 9 in Indianola.

On this episode of the Talk of Iowa Book Club, host Charity Nebbe asks author Jane Smiley to reflect on her book 30 years later. Then, the opera's director, Kristine McIntyre, describes the upcoming production, and author Mary Swander joins the conversation. Swander, who was at the Iowa Writer's Workshop at the same time as Smiley, wrote the play Map of My Kingdom about farmland transition.


  • Jane Smiley, author of the novel A Thousand Acres
  • Kristine McIntyre, director of the “A Thousand Acres” opera
  • Mary Swander, writer, professor emerita, founder of AgArts
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Caitlin Troutman is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio