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  • Time and Space and Philip Glass: The Iconic Artist Talks at BAM

    14/09/2012 Duration: 01h08min

    In 1976, the New York premiere of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s “Einstein on the Beach” captivated audiences, polarized critics and put both artists on the map of contemporary performance art. In four-and-a half hours, its famously reductive score, enigmatic text and limpid, tensile choreography (by Lucinda Childs) teases out the meaning of the time/space continuum. The work’s first New York revival in twenty years opens Friday evening as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. On Wednesday, Philip Glass talked about the work—and a range of other pieces that have been performed at BAM over the years—with a former protégé, the composer Nico Muhly. Affectionately coaxed by Muhly, speaking composer-to-composer, Glass reflected on his major operas, his work in collaboration with artists from other cultural traditions, and the evolution of his own musical style, which Muhly pointed out has become more lush, and (clearly jokingly) “decadent.”  For a man who is indeed an icon, Glass is somewha

  • Unhappy Family: Geoffrey Rush and Fred Schepisi Discuss "The Eye of the Storm" at the 92nd Street Y

    13/09/2012 Duration: 14min

    Geoffrey Rush is one of Australia’s most celebrated exports, a protean character actor whose roles have ranged from the mentally frail pianist David Helfgott (his Oscar-winning performance in “Shine”) to George VI’s speech therapist Lionel Logue (“The King’s Speech”) to the Marquis de Sade (“Quills”).    Courtesy of the 92nd Street Y He most recent film, in which he is pictured above, is “The Eye of the Storm,” directed by Fred Schepisi, and also starring Judy Davis. The film is based on a novel by the Nobel Prize-winning writer Patrick White, about a domineering matriarch and her alienated adult children. Last Wednesday, Rush paid homage to this less well-known Australian genius as part of the 92Y’s long-running film screening and discussion series, “Reel Pieces.”  Rush, director Schepisi, and Schepisi’s daughter Alexandra, who has a featured role in the film, were interviewed before a live audience by Dr. Annette Insdorf, the head of undergraduate film studies at Columbia University.   Bon Mots Geoffrey Ru

  • Wanting What You Can't Have: Happy Ending at Joe's Pub

    05/09/2012 Duration: 32min

    Host and curator Amanda Stern concluded this season’s Happy Ending Music & Reading series at Joe’s Pub on July 11 with an evening themed around “communication.”  Stern’s themes are almost always designed to resonate ironically and this program was no exception, as the authors Rajesh Parameswaran, Alex Shakar and Nell Freudenberger delivered variations on the idea of wanting what you can’t have, and don't know how to ask for. Parameswaran read from his collection “I am an Executioner” — a story in which a captive tiger falls in love with his zookeeper and things do not go well. Shakar offered an excerpt from his novel “Luminarium.”  His protagonist Fred is beset by a Job-like pile of woes, and spends an afternoon with a Hollywood wannabe who claims to have achieved enlightenment.  Nell Freudenberger’s novel “The Newlyweds” features a 21st-century version of the mail-order bride; in the excerpt heard here, she finds her arranged (by her) wedding more light-hearted than she anticipated. Musical guest Ana Egg

  • Fighting Words: Churchill's Granddaughter Offers a Model for Leadership

    12/06/2012 Duration: 41min

    “If you are going to go through hell, keep going.” This is just one of the many robust adages coined by Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. A new exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum called “Churchill:  The Power of Words,” which showcased his long, celebrated career as a statesman, writer, and orator, opened on Friday. Churchill's inspirational speeches and radio broadcasts helped to guide England from its darkest to its finest hour during the long years of fighting and the constant threat of attack and invasion by the Nazi forces. As noted by the journalist Edward R. Murrow in an introduction to Churchill's collected speeches: "Now the hour had come for him to mobilize the English language, and send it into battle, a spearhead of hope for Britain and the world.” The exhibition at the Morgan kicked off with a lecture by Churchill’s granddaughter, The Hon. Celia Sandys, who has written extensively about him. During the talk, Sandys asserted that Churchill’s combination of clarity, comman

  • A Reporter's Perspective on War at PEN World Voices

    29/05/2012 Duration: 01h02min

    The PEN America Center’s organizational focus is the effect of world events on the safety and freedom of expression of writers, so the topic of war naturally looms large in its cultural consciousness. As part of the recent PEN World Voices Festival, Polish journalist and author Wojciech Jagielski was interviewed by Joel Whitney, a founding editor of Guernica: A Magazine of Art & Politics.  Jagielski began his career on assignment in the former Soviet Union and then spent a decade in Afghanistan. He became particularly interested in how countries with trenchant ethnic divisions seem so often to wind up in the midst of seemingly irresolvable conflicts. His most recent book, The Night Wanderers, is on Uganda and the problematic resistance leader Joseph Rao Kony, a now recognizable name thanks to a wildly circulated viral video. The PEN World Voices event took place at the Brooklyn Public Library on May 2 and was introduced by Meredith Walters, the director of exhibitions at the library. Listen to the talk b

  • Rushdie Talk on Censorship Wraps Up PEN Festival

    23/05/2012 Duration: 23min

    The 2012 PEN World Voices Festival ended with a talk about censorship at the Cooper Union by novelist Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses). After the speech, the PEN festival founder had a conversation with writer Gary Shteyngart (The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Super Sad True Love Story). Peter Godwin, the president of PEN American Center, and Laszlo Jakab Orsos, PEN World Voices Director, introduced Rushdie before he gave the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture that traditionally wraps up the festival.   Listen to and download Rushdie's 17-minute talk by clicking the audio link above. Bon Mots: Rushdie on censorship: "If writing is Thing, then censorship is No-Thing. And as King Lear told Cordelia, 'Nothing will come of nothing.' Think again. Censorship changes the subject. It introduces a more tedious subject and creates a more boring world." Rushdie on liberty: "Liberty is the air we a part of the world where, imperfect as the supply is, it is, nevertheless, freely

  • Getting Your Irish On at the PEN World Voices Festival

    16/05/2012 Duration: 17min

    Comparisons are invidious, but Hugo Hamilton is clearly a successor to the late Frank McCourt, author of the celebrated “Angela’s Ashes,” in the tradition of Irish memoir.  Hamilton read from his book, “The Speckled People,” as part of the PEN World Voices Festival on May 3. The event was held at Ireland House, a handsome mews building off Washington Square Park that is home to NYU’s Irish studies department. Hamilton was introduced by John Waters, head of the university’s Irish literature program. In the competitive world of memoir writing, a bizarre childhood is almost de rigueur. But Hamilton’s was even more bizarre than most. His father was an ardent Irish nationalist, married to a German woman. In protest against what he viewed as the British “occupation” of his country, he refused to allow any English to be spoken in his home.  As a result, Hamilton grew up as a virtual émigré in his own country, speaking primarily Celtic and German. The two languages also came to delineate the very different temperame

  • Jennifer Egan on How to Create Your Own Rules at PEN

    15/05/2012 Duration: 50min

    Earlier in May, Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief for the Slate group, and author Jennifer Egan discussed Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, genre-busting novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, and her writing process at The New School. Their conversation was part of the annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Bon Mots Weisberg on the incredible likability of A Visit from the Goon Squad: “The thing about this book is I don’t know anybody who disliked it. You can get an argument going at any dinner party if you just say ‘Jonathan Franzen’ and at least somebody will take the contrary position. But I have yet to find somebody who read this and wasn’t impressed by it." Egan on the mysterious P.M., to whom she dedicated A Visit from the Goon Squad: “You’re killing me with these questions! I feel as though I really should have had a warning. I am going to come out and answer that … It is my long-time therapist.” Egan on developing her characters: “I’m really bad at trying to use people I know. I wish

  • Doctorow, Atwood and Amis on America and its Role in Global Political Culture

    11/05/2012 Duration: 01h16min

    One of the highlights of this year's PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature was a talk between writers E.L. Doctorow, Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis. New York Times chief film critic A.O. Scott asked the authors about America and its role in the global political culture at The Times Center. The Sunday before the talk, Doctorow (Homer & Langley, Ragtime), Atwood (The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace) and Amis (Time's Arrow, The Rachel Papers) had written essays for The Sunday Review section of The Times on the subject. Doctorow's was called, "Unexceptionalism: A Primer"; Atwood's was titled, "Hello, Martians. Let Moby Dick Explain"; and Amis's, "Marty and Nick Jr. Go to America." Roughly 100 writers from 25 countries were in New York City from April 30 to May 6 for this year's PEN festival. Bon Mots: Doctorow on why America is becoming increasingly unexceptional, "in terms of our secret warrant-less searches of people's homes and businesses and records, and our data-mining, and all the subversi

  • Who Will Rule Britannia? Patrick Jephson Weighs in at Bonham’s

    09/05/2012 Duration: 39min

    Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 86th birthday on April 21, and the entire Commonwealth is preparing to honor her on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee on June 5. So a look at the future of the British monarchy is timely, and one take on this rich topic was offered at Bonham’s New York auction house on April 30 by a very privileged observer: former Royal Naval Officer Patrick Jephson, who served for eight years as private secretary and chief of staff to the late Princess of Wales. Jephson said that his family’s history of service to the crown goes back to the 13th century, and his talk managed to combine respect and affection with a shrewd assessment of the Windsor “brand,” and what those who will succeed the Queen need to do to succeed in the coming years as a relevant part of British life and a resonant symbol of a vital monarchy in an increasingly diverse and globalized society. The glimpse Jephson gives us of the royal family, particularly those two very private-in-public women, HRH Queen Elizabeth, a

  • The Jane Hotel's Connection to the Titanic Draws a Crowd

    09/04/2012 Duration: 01h04min

    New York City has no shortage of sites that have a direct connection to the Titanic. (See our handy map of some of them below.) One such landmark is the Jane Hotel, formerly known as the American Seamen’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute, which on April 19, 1912 was the site of a memorial service for surviving sailors rescued from the Titanic. The brick neo-Classical building on the West Side Highway and Jane Street was built in 1907-'08 by a Presbyterian group called the American Seamen’s Friends Society. William A. Boring designed the sailors' home. Boring was the former partner of Boring & Tilton, which designed the immigration station on Ellis Island. "One of the identifying characteristics of the building is this wonderful octagonal tower in the corner which used to have a light beacon on top so it looked like a lighthouse," said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation. "It both symbolically and practically was meant to be a plac

  • Authors Conjure Up 'Strange Places' in Readings at Happy Ending

    23/03/2012 Duration: 32min

    The theme for the Happy Ending Music and Reading Series at Joe's Pub in March was Strange Places. Listen to the extraordinary — and absurd — environments that authors Jessica Anthony, Amelia Gray and Heidi Julavitz conjured up their readings. Host and curator Amanda Stern was fighting through a migraine. Author Jessica Anthony had a chest cold. And half of the musical duo Kaiser Cartel, Courtney Kaiser, went into labor the day of the show, leaving Benjamin Cartel to perform on his own. Regardless of these challenges, Anthony, along with the two authors Amelia Gray and Heidi Julavits, were in the house, reading from their work as well as performing their one-thing-they'd-never-performed-on-stage-before for the audience, which is one of Stern's requirements for participating in the series. Gray, an author who funded her current book tour via the popular web site Kickstarter, read a story about a date gone horribly, viscerally, wrong: larynxes fall out of the daters' throats, arms land on the floor and "flesh

  • Bringing At-Risk Teens Closer to Home: A Forum on Juvenile Justice at The New School

    05/03/2012 Duration: 01h32min

    The Center for New York City Affairs hosted a forum on February 2 to review the connection between child welfare and juvenile justice in New York City and the state. The event, entitled “Ties That Bind: Reimagining juvenile justice and child welfare for teens, families and communities,” was intended to coincide with the implementation of key new initiatives that would bring the administration of the intertwined child welfare, juvenile justice and foster care services under New York City jurisdiction.  Participants included Ron Richter, the Commissioner for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services; Deputy Commissioner Larry Bushing; Gabrielle Prisco, Director of the Juvenile Justice Project, the Correctional Association of New York; Mike Arsham, Executive Director, Child Welfare Organizing Project; and Angela Watson, Program Director, Juvenile Justice Initiative, SCO Family of Services in Brooklyn. The forum was moderated by Andrew White, the Director of the New School’s Center for New York Ci

  • The Fire in Him: John Hurt Sets Krapp's Record Straight

    23/12/2011 Duration: 19min

    If there is a lesson to be learned from the post-curtain talk between John Hurt — who has just finished a limited run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater in Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape” — and philosopher Simon Critchley, it’s that if you throw philosophy at an actor, he’ll throw it right back. The two sat down — on the very stage where Krapp obsessively listens to the tapes of his past life — on Dec. 15th, and engaged in a gentle duel of words about exactly how to interpret Beckett’s intense 55-minute play. Hurt began disarmingly by saying, “I’ve always felt that very clever people had to play Beckett,” people with “strings of letters after their names.”  And Critchley’s, “What do you think this play is about?” drew the response, “I was hoping you were going to tell me that!” But when pressed, it was clear that Hurt has very strong ideas about the play, ones that come from inside the experience, from his views on Krapp’s life choice (to abandon love for a life of the mind), to exactly what thos

  • Talk to Me: Behaving Badly at Happy Ending

    22/12/2011 Duration: 30min

    The Happy Ending Music and Reading series has formed a partnership with the arts colony Yaddo located in Saratoga Springs, New York, to present programs featuring writers who have been Yaddo fellows. On December 7th, curator Amanda Stern welcomed three Yaddo alums at the series’ performance home, Joe’s Pub, for a program entitled “Reality and Scandal.”  Two of the authors, Helen Schulman and Jesse Browner, read from works featuring teenage boys in emotional, sexual and social turmoil — Schulman’s “This Beautiful Life" and Browner’s “Everything Happens Today.” This has been fruitful territory ever since J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caufield made such a hash of his prep school career 60 years ago. The third writer, Walter Kirn, went engagingly off course with excerpts from his New York Magazine-approved (as in the weekly “Approval Ratings”) Bible blog. The writer inherited a well-worn study edition of the “King James Bible” from his mother, and is offering up hilariously transgressive interpretations of the narrative

  • Connected by a 'River of Smoke': Amitav Ghosh and Jonathan Spence at The Asia Society

    30/11/2011 Duration: 54min

    The Asia Society inaugurated its new Asian Arts & Ideas series this month with “The ‘Chindia’ Dialogues,” a three-day forum that examined the confluence of the world’s two most powerful developing economies. The organizers chose an unusual point of departure for event — not a historical overview, but a conversation between Jonathan Spence, former Sterling Professor of History at Yale, and the Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh. Ghosh’s most recent book, “River of Smoke,” centers around the mid-19th century Opium Wars, and in their talk, Ghosh and Spence used the topic as a lens through which to view the early modern histories of India and China. As Ghosh notes, historians tend to segment the past in terms of their own specialties (economics, politics, culture, etc.), but, “What a novelist can do is imagine the totality of the experience.” Bon Mots Jonathan Spence on Amitav Ghosh: "The joy of reading Amitav’s work is the completely new way of reading about things I thought I knew — of asking outrageously simp

  • Lovely Bones: Celebrating Anne Sexton at the Cornelia Street Café

    22/11/2011 Duration: 52min

    The poet Anne Sexton took her own life in 1974, but had she lived, this year would have marked her 83rd birthday. Reason enough, thought the actor Paul Hecht, to organize an elegant tribute to her at the Cornelia Street Café on Nov. 14. Two strong women — Kathleen Chalfant and Jennifer Van Dyck — took turns mapping Sexton’s somewhat fragile life through the ley lines of her verse. Even without knowing how it ended, it was possible to glimpse a conflicted mind through the shifting surfaces of her words.  Pianist Liz Magnes provided deft transitions between sections of the program, which followed a loose arc from childhood to maturity. Cornelia Street Café co-owner and host Robin Hirsch provided the introduction. Bon Mots: Verses from "Rowing": Then there was life with its cruel houses and people who seldom touched — though touch is all — Verse from "A Story for Rose": Someday, I promised her, I'll be someone going somewhere. Verses from "The Ambition Bird": The business of words keeps me awake.I am drinki

  • Oxymoron: Frustration at Happy Ending


    With the three-month wait for the re-opening of newly renovated Joe’s Pub over at last, you’d think there would be cause for celebration. But Happy Ending Music & Reading series host and curator Amanda Stern decided on “frustration” as the theme of her series opener, inviting authors Seth Fried, Jesse Ball, and Paul La Farge to vent, with plangent musical guest Anni Rossi adding the low notes. Actually there was little venting, as the writers’ selections all looked at the idea of “frustration” obliquely. Seth Fried’s story, for all it was called “The Great Frustration,” invited us into a kind of ur-Eden in which all the animals are plagued by ambivalence about their own nature, and anxious inertia. Jesse Ball presented himself as a sort of living trope; in the program bio and Stern’s introduction he was described as a recently rediscovered “American writer from the '30s, '40s, and '50s.” In fact, Ball, born in 1978, bristles with decidedly contemporary sesquipedalian irony, as in the excerpt here, describ

  • Lydia Davis and Eliot Weinberger Have High School Reunion at KGB Bar

    07/11/2011 Duration: 46min

    Two famed poets, essayists and translators — Lydia Davis and Eliot Weinberger — recently read from new work at the True Story: Non-Fiction reading series at the KGB Bar in the East Village. Davis ("The Varieties of Disturbance: Stories") and Weinberger (editor of "American Poetry Since 1950: Innovators & Outsiders"), who have been friends since high school, said they decided to call the genre in which they work "Poetry Essays." "Lydia and I were trying to talk about, 'What do we call this genre?'" said Weinberger. "If you have prose poetry, this is sort of like poetry essay. Or poem essay or something like that, because it’s non-fiction but it looks like a poem." Bon Mots: Lydia Davis on Weinberger: "I knew him when he was shorter than I was. Then, strangely, he grew. He changed. We were pals in high school and we’re still pals. He hasn’t changed much. I don’t know if I’ve changed. Coolest kid in high school I wasn’t. He was." Eliot Weinberger on Davis:  "I’ve known Lydia since I was 13. As she s

  • The Asia Society Presents Oral Histories from Burma

    24/10/2011 Duration: 23min

    While diplomats and academics met at the General Assembly of the United Nations on the East Side of Midtown Manhattan, the Asia Society hosted "Voices from Burma," an event honoring the stories of Burmese refugees and political prisoners. Actor and playwright Wallace Shawn, actor Kathryn Grody, writers Amitav Ghosh and Deborah Eisenberg, and former political prisoner Law Eh Soe read from Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives from Survivors of Burma's Military Regime. Veteran journalist, educator, and current Director of the Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations Orville Schell opened and closed the event.   The stories in Nowhere to Be Home are first-hand accounts of refugees who have survived displacement within and across Burma's borders, who have witnessed the destruction of thousands of ethnic minority villages, and who witnessed their home become a country with one of the largest fleets of child soldiers in the world. The book is the seventh title in the McSweeney's non-profit Voice of Witness publi

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