SpeakEasy Blog

Seriously Questioning…Ada Calhoun

Ada Calhoun is the author of two nonfiction books recently published by W.W. Norton & Co.: St. Marks Is Dead was named a New York Times Editors’ Pick, Amazon Book of the Month, and one of the best books of the year by Kirkus, The Boston Globe, Orlando Weekly, and The Village Voice, which called it 2015’s “Best Nonfiction Book About New York.” Her most recent work, Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, is a book of essays about marriage and was released this May.

On June 14, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, By the Light of the Moon alongside Brad Gooch, Harry Evans, and Glenn Frankel (tickets). We spoke to Ada ahead of the show.


Name: Ada Calhoun

Age: 41

Where are you from? St. Marks Place, NYC

What is your occupation? Writer

Title of most recent work: Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give

What are you working on now? A sleep-deprived book tour.

If you had to paint a scene from your childhood to capture its essence, what would you paint? I grew up in the East Village in the ‘80s (which I wrote about in my 2015 book St. Marks Is Dead). I’d paint the sidewalk at the M-13 (now M-8) bus stop on 9th Street, which usually displayed an impressive collage of crack vials, whippets canisters, graffiti, and dried gum.

What’s your earliest memory of literature? My parents hid Curious George Rides a Bike (the one where he turns newspapers into paper boats) because I made them read it to me too many times.

What do you most look forward to (in life at large, or more regularly)? Now that I’m a mother and stepmother and godmother, pretty much all holidays—especially Easter and Christmas and Halloween, but also the Demolition Derby at the annual Delaware County Fair.

Given sufficient budget, what would you put on your wall? More artwork by my friend Larry Krone.

Who, in music, strikes deepest in the soul? The Replacements.

Who in history would you most like to have a stinking-drunk night out with? P.G. Wodehouse and Dawn Powell.

What are your preferred writing materials? A MacBook. I can’t read my own handwriting anymore.

What’s your favorite font? Times New Roman, 12 pt.

Where would we find your favorite bookstore? I’m on the road right now and keep finding new favorites. I had an especially fun time recently at Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley, Skylight in L.A., BookPeople in Austin, Powell’s in Portland, The Tattered Cover in Denver, and Boulder Book Store in Boulder. That said, J.R.R. Tolkien says “the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to,” and my favorite bookstore is usually the one I’m in right that minute.

Seriously Questioning… Glenn Frankel

  Glenn Frankel is an author and journalist, based in Arlington, Virginia. Most recently, he served as the director of the School of Journalism and G.B. Dealey Regents Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He has also spent time as a visiting journalism professor at Stanford University and an Alicia Patterson Fellow. Notably, he… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Tony Tulathimutte

Last year Tony Tulathimutte published his first novel, Private Citizens (William Morrow, 2016), to admiring notices from New York Magazine, which called it “a Great American Novel“, and Jonathan Franzen, who labeled Tulathimutte “a big talent“. Last week he won the Whiting Award for Fiction. Next week he will join our Seriously Entertaining line-up at Joe’s… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy’s witty, moving, fiery new collection, So Much Synth (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), takes us into the past. In its longest poem, “Is There Something I Should Know?”, Shaughnessy remembers a world of Simple Minds and Duran Duran songs, where she finds a young woman haunted by the changes in her body, caught in “pubescence’s acrid synthesis”,… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Mitchell S. Jackson

The recipient of a Whiting Award in 2016, Mitchell S. Jackson has a bright future. When Roxane Gay reviewed The Residue Years, his 2013 debut novel (or “novel“, as the cover has it; it’s also sort of a memoir), she picked out its language, “flying off the page with percussive energy“, its “warmth and wit”, “a hard-won… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Idra Novey

To translate is not just to render in a different language but (done well) to ventriloquize the soul of another. It is to understand undercurrents transcendently, better to realize meaning. Translation isn’t just Babel fishing; it’s screen printing, recreation, midwifery. Idra Novey, the Brooklyn-based novelist and poet who’s translated Clarice Lispector, Paulo Henriques Britto, and Lascano… Continue Reading

Space Oddity

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space Janna Levin Knopf, 2016; 256pp The romance of the cosmos is the subject of Black Hole Blues. The romance of bodies of unimaginable size colliding and merging darkly and silently in space. Romance, yes — but also the knotty bureaucracy that has hampered and enabled scientists for the… Continue Reading

Barnes & Noble
Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Joe's Pub
Citrin Cooperman