SpeakEasy Blog

Seriously Questioning…David Friend

David Friend joined Vanity Fair as editor of creative development in 1998, after serving as Life magazine’s director of photography. Friend is the author of Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11. He has won Emmy and Peabody awards as an executive producer of 9/11, a CBS documentary that aired in 140 countries. Friend has covered conflicts in Afghanistan, in Lebanon, and throughout the Middle East. He has organized numerous photography exhibitions, including “Vanity Fair Portraits, 1913–2008,” which he co-curated with Terence Pepper, of the National Potrait Gallery, London. Along with Graydon Carter, Friend edited Vanity Fair’s Hollywood, as well as Oscar Night. His new book is The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido.

On December 5th, he will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, Caught in the Act alongside James Foreman Jr., Laura Lippman, and JT Rogers  (tickets). We spoke to James ahead of the show…


Describe your current project: The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido

What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing? Reading Dick, Jane, Spot.  The first story I read at school involved Sally and a cat named Puff.

What is your favorite line from your current work? “It was, in a phrase, the age of the long lie.” –The Naughty Nineties

What is your favorite first line of a novel? riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.Finnegan’s Wake.  I love it because the sentence begins at end of the book and the novel is actually circular, not linear.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Love, live, read, write, and live some more.

What writer, past or present, do you wish you could eat dinner with? Elie Weisel and Fyodor Dostoevsky

What writer do you wish you could share with the world? Poets Patricia Lockwood and Michael Robbins

What are you reading right now? Nathan Englander’s Dinner at the Center of the Earth

What fictional character do you most closely identify with? Stephen Daedalus, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

If you could live inside a fictional world, which one would you choose? Ebenezeer Scrooge’s

Are there any quotes you use to inspire you? A prayer: “Blessed art thou, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the universe, who in bestowing good upon man beyond his deserving, hast dealt graciously with me.”

Seriously Questioning…Laura Lippman

  Laura Lippman is a New York Times bestselling novelist who has won more than 20 awards for her fiction—and been nominated for 30 more. Since her debut in 1997, she has published 20 novels, a novella and a collection of short stories. Lit Hub recently named her one of the “essential” female crime writers of… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…James Forman Jr.

James Forman Jr. is one of the nation’s leading authorities on race, education, and the criminal justice system, and a tireless advocate for young people who others have written off.  Forman worked as a law clerk for Judge William Norris of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the U.S. Supreme… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…J.T. Rogers

J.T. Rogers is a playwright whose plays include  (Lincoln Center Theater, then Broadway; National Theatre, London, then West End); Blood and Gifts (Lincoln Center Theater; National Theatre); The Overwhelming (National Theatre, then UK tour with Out of Joint; Roundabout Theatre); White People (Off-Broadwaywith Starry Night Productions); and Madagascar (Theatre 503, London; Melbourne Theatre Company). For… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Julie Scelfo

Julie Scelfo is a former staff writer/current contributor to The New York Times, where her stories about society and human behavior reframe popular ideas and ask us to rethink our basic assumptions. Scelfo has contributed to The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Ad Nauseam: A Survivor’s Guide to American Consumer Culture and her work… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Lev Grossman

Lev Grossman is the author of Warp, Codex, and The Magicians series, the first of which was one The New Yorker‘s best books of the year. The Magicians books have now been published in twenty-five countries. Grossman was both the lead technology writer and the book critic for Time magazine for fifteen years, from 2002… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and photographer. She received the MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. A Cave Canem and Kimbilio Fellow, she is the recipient of fellowships including Yaddo, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, The Millay Colony, and others. In 2011, Griffiths appeared in the… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…David Kilcullen

David Kilcullen is the Chairman of Caerus Associates. Before founding Caerus, he was Special Advisor to the Secretary of State from 2007-2009 and Senior Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq in 2007. He is the author of bestselling books The Accidental Guerrilla, Counterinsurgency and Out of the Mountains. His most recent book is The… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now, 3 Willows, The Last Summer (of You and Me), and My Name Is Memory. She lives in New York City with her family. On September 26th, she will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright III is a singer-songwriter and actor. In 1968,  he began to write songs, and in 1969 recorded his first album. Wainwright has recorded twenty-seven albums, including his 2010 Grammy Award–winning High, Wide, & Handsome. His songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Mose Allison, Rufus Wainwright, Bonnie Raitt, and Earl Scruggs, among others. As an… Continue Reading

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