SpeakEasy Blog

Seriously Questioning…Caroline Weber

Caroline Weber is an Associate Professor of French at Barnard and the author of The New York Times Notable Book, Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. Her essays have appeared in a wide variety of academic and mainstream publications. She has published articles on eighteenth-century authors such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot, Sade, Charrière, and La Chaussée, and on contemporary thinkers like Lacan and Lyotard. She writes regularly for The New York Times Book Review. Her new book is Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin de Siecle Paris.

Caroline is speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show on May 22nd, themed No Man’s Land, alongside Kashana Cauley, Lauren Hilgers, and Meg Wolitzer. We spoke to Caroline ahead of the show…

What is your earliest memory involving reading or writing?

Waking up as a small child to find my canopy bed on fire because I had been reading under the covers so that my parents wouldn’t know I had stayed up past my bedtime & somehow the little camping lamp I was using overheated after I drifted off to sleep. I escaped the conflagration & was duly scolded by my parents but didn’t stop reading in bed after hours; I simply switched to a battery-operated flashlight.

What is your favorite line from your current work?

(About Elisabeth Greffulhe, one of the book’s 3 heroines): “Elisabeth was the lantern. Elisabeth was the magic.”

What is your favorite first line of a novel?

My favorite recent discovery is the opening sentence, which is actually 1 long paragraph, of Mathias Énard’s BOUSSOLE (COMPASS, transl. Charlotte Mandell): “We are two opium smokers each in his own cloud, seeing nothing outside, alone, never understanding each other we smoke, faces agonizing in a mirror, we are a frozen image to which time gives the illusion of movement, a snow crystal gliding over a ball of frost, the complexity of whose intertwinings no one can see, I am that drop of water condensed on the window of my living room, a rolling liquid pearl that knows nothing of the vapor that engendered it, not the atoms that still compose it but that, soon, will serve other molecules, other bodies, the clouds weighing heavily over Vienna tonight: over whose nape will this water stream, against what skin, on what pavement, toward what river, and this indistinct face on the glass is mine only for an instant, one of the millions of possible configurations of illusion–look, Herr Gruber is walking his dog despite the drizzle, he’s wearing a green hat and his eternal raincoat; he avoids getting splashed by the cars by making ridiculous little leaps on the pavement: the mutt thinks he wants to play so it leaps toward its master and gets a good slap the second it places its dirty paws on Herr Gruber’s coat, despite everything he manages to reach the road to cross, his silhouette is lengthened by the streetlights, a blackened pool in the midst of a sea of shadows of the tall trees ripped apart by the headlights along the Porzellangasse, and Herr Gruber seems to think twice about plunging into the Alsergrund night, as I do about leaving my contemplation of the drops of water, the thermometer, and the rhythm of the trams descending toward the Schottentor.”

What writer past or present do you wish you could eat dinner with?

Proust! Because by all accounts he was a hilarious dinner partner, witty & lively & an uncannily good mimic. I would kill to see his impressions of the people I wrote about in Prout’s Duchess.

What are you reading right now?

Mrs Osmond, by John Banville.

Seriously Questioning…Kashana Cauley

Kashana Cauley is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. Her writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Esquire, The New Yorker,  Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. She is a former staff writer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Kashana is speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show on May 22nd, themed No Man’s Land, alongside Lauren Hilgers,… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Lauren Hilgers

Lauren Hilgers is a journalist whose articles have appeared in Harper’s, Wired, Businessweek, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. Her new book is Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown. Lauren is speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show on May 22nd, themed No Man’s Land, alongside Caroline Weber and Meg Wolitzer. We spoke to… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart is the author of the New York Times-bestselling We Were Liars, which has been published in 33 countries. She is also the author of the National Book Award finalist The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the New York Times-bestselling novel Genuine Fraud, which Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner are adapting for their… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Åsne Seierstad

  Åsne Seierstad is an award-winning Norwegian journalist and writer known for her work as a war correspondent. She is the author of The Bookseller of Kabul, One Hundred and One Days: A Baghdad Journal, Angel of Grozny: Inside Chechnya, One of Us, and her new book Two Sisters: A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…David Enrich

David Enrich is the Gerald Loeb Award-winning Finance Editor of The New York Times. He previously was Financial Enterprise Editor of The Wall Street Journal, heading an elite investigative unit at the paper. Enrich is the author of The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers, and One… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Joselin Linder

Joselin Linder is a regular contributor to the New York Post, whose work has also been featured on “This American Life” and “Morning Edition.” She spoke at the TEDX GOWANUS event in Brooklyn in 2014, presenting for the first time on the subject of her family gene and the deadly illness to which it leads.… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Duncan Hannah

Duncan Hannah is is an artist who became popular in the 1970’s in New York’s avant-garde and glam and punk rock scenes, acted in a number of underground movies, and showed several of his figurative portraits in 1980’s infamous Times Square Show. His work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Stefan Merrill Block

Stefan Merrill Block is the author of The Story of Forgetting, an international bestseller and the winner of Best First Fiction at the Rome International Festival of Literature, The Ovid Prize from the Romanian Writer’s Union, the 2008 Merck Serono Literature Prize and the 2009 Fiction Award from The Writers’ League of Texas. Stefan’s novels have been… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning…Sandra Allen

Sandra Allen is the former BuzzFeed features editor and co-founder of the online literary magazine Wag’s Revue. Her essays have been featured in Best American Essays and Best American Science and Nature Writing. Sandra is the author of the memoir A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia, about her uncle. Sandra spoke… Continue Reading

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