Posts From Author: daniel bergner

In Case of Emergency…

It was a well-travelled audience that left City Winery on Monday night after the House of SpeakEasy’s latest literary cabaret, In Case of Emergency. From Sierra Leone to Delhi via 1930s New York and a near-miss with the Mob went writer-performer-stars Daniel Bergner, Maggie Shipstead, Leonard Lopate, J.D. McClatchy and Amor Towles. It was Seriously Entertaining stuff. Daniel Bergner kicked off with a great tale of magic and medicine in Sierra Leone. Taking up the story of Michael Josiah, who appears in his 2003 book In the Land of Magic Soldiers, Bergner spoke about his “two lives, two minds”. Josiah was always determined to become a doctor, and studied (western) medicine so enthusiastically that he would continue to do so by candlelight long into the night. But when disrupted, as he often was, by the irruption of fighting in Sierra Leone’s civil war, he would join up with the Kamajors, a group of warriors purported to possess magical powers, the potential to cure cancer, and the ability to dodge bullets. Bergner described several occasions when he was invited to watch the Kamajors’ miracles in person. Slathered in a sacred liquid, the soldiers would become apparently impervious to injury. Indeed, Josiah encouraged him […]
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Curtain Call: In Case of Emergency

A state of emergency is declared. You fly tonight. What do you take with you? Clothes? Thermos? Hatchet? Naaah: books, of course. Fortunately you know of a safehouse nearby. A safehouse by the name of SpeakEasy. That’s right, comrades, there’s a Seriously Entertaining way out of this crisis. Between our six guests next week, we have everything you need to survive In Case of Emergency. Don’t have your ticket yet? Fear not, there’s still a few left here. Your checklist: 1. Amor Towles. Author of the marvellous Manhattan merry-go-round Rules of Civility, which we reviewed a few weeks back, and its ebook follow-up Eve in Hollywood. Here’s Towles talking about the great American photographer Walker Evans and the genesis of his debut novel: 2. Evie Wyld‘s new book, All the Birds, Singing, was just published in the US. When it came out in the UK last year, the Guardian said that it “should enhance her reputation as one of our most gifted novelists”. We took a look at her debut, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, earlier this week. In this clip, Wyld reads the opening to All the Birds, Singing: 3. J.D. McClatchy‘s new collection Plundered Hearts just came out to ecstatic reviews — the […]
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How can it be wrong when it feels so right? Daniel Bergner’s “The Other Side of Desire”

Tragedy is full of forbidden desires: the love of Phaedra for her stepson Hippolytus; of the dying Aschenbach for the beautiful Tadzio; of Martin Gray for his goat in Albee’s play. In tragedy, so in life. Daniel Bergner’s The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys Into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing (HarperCollins, 2009) describes a series of intense, unorthodox and in some cases forbidden lusts, many of which have the stamp of the tragic. There’s Roy, who couldn’t resist his twelve-year-old stepdaughter. Jacob, for whom women’s feet “were the breasts, the legs, the buttocks, the genitals”. The Baroness, an East Village dominatrix who once literally spit-roasted a man for three and a half hours. Ron, an advertising artist drawn erotically to amputees. In the course of his sexual odyssey across America, in which he meets a Kinseyan gallery of fetishists, sadists, masochists, psychiatrists and sex offenders, Bergner explores possible answers to big questions: How do we come to have the particular desires that drive us, how do we become who we are sexually, whether our lusts are common or improbable? How much are we born with and how much do we learn from all that surrounds us, how much can […]
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