Posts From Author: maggie shipstead

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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Maggie Shipstead’s “Seating Arrangements”

A wedding was always an aphrodisiac, full of temporary pairings driven by vicarious hope. Love was in the air, weak and snappy as static electricity. – Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf, 2012) Maggie Shipstead‘s debut novel, Seating Arrangements (Knopf, 2012), is a witty social comedy with an exploding whale at its heart. Set largely over the course of two days preceding a wedding on New England island Waskeke, it assumes the perspectives of a series of characters, mostly control-freak father-of-the-bride Winn Van Meter and jilted younger daughter Livia, as it reveals the emotions that coalesce around the lives of the uptight well-to-do as they come together and fall apart. It’s funny and sharp and unpleasant and relentlessly well observed. Winn is a vigorous fifty-nine, a man for whom “each day was a platform for accomplishment”. Heavily governed by social mores — he thinks somewhat reproachfully of his daughter Daphne as “a pregnant bride, no point in pretending otherwise” — he spends most of the book obsessing over his prospective entry into a posh golf club called the Pequod. (Appropriately, perhaps, his quarry is somewhat elusive.) He’s a patriarch of the old school, imagining and favouring male offspring: “His son would join the […]
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