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Literary Traveler to Bring Writers’ Journeys to Television

May 4, 2013 in American Authors, American literature, announcements, Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Literary News, Travel, Travel to New York City


Literary Traveler is excited to announce that we are turning our much-loved website into a series for television. We are passionate about the stories we tell, of authors’ lives and the places that inspire them.

Literary Traveler, the series, will be a new thirty-minute program that follows in the footsteps of classic and modern writers, to explore the inspiring places connected to literature’s most popular and acclaimed works, and to make meaning of the lives, struggles and triumphs of famous authors.

These unique stories are presented by visiting places important to the writer, and by taking unique journeys related to that writer’s life, revealing their experiences and inspirations. Each episode will include interviews with experts, popular writers and academic scholars on the writers profiled. We’ll highlight what the journey and places meant for each writer and discuss how viewers can visit locations featured in the program. We’ll also stop to explore interesting places along the way, immersing ourselves in the culture of a particular time and place, as we traverse the challenges the writers faced on their varied paths to success.

Currently we are producing a pilot episode.  We will go in search of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. An iconic novel of the Jazz Age, with settings that range from Louisville, to Long Island, to NYC, we believe that Gatsby provides the perfect entry point for our literary series.

In order to get this venture off the ground, we are taking the project to Kickstarter and asking our fellow literary travelers to help us finance this project. We are excited to launch our Kickstarter project this May, coincidentally corresponding with Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic. We want to take a deeper look behind this work and others, and at the places and experiences that contribute to each author’s journey.

Stay tuned for more on our Kickstarter and Literary Traveler, the series. Please join our mailing list to stay apprised of updates. And, as always, thank you for your support!

 

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Winter is Coming…

March 11, 2013 in American Authors, Book Series, Fantasy Literature, Television, Travel to New York City, Uncategorized

By Kyle Leahy

Winter is coming to New York City, and no, I don’t mean another snowstorm (thank goodness!). Stopping in five international cities, NYC will be the only city in the United States to host the Game of Thrones Exhibition — a display of costumes, weapons, and props from the Emmy-award winning HBO series. Imagine transporting to the beautiful country of Westeros and immersing yourself in the five houses of Stark, Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, and Greyjoy. If you live in the Northeast, or are game for a road trip, this could be a possibility for you. The traveling display, following the likes of the Harry Potter exhibition, will give fans an up close and personal experience with more than 70 original artifacts from Season 1 and 2. However, unlike the Harry Potter price tag of $26, this exhibition is free to the public. The Game of Thrones Exhibit will open in NYC on March 28th and stay until April 3rd. Other cities hosting the exhibition are Toronto, Sao Paolo, Amsterdam and Belfast.  Check out the HBO website for more information as it becomes available.

If you can’t make it, don’t fret! Season 3 of Game of Thrones  premieres March 31st on HBO.  In the meantime, continue watching the extended trailer (like me) to judge how it will compare with A Storm of Swords, the third novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, upon which the show is based.

Who is everyone excited to see come back? How far will Dany go on her quest for revenge? And will Tyrion finally make things right with his family? I know one thing is for sure — season 3 will be full of jarring twists and heartaches for the characters and the audience. However, only one king (or queen) can survive. So whose side are you on?

Season 3 Extended Trailer

#GOTExhibition

Interview with Linda Olle, Author of the Upper East Side Cookbooks

October 10, 2012 in Fiction, Interviews

Linda Olle’s alter ego Parsley Cresswell is an intriguing character. Glamorous, yet frugal, evasive, yet conspiratorial, she’s the perfect guide to New York’s Upper East Side. Like Parsley, Olle is an avid birder, and the Upper East Side Cookbooks are a little bit like bird-spotting guides you might take with you to a café, while you sip and observe the neighborhood’s characters.

They’re also scrapbooks of tips on how to enjoy life and literature in a wealthy neighborhood on a budget. When WNYC’s Brian Lehrer asked Olle how she differed from her creation, she said coyly, “well, I don’t wear furs.” She does however forage for mushrooms and Gingko nuts in Central Park. And like Parsley, who manages to be both spontaneous and organized, she advises using caution and proper gear.

The UES Cookbooks are narrated by Parsley’s neighbor, a straight-laced accountant who, after Parsley ends up in prison, pulls together the pieces of Parsley’s scandalous life from the notes in her cookbooks. Parsley’s crime? – a former writer and critic fallen on hard times, she pragmatically takes the job of dominatrix, and has the misfortune to be present at the scene of a wealthy old businessman’s death.

Linda Olle blends the drama of Parsley’s life with practical tips from her own experience living on the Upper East Side. The combination of humor, rumor, recipe and literature is a really unique way to be introduced to a neighborhood.

Literary Traveler: What is it that makes artists and writers like yourself want to stay in the Upper East Side, despite the cost of living there?

Linda Olle: If you got your apartment a long time ago, your rent is probably cheaper than in the Bronx. I signed my lease in 1981. It’s quiet here and the architecture is spectacular. There are lots of restaurants and few places to food-shop. I wanted to write about this oddball neighborhood, and there had never been a regional cookbook of the UES.

About ten years ago, I took up bird watching, which is practically inevitable when you live next to Central Park. It opened up a whole world, and I met some wonderful New Yorkers. It’s also Museum Mile. Parsley Cresswell, the heroine of the fictional-cookbook, goes to museum free nights and takes up bird watching, which is also free.

LT: Do you think the recession has changed the habits of wealthy Upper East Siders, or is it just freelancers like Parsley who’ve had to tighten their belts?

LO: Honestly, I cannot tell. I hear rumors of penthouses in foreclosure. Though I bill myself as the Queen of the Upper East Side, and my twitter is CarnegieHillian, I don’t know how neighbors manage at all.

I assume they’re like Mitt Romney and have their billions stored offshore, tax-free. Some of my neighbors are cool people and support good causes. It’s mostly Democrat. I don’t begrudge my neighbors their money, I just wish they’d forked over the taxes to help out their fellow man.

LT: Eric Arthur Blair (A.K.A. George Orwell) is one of Parsley’s favorite literary personalities – and seems to influence her philosophy. Which non-food related author has influenced Parsley’s cooking the most?

LO: The news stories of Martha Stewart spending 5 months at Federal Prison Camp Alderson, in West Virginia, fascinated me. She was able to make crème brûlée in the prison microwave. In Volume 3 of the Upper East Side cookbook series, Parsley Does Thyme, to be published on December 6, 2012, Parsley Cresswell is in prison and manages to make chocolate soufflé in a mug and microwave banana cake. She meets a serial killer who murdered two fiancés who stood her up at the altar: “Julienne made the roasted chicken with lemon and garlic dish called Engagement Chicken with Marry Me Juice for each of her serial boyfriends. She served it with Dutch beer and a salad called Lettuce Alone.” (page 52, Parsley Does Thyme.)

Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London influenced me. Eric Arthur Blair (A.K.A. George Orwell) had a job as a waiter at a restaurant in Paris, found himself working “seventeen and a half hours” a day, “almost without a break.” It prevented him from eating an expensive restaurant meal ever again: “I can point to one or two things I have definitely learned by being hard up. I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy… nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant.” (from Down and Out in Paris and London)

LT: I know that Parsley adores Julia Child – but in the Upper East Side Main Course (Vol 2.) I was surprised to learn that her accountant/neighbor/biographer doesn’t ‘get’ her. Does this reflect your mixed feelings about Julia Child – or do you, like Parsley, make the sign of the cross when her name is mentioned?

LO: I revere her and grew up loving her TV show – everybody did. She was a hoot! Yet I rarely refer to Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s not the most dog-eared cookbook in my collection.

I met Julia Child in 1995, at her home in Cambridge, with my friend who went to the Cordon Bleu. It was about the best day of my life to sit listen to them talk about Paris. She served smoked salmon and dill sandwiches and champagne. Julia’s girlfriend played the piano. It was a sparkling couple of hours. I was higher than a kite.

LT: Parsley’s thriftiness seems to have been born out of her Midwest farming background. But I also notice allusions to the kind of super-organized hippie cooking of the 70s Superwoman. What do you think of the Superwoman model of housekeeping? Do you reckon it’s making a comeback with the recession – and is it sustainable in a tiny city apartment?

LO: The 70s Superwoman was barefoot in the kitchen, made her own bread, wore her hair down, drank cheap red wine, smoked a joint while she cooked. Parsley is that, but actually more of a 50s hostess who takes pains. If you visit her, you’ll find her refrigerator stocked with paté, a selection of cheeses and raw vegetables, and paper-thin rice crackers, capers, and olives. Served by candlelight.

Come to my house and you get a cup of tea and cookies from the store if you’re lucky. I’m an insecure cook, but I aspire to be a 70s hippie, who puts out a fantastic one-dish meal, with crusty bread, and vegetable side dishes, with sensual pleasure and little effort.

LT: I’m sure other readers, like I did, will wonder which anecdotes are true or not. A few of them are so priceless that I just have to ask… I’m thinking of the very Upper East Side moment where a toddler with his nanny mistakes Parsley for his mother, because she is blonde. Or when the 80 year old neighbor who made his way down 80 flights of stairs during the Twin Towers disaster is greeted with cookies, freshly baked by Parsley…

LO: It’s so interesting you ask that. Like Parsley, I have almost an almost unhealthy fixation with Bob Dylan and George Orwell. I have a lot of friends who are writers, and a bookshelf full of intriguingly inscribed books. Here is a preview of volume four of The Upper East Side Cookbook: May I Have a Doggie Bag?: Parsley will be so destitute that she sells off the books, one by one, on eBay.

I too get my clothes second-hand at church bazaars and rummage sales. You can get barely worn expensive clothing at Upper East Side churches. These sales are so popular that their dates are more or less secret. My excellent winter coat came from the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue. There was a wrinkled twenty-dollar bill in the pocket – more than I paid for the coat. These Ferragamo shoes are from the Brick Church, between Park and Madison, where there’s a sale next weekend. I got a cashmere sweater from St. James Episcopal on Madison – the next one, November 16, is marked on my calendar.

The experience of being mistaken by a toddler for his mother happened to me three times in Central Park—with different children. I was in my twenties when I first moved to New York from Wisconsin. I’d be sitting on a park bench, reading. The child toddles up and shyly says, “Mommy?” Nannies on the Upper East Side are usually black. The baby has spent most of his life with the nanny, and rarely sees his mother—who is likely a blonde like I am. The kid looks at me, questioningly. I’d be smiling back and shaking my head “no,” but that only makes him more convinced that I’m his mother. When I give this rather poignant experience to Parsley, I can see the humor in it.

Yes, I know of an 80-year-old man who survived the World Trade Center bombings walking down from the 80th floor, and he walked all the way home to the Upper West Side. His neighbor greeted him with some freshly baked cookies. Talk about the restorative powers of baking!

Parsley’s esthetic is more European and Japanese. I spent a lot of time in the U.K. and in Japan. I’m not a 50s or 70s Superwoman, just a traveler who likes to eat wherever she goes. I’ve eaten fabulous meals in Japan, North Africa, Spain Italy, France, and especially, in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.

Mad Men: Advertising, New York City, And The American Dream

March 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

Photo by Rainbow Media, AMC TV

We recently covered one aspect of 1960s society with our article on counter-culture and the influence of writer and merry prankster Ken Kesey.  This week we turn to AMC’s hit television show Mad Men to help illustrate another, more mainstream, side of the American coin.

A friend of mine once described  Mad Men as being about “nothing more than a bunch of white men drinking, smoking, and sleeping around.”  While this may appear true to a casual viewer – and certainly, much has been made of these less savory aspects of the series – Mad Men is about so much more than the characters’ vices.  It is at once an exploration of our culture of consumerism, a study of the lives of several representative characters, and a portrait of the rapid changes that shook America throughout the 1960s.

In our newest feature article, Paul Millward takes a look at advertising culture and the significance of the American dream, a phrase that has become so common that it has almost lost all meaning.  But with a little help from Mad Men and Millward, it becomes possible to see how advertising appeals to the same portion of the human psyche that is willing to invest in something like the American dream.  Consumer culture is only one type of wish fulfillment, yet it represents our near constant need to always seek out something more, something greater, something forever beyond our grasp.

If you’re anything like me, there is no such thing as too much Mad Men.  However, even a veteran watcher like myself can appreciate a new, fresh take on the much-discussed show, which is why I suggest you take a moment this week and read Millward’s ode to Don Draper, New York, and the dream merchants of the 1960s with his piece Mad Men: Creating a Perfect World on the Avenue of Dreams.

Patti Smith’s Just Kids

March 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

After I finished Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, I put my hand over my heart and wept. After that, I ordered a dress-form and a swath of gold leather online, dumped all my paints, pencils, brushes and duck cloth onto the floor, called my grandma, and downed a glass of chocolate milk.

Patti Smith’s latest book (she’s published a couple non-fiction and poetry books) was so well-written. And her lifestyle in New York City in the 70s was shocking–both for it’s mundane rhythm and it’s provocative statement. It’s an artist’s statement in a way, a collection of stories that express her body of work as a writer, performer, musician and activist.  But most important: she tells a good story about friendship. Her romantic, serious phrasing, reminiscent of the French poetry she obsessed over, would seem contrary to her rock and roll persona if she weren’t so sweet-natured.

Patti Smith has been a truly significant voice for environmental and human rights for many years, but in her memoir, her tender phrasing peals apart the most sensitive (and often saddest) passages of her. Her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, whom she lived with at The Hotel Chelsea, was saturated with sad comforts and colors. To say they knew each other intimately is an understatement. Before he died, Smith promised Mapplethorpe she would write their story: a love story about growing up in a quickly-changing New York art scene,  where artists were lucky if they got out alive. If they did, they lived to tell their story. In Just Kids, Smith is an incredibly believable character. She travels and grows and sours and butterflies in a categorically common way. She harps on regular frustrations like her day job, then graciously extends her hand when we can’t believe her luck. And Mapplethorpe was on her arm throughout it all.

*

A list of influencial names collected from Just Kids:

Robert Mapplethorpe; Godard; Brian Jones; Midnight Cowboy; Williams Burroughs; Anthology of American Folk Music; Crazy Horse; Anna Kavan; Virgil Thomas; Arthur C. Clark; Oscar Wilde; Dylan Thomas; Thomas Wolfe; The Golden Bough; Tim Bukley; Ossie Clark; Wages of Fear; Banny Fields;  Of Human Bondage; Jackie Curtis; Ray Roussel; Locus Solus; Gautier Michaux; Thomas de Quincey; Gregory Corso; Bobby Neuwirth; Patty Waters; Clifton Chenier; Albert Ayler; Blonde on Blonde; Genet; Arthur Rimbaud

 

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