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A single theme and a wine list

A “literary cabaret” in a Manhattan restaurant is the pick of the summer talks

Anthony Gardner | July/August 2014

The great ping-pong match of Anglo-American cultural exchange resumes with the House of SpeakEasy, a monthly “literary cabaret” in Manhattan run by the British historian Amanda Foreman. Modelled on 5x15 in London (itself influenced by The Moth in New York), it asks half a dozen speakers to share a single theme. June’s is Falling for Perfection, with the novelist Emma Straub, the New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, the academic Debora Spar, the poet Jeff McDaniel and the playwright/novelist/musician/etc, Adam Rapp. “We liked the 5x15 format,” says Foreman, who shares MC duties with Lucas Wittman from the Daily Beast, “but we didn’t want people rehashing old talks, so we tried to create more of a conversation.” The venue, a SoHo restaurant with a stage, is a bid to “re-imagine the needs of a modern audience, so they aren’t just sitting in a row as if in a classroom”. It also happens to have a rather good wine list. ~ Anthony Gardner

House of SpeakEasy City Winery, New York, June 23rd

TALKS AT A GLANCE

West Cork Literary Festival (Bantry, July 6th-12th). Ben Okri, Jonathan Miller, Jennifer Johnston, Andy Kershaw and Nick Laird take the sea air on an inspiring coastline.

Craig Brown (St Mary’s Church, London NW3, July 9th). As part of the Primrose Hill Lectures series, Britain’s pre-eminent parodist looks back on 25 years of his diary in Private Eye, lampooning writers from D.H. Lawrence to W.G. Sebald.   

Latitude (Suffolk, July 18th- 20th). Okri appears again, alongside Roger McGough, Shami Chakrabarti, Marcus du Sautoy, Rachel Cooke and (poached from Glastonbury) Attila the Stockbroker.  

Edinburgh Festival (Aug 8th-31st). Of all the writers pontificating about 1914, there are few to touch the historian Margaret MacMillan, whose talk will be a highlight of the main festival. A bevy of New York intellectuals are at the Book Festival (Aug 9th-25th). Mysteriously, the question of Scottish independence gets an airing only on the Fringe; National Collective’s writers and singers, including Billy Bragg, who wrote “A New England”, will be agitating for a Yes vote. ~ AG

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