Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengräber on Attention, Tension, and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library

Shaquille O'Neil and the smallest book

In fact, the New York Public Library with more than 51 million items, holds treasures such as Christopher Columbus’s 1493 letter announcing his discovery of the New World, George Washington’s original Farewell Address, and John Coltrane’s handwritten score for Lover Man.There are so many things NYPL does that spring from the collection of books,” says Holdengräber. “The books are, in a sense, the landscape from which we can operate. That’s why before an event, whenever possible, I always take people into the special collections.”

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Si Lewen’s Parade: Art Spiegelman in Conversation with Paul Holdengräber

Si Lewen It's a little humbling to encounter Art Spiegelman in person.  This gigantic talent, creator of genre-exploding  narratives that have transformed  storytelling in our time, a courageous voice in the world debates about representation of the sacred among so many other questions  -- dwells inside a fragile man who when prompted to describe himself in seven words choses:  Grumpy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sickly, Dopey, Sneezy, and Anxious.

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The New York Public Library at 100

NYPL at 100 book I’ve never forgotten the smell of that library: well-thumbed books, newspapers and magazines, the blur of spines as I ran down the aisles, the whooshing sound of the microfilm. As a child, it would never have occurred to me that I would one day equate that sweeping visual and olfactory sensation with a deep and trusted source of joy. Which is why I was eager to attend the New York Pubic Library’s Centennial on May 19th, 2011, an event celebrated with a fittingly literary gift to the public—a free collection of photos and essays to be passed on in the spirit of library books.

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Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation

Paul Holdengraber "We’re not a collection of books. We’re a congregation of ideas.” - Paul Holdengräber, Director and Founder of LIVE from the NYPL at The New York Public Library. Paul Holdengräber is the kind of intellectual who can pack the house. His curated conversations with writers, rappers, dancers, historians, film directors and rock-stars have attracted scores of hipsters and scholars to the New York Public Library, which is not surprising to anyone who knows Sorbonne/Princeton educated Holdengräber.

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Literary Magic at the New York Public Library

nypl2 Jean Strouse, Biographer and Director of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Put a scholar or a writer in a library and brain cells fire. The stacks become shelves of imagination and discovery, especially when they are located in The New York Public Library, the second largest public library in the United States, behind only the Library of Congress. Of the more than 18 million patrons who come through the NYPL’s doors annually, 15 in particular stand out. They are heavyweights of intellectualism, a team of scholars and writers, lured each year by the library’s profound atmosphere. They are the Fellows of the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Library’s main research center at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

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Shifting a Literary Axis: Toni Morrison and Junot Diaz in Conversation

gaston-morrison-circle "I think the most sustained love of mine, the one that’s carried me through all these years, is my relationship with Toni Morrison. I’m telling you, I’m one of those people who’s still cracking my head on many of the ideas Toni Morrison both suggested and elaborated on in her work."  -Junot DiazOn December 12, 2013, the apprenticeship of a new American hero took place at the New York Public Library.  Not Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison; she already is a hero(ine).But Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz who paid homage to Morrison in a one-hour talk.Díaz doesn't just talk the talk.

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My Life in Middlemarch: Paul Holdengräber, Rebecca Mead & George Eliot

middlemarch-circle If you build a long relationship with a person or with a book, it starts to become part of the fabric of your imagination—a lens through which you see the world. Because this book spoke to me when I was young and continues to speak to me, it has become the lens through which I understand myself, and the people around me. -Rebecca Mead

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Euphoria of Ignorance: Being Jewish, Becoming Jewish, The Paradox of Being Carlo Ginzburg

NYPL in circle One of the pleasures and intellectual challenges of attending the LIVE from the New York Public Library (NYPL) interview series, created and hosted by Paul Holdengräber, is that like the best literary mystery series Holdengräber's questions spark epiphanies in his subjects, surprising them and us with unexpected leaps and connections.  This year, as host of NYPL's annual Joy Gottesman Ungerleider Lecture, Holdengräber engaged the eminent microhistorian Carlo Ginzburg in a verbal chess match that ranged through history and culture, and the psychological and linguistic roots of Ginzburg's groundbreaking work.

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Pico Iyer on Graham Greene, Hauntedness, and the Man Within My Head

reso-pico-circle “Graham Greene was never a writer I dreamed of becoming: he was part of all that I was trying to put behind me. But there he is, in spite of everything.” --Pico Iyer, The Man Within My Head. William Shakespeare and John Keats. Pablo Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein. George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens. Although these pairs never met, in each case, the latter felt a striking kinship to the former, with an influence that went beyond art, and invaded the personal realm. But why? “The power of affinity is that it lies outside of explanations,” explained acclaimed writer and journalist, Pico Iyer.

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Building Stories Together with Chris Ware and Zadie Smith

reso-zadiechris-circle Shortly after receiving the Guardian First Book award in 2001 for Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, graphic novelist Chris Ware accompanied writer Zadie Smith (recipient of the prize in 2000 for White Teeth), to the Tate Britain to see Martin Creed's Work No. 227: the lights going on and off. As they stood in the empty room that would become light then dark then light again, Smith, in her mid-twenties at the time, turned to Ware and said, "Well, this is what's just won our premier art prize in England." He looked horrified and Smith empathized, especially since Ware had previously been explaining the craft and care involved in making a single page of a comic book, from faintly sketching the images and dialogue boxes in non-photo-blue pencil and then adding layer by layer of definition and color.

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Werner Herzog on Rogue Pursuits, Death Row, and Holy Land

reso-pico-circle Werner Herzog is not an artist, and never was, in his opinion, but for those familiar with his films it is hard to imagine him as anything else. As the film authority Roger Ebert wrote, Herzog’s work speaks of “‘ecstatic truth,’ of a truth beyond the merely factual, a truth that records not the real world but the world as we dream it.” Yet after further contemplation of the rogue filmmaker’s daring work and equally bold life (he has eaten his own shoe, willingly flung himself on a cactus as part of a bet, and shot films on all seven continents), one can understand why he would rather be called a “soldier of cinema.”

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Writing Posthumously: A Conversation with Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens On June 4, 2010, three days before he became gravely ill, I spoke to Christopher Hitchens about his memoir, Hitch 22. I was particularly taken not by the politics, which everyone knew and though of interest, mattered less to me just then, than the literary side. Hitch was a great reader and more candid in print about his life, his mother and father, his origins.

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