At Home with the Library

The history of the American Library is interwoven with those of the writers who have made Paris their home, however briefly. Lawrence Ferlinghetti composed poems while wandering the stacks. Henry Miller wrote letters to the librarian asking for books on Zen Buddhism. Mary McCarthy complained to the director that we didn’t have enough copies of her books. Sylvia Beach donated books to the Library. We cherish these stories as much as the volumes on our shelves.

In honor of the Library’s 100th birthday this year, we’ve launched At Home with the Library, where stars from the stage and the page are reading snippets from the works of these writers on video, all filmed at home. You’ll enjoy the words of Richard WrightJulia Child, and Colette, all frequent guests at the Library, being brought to life by such luminaries as Claire MessudAlan CummingHala Alyan, and Blythe Danner. At Home with the Library is designed to help you discover or rediscover authors as you might when browsing the shelves, picking up a book, flipping to a page, and being carried away.

Every few days in May (our birthday month), a new reading will be launched on our Instagram account via IGTV and on our Youtube channel.  You can also watch the videos here, on the At Home with the Library webpage. Make sure to follow us on Facebook,  Instagram, and YouTube for the latest updates.

A special thanks to Denis O’Hare for his inspiration and leadership on the project.

Denis O'Hare reads Gertrude Stein

Acclaimed theater, television, and film star Denis O’Hare reads from Gertrude Stein. Stein, the doyenne of American expat writers, wrote for the American Library’s newsletter and was a frequent patron. She and her partner Alice B. Toklas purportedly argued in the stacks, but the books will never tell.

Jake Lamar reads Richard Wright

In this edition of At Home with the Library, Jake Lamar reads a short passage from Richard Wright’s Black Boy. Lamar is the author of six novels, a memoir, and a play, Brothers in Exile, about Wright, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes. Wright was a frequent patron of the American Library.

Dana Thomas reads Edith Wharton

Our reader for this edition of At Home with the Library is Dana Thomas, a style writer and author of Fashionopolis, the NY Times Bestseller Deluxe, and Gods & Kings. She is also a longtime member of the American Library. She will be reading from Edith Wharton, who was one of the Library’s first trustees and supporters.

Michael Cristofer reads William Styron

Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer reads a raw and ribald selection from William Styron in this edition of At Home with the Library. Cristofer is also known for his role as Phillip Price on the show Mr. Robot. Styron was a Library member, donor, and speaker.

Colman Domingo reads Cole Porter

Our next At Home with the Library is Cole Porter’s song ‘Miss Otis Regrets’, read by the wonderful Colman Domingo, who performed at the Library with theatre company Word for Word. Cole Porter lived in Paris in the early 1920s and donated books to the Library. Our Annual Report from 1929 states that he donated “100 volumes of general works”.

Alan Cumming reads Jean Rhys

Today’s At Home with the Library comes from Scottish actor Alan Cumming, with an excerpt from ‘After Leaving Mr MacKenzie’ by Jean Rhys. Rhys’ 2nd novel is set in Paris in the 1920s, the era of the founding of the Library!

Hala Alyan reads James Emanuel

Former Library visiting fellow Hala Aylan reads two of James Emanuel’s poems, ‘Francoise and the Fruit Farmer’ and ‘False Notions, Fears and Other Things of Wood’, for today’s At Home With the Library. Hala reflects on confinement and her time at the Library before sharing her readings, recorded on May 6.

Blythe Danner reads Colette

The superb American actress Blythe Danner leads today’s At Home with the Library with an extract from Colette’s “Claudine in Paris”. Nobel Prize winning French author and journalist Colette spoke at the Library in the 1930s, in the tradition of the Library’s Evenings with an Author still continuing today.

Claire Messud reads Mary McCarthy

Author Claire Messud reads an extract from Mary McCarthy’s “Memories of a Catholic Girlhood” for today’s At Home with the Library. McCarthy, an activist and novelist, was a member of the Library. Library lore has it that McCarthy vociferously suggested that the Library purchase more copies of her works! Messud herself worked on her exquisite novellas “The Hunters” at the Library’s reading room.

Bob Balaban reads P.G.Wodehouse

Actor, director and producer Bob Balaban reads an extract from “Summer Lightning” by P.G.Wodehouse. As well as an extensive film and TV career, both on and behind the camera, Balaban is the author of a series of children’s books and has penned reflections on his acting experiences. Wodehouse was a patron of the Library and in a 1945 letter to Bill Townend, he wrote: “I took it [“Is he Popenjoy?” by Anthony Trollope] out of the American Library (for which, by the way, thank God; it makes all the difference to life in Paris).”

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