The New York Society Library

Todays Date: 06/25/22
Last Update: 01/23/13 10:56:26 PM
Address: 53 East 79th Street
New York, NY    10075

History of Productions View Current and Upcoming

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, acclaimed historian James Oakes presents a powerful history that will reshape our understanding of Lincoln and the Civil War.

The consensus view of the Civil Warthat it was first and foremost a war to restore the Union, and an antislavery war only later when it became necessary for Union victorydies here. Oakes's groundbreaking history shows how deftly Lincoln and congressional Republicans pursued antislavery throughout the war, pragmatic in policy but steadfast on principle.

In the disloyal South, the federal government quickly began freeing slaves, immediately and without slaveholder compensation, as they fled to Union lines. In the loyal Border States the Republicans tried coaxing officials into abolishing slavery gradually with promises of compensation. As the devastating war continued with slavery still entrenched, Republicans embraced a more aggressive military emancipation, triggered by the Emancipation Proclamation. Finally it took a constitutional amendment on abolition to achieve the Union's primary goal in the war. Here, in a magisterial history, are the intertwined stories of emancipation and the Civil War. Preeminent Lincoln historian Eric Foner says, "This remarkable book offers the best account ever written of the complex historical process known as emancipation. The story is dramatic and compelling, and no one interested in the American Civil War or the fate of slavery can afford to ignore it."

James Oakes is the Graduate School Humanities Professor and Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is also the author of The Radical and the Republican, which won the Lincoln Prize.


Beth Gutcheon is the author most recently of Gossip (William Morrow, March 2012), and Lauren Belfer's most recent title is A Fierce Radiance (Harper, June 2010). Both aim a magnifying glass at the rewards and struggles of friendship and family ties, examining how people who owe each other kindness cause wounds with words shared or withheld. In this conversation created especially for the Library, the authors will consider how writers describe characters' close relationships and the high emotions that follow when those relationships go wrong.

Beth Gutcheon is the critically acclaimed author of eight previous novels: The New Girls, Still Missing, Domestic Pleasures, Saying Grace, Five Fortunes, More Than You Know, Leeway Cottage, and Good-bye and Amen. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy Award nominee The Children of Theatre Street. Gossip is a sharply perceptive and emotionally resonant novel about all the ways we talk about one another, the sometimes fine line between showing concern and doing damage, and the difficulty of knowing the true obligations of friendship. The Boston Globe calls it "Enthralling...triumphant and true."

Lauren Belfer is the author of the New York Times bestseller City of Light. A Fierce Radiance is a compelling, richly detailed tale of passion and intrigue set in New York City during the tumultuous early days of World War II. Booklist said of it, "Belfer combines life-and-death scenarios, romance, murder, and wartime reality at home and abroad, while taking a stab at industrialists who profit by dubious means and salve their consciences through philanthropy....An engrossing and ambitious novel that vividly portrays a critical time in American history."


One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness, although she was standing in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. "Of all the elements of a happy life," she thought, "my home is the most important." In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home. She dedicated a school yearSeptember through Mayto making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.

In her previous book The Happiness Project, Rubin worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she overcome the tyranny of her smartphone? How might she spotlight her family's treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.

Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions and coaxes her family into new resolutions as well.

With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin's passion for her subject jumps off the page, inspiring readers to find more happiness in their own lives.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project. Rubin started her career in law and was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized that she really wanted to be a writer.


No woman in the Gilded Age made as much money as Hetty Green. At the time of her death in 1916, she was worth at least 100 million dollars, equal to more than two billion dollars today. A strong believer in women being financially independent, she offered valuable lessons for the present times.

Abandoned at birth by her neurotic mother, scorned by her misogynist father, Hetty set out as a child to prove her value. Never losing faith in America's potential, she ignored the herd mentality and took advantage of financial panics and crises. When everyone else was selling, she bought railroads, real estate, and government bonds. And when everyone was buying and borrowing, she put her money into cash and earned safe returns on her dollars. Men mocked her and women scoffed at her frugal ways, but she turned her back and piled up her earnings, amassing a fortune that supported businesses, churches, municipalities, and even the city of New York itself.

Green's independence, outspokenness, and disdain for the upper crust earned her a reputation for harshness that endured for decades. Newspapers kept her in the headlines, linking her name with witches and miscreants. Yet those who knew her admired her warmth, wisdom, and wit.

Set during a period of financial crisis strikingly similar to our current one, this engrossing exploration of a fascinating life revives a rarely-mentioned queen of American finance.

Janet Wallach is the author of nine books including Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell, which has been translated into twelve languages and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.


The award-winning author of Minor Characters presents a groundbreaking portrait of Kerouac as a young artist.

In The Voice is All, Joyce Johnson, author of the classic memoir Door Wide Open, about her relationship with Jack Kerouac, brilliantly peels away layers of the Kerouac legend to show how, caught between two cultures and two languages, he forged a voice to contain his dualities. Looking more deeply than previous biographers into how Kerouac's French Canadian background enriched his prose and gave him a unique outsider's vision of America, she tracks his development from boyhood through the phenomenal breakthroughs of 1951 that resulted in the composition of On the Road, followed by Visions of Cody. By illuminating Kerouac's early choice to sacrifice everything to his work, The Voice Is All deals with him on his own terms and puts the tragic contradictions of his nature and his complex relationships into perspective. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it "Spectacular...definitely the Kerouac book for our time."

Joyce Johnson's books include the National Book Critics Circle Award winner Minor Characters, Missing Men, Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 19571958 (with Jack Kerouac), and In the Night Café. She has also written for Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.


The Wharton Salon presents THE INNER HOUSE  | Open: 12/02/12 Close: 12/02/12
As part of our continuing celebration of the 150th birthday of Edith Wharton, the Library is proud to present The Inner House. A vivid account of Wharton's public and private life, it is adapted by Dennis Krausnick from her 1934 autobiography, A Backward Glance, and her private letters and poems. This production by The Wharton Salon is directed by Normi Noël and stars Tod Randolph as Wharton. It played to sold-out audiences at Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, in August 2012.

The Inner House covers Wharton at five years old taking a walk with her father down "the old Fifth Avenue" in New York City, her earliest years of "making up" that sowed the seeds of her later writing career, her unpreparedness for marriage to Teddy Wharton, days at The Mount, unhappiness and divorce, her later affair with Morton Fullerton, her journey abroad, assistance to France in World War I, and loving descriptions of her close friends and mentors Henry James, Walter Berry, and Bernard Berenson.

The Wharton Salon is a professional theater company that performs the stories of novelist Edith Wharton and her contemporaries in site-specific locations, offering a unique intimacy between author, actor, and audience, and drawing connections between literature, architecture, and nature. Cast bios, video, performance archives, and photos can be found at

This event is generously supported by the Estate of Marian O. Naumburg.


Part detective tale, part social and cultural narrative, Black Gotham is Carla Peterson's riveting account of her quest to reconstruct the lives of her nineteenth-century ancestors. As she shares their stories and those of their friends, neighbors, and business associates, she illuminates the greater history of African-American elites in New York City. Black Gotham challenges many of the accepted truths about African-American history, including the assumptions that all nineteenth-century black Americans were enslaved people, that New York prior to the Civil War was a place of freedom, and that a black elite was a twentieth-century innovation.

Beginning her story in the 1820s, Peterson focuses on the pupils of the Mulberry Street School, the graduates of which went on to become eminent African-American leaders. She traces their political activities as well as their many achievements in trade, business, and the professions against the backdrop of the expansion of scientific racism, the trauma of the Civil War draft riots, and the rise of Jim Crow. Told in a vivid, fast-paced style, Black Gotham is an important account of the rarely acknowledged achievements of nineteenth-century African Americans and brings to the forefront a vital yet forgotten part of American history and culture.

Black Gotham was the winner of the Library's 2011 New York City Book Award for History.

Carla L. Peterson received her Ph.D. from Yale and is professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of "Doers of the Word": African-American Women Speakers and Writers in the North, 1830-1880.


Francine Du Plessix Gray On The Queen's Lover  | Open: 11/14/12 Close: 11/14/12
Francine du Plessix Gray's beautifully realized historical novel reveals the untold love story between Marie Antoinette and Swedish aristocrat Count Axel Von Fersen. Their first electric encounter at a masked ball, when they are both nineteen, launches a love affair that will span the course of the French Revolution.

After fighting with French troops for American independence, Fersen returns to find France in upheaval. When the Revolution greatly impedes the freedom of Louis XVI and his family, Fersen tries to help them escape France. The failed attempt worsens the captivity of the king and queen, who will both be executed in 1793.
Grieving his lost love as he returns to his homeland, Fersen begins to sense the effect of the French Revolution even in his native Sweden. Failing to realize that centuries of tradition have waned, he loses his life at the hands of a savage mob that views him as a pivotal member of the ruling class. His fate is symbolic of the violent speed with which the events of the eighteenth century transformed European culture. "A feat of research and imagination," as the Wall Street Journal described it, The Queen's Lover offers a fresh vision of the French Revolution and of the French royal family as told through the love story that was at its center. The Washington Post called it "spellbinding."

Francine du Plessix Gray has been a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Simone Weil, At Home with the Marquis de Sade, Rage and Fire, Lovers and Tyrants, Soviet Women, and, more recently, Them: A Memoir of Parents, which won a National Book Critics' Circle award.


In 2008, Charles Rowan Beye married his longtime partner Richard at a chapel on the edge of the Harvard University campus, where he had received his Ph.D. in classical philology nearly fifty years earlier. The path he took to get to that pointhis third weddinghad nearly as many ups and downs as the great works of classical literature he studied throughout his professional career.

The ordeal of remaining true to what his libido told him was right, in the midst of a disapproving and sometimes hostile society, is one side of his story. Another is the impulsive decision he made as a young adult to marry a woman who fascinated him. Beye found himself suddenly a husband, a widower, a groom for a second time, and, finally, the father of four children and grandfather of six. Along the way, he authored numerous well-regarded scholarly works in his field, taught at institutions like Yale, Stanford, and Boston University, and never abandoned his involvement with men. When one of those relationships proved long-lasting, an extraordinary happy conclusion resulted.

In My Husband and My Wives, Beye tells this deeply personal story with a winning mix of humor, intelligence, and honesty and provides an important and fascinating testimony to the evolution of social mores and gay life in this country. This wonderfully original, challenging, life- and love-affirming account could only have been written by the unconventional man who lived through it all.

Charles Rowan Beye is a retired professor of Ancient Greek. His books include Odysseus: A Life and Ancient Epic Poetry: Homer, Apollonius, Virgil with a Chapter on the Gilgamesh Poems.


Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the first woman playwright to win a Tony Award, Wendy Wasserstein was a Broadway luminary, but a personal mystery. In WENDY AND THE LOST BOYS, Julie Salamon delicately pieces together the many fractured narratives of Wasserstein's life - the stories (often contradictory) that she shared amongst friends and family, the half truths of her plays and essays and the confessions and camouflage present even in her own journal writing - to reveal the writer herself as her most expertly crafted character.


Panel: Shirley Hazzard, Literary Icon  | Open: 09/07/12 Close: 09/07/12
Gail Jones, Jay Parini, Martin Stannard, Brigitta Olubas, Annabel Davis-Goff
moderated by Jonathan Galassi
introduced by Consul General Phil Scanlan AM

As part of the first international conference about National Book Award winner Shirley Hazzard, a distinguished panel discuss her life and works, including TRANSIT OF VENUS and THE GREAT FIRE. Brigitta Olubas's new book SHIRLEY HAZZARD: LITERARY EXPATRIATE AND COSMOPOLITAN HUMANIST, the first full-length analysis of Hazzard's achievements, will have its American launch at this event.