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Thalia Book Club: Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 09/28/2015 at Symphony Space.

In honor of the release of The Story of the Lost Child, the concluding installment in the Neapolitan Novels, John Waters, Sonali Deraniyagala (Wave), Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge), and Judith Thurman (The New Yorker) discuss the books and the mysterious Italian author whose series about the moving and turbulent friendships of Elena and Lila, became a literary phenomenon. Conversation moderated by Parul Sehgal (New York Times Book Review) with and excerpt performed by actor Amy Ryan (Birdman). Hosted by Amanda Stern.

+ About the Artists

SONALI DERANIYAGALA is a Sri Lankan memoirist and economist. She is the author of Wave, a memoir recounting her experience in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and her emotional experiences in the ensuing years. Wave won the PEN Ackerley Prize in 2013. She studied economics at Cambridge University and earned her doctorate from the University of Oxford. She is on faculty in the University of London’s Department of Economics and is a research scholar at Columbia University.

ELENA FERRANTE is the pen name for an Italian novelist whose true identity is not publicly known. At the publication of her first novel, Ferrante affirmed, “I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” She is the author of The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. Her Neapolitan novels include My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of The Lost Child, the fourth and final volume in the series, which was published earlier this month. Two of her novels have been adapted for film: Troubling Love was adapted by Mario Martone into the film Nasty Love, and Days of Abandonment became a film of the same title directed by Roberto Faenza.

AMY RYAN was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the film Gone Baby Gone. Her other film credits include Birdman, Louder Than Bombs, Don Verdean, Changeling, Capote, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Jack Goes Boating, Green Zone, Win Win, Breathe In, and Clear History for HBO. On stage, she has performed in numerous Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, with Tony Nominations for both Uncle Vanya and A Streetcar Named Desire. Her television credits include Broad City, In Treatment, The Wire, and The Office. Her upcoming projects include the films Goosebumps, Bridge of Spies, Monster Trucks, and Infiltrator.

PARUL SEHGAL is an editor at The New York Times Book Review. Her writing has appeared in Slate, Bookforum,, Tin House, and The Literary Review, among other publications. She is the recipient of the Pan African Literary Forum’s OneWorld Prize and the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle. She has taught at Columbia University and has spoken at the New School, NYU, Harvard University, Book Expo America, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. She is
a regular contributor to NPR, NY1’s “The Book Reader,” and
Slate’s Audio
Book Club.


AMANDA STERN is a writer, and the founder of the Happy Ending Music & Reading Series. She’s published twelve books: The Long Haul, and eleven books for children under pseudonyms (Fiona Rosenbloom and A.J. Stern). She’s written for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Filmmaker, The Believer, Salon, and Interview Magazine, among many others. She’s received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and won a NYFA fiction grant in 2013. She’s currently working on her first book of non-fiction. Obviously, she lives in Brooklyn.

ELIZABETH STROUT is the author of four New York Times-bestselling books of fiction: Olive Kitteridge, Amy and Isabelle, Abide with Me, and, most recently, The Burgess Boys. Amy and Isabelle was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and was adapted by Oprah into a television movie. Olive Kitteridge earned the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and

was recently adapted into an Emmy-winning HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand. The Burgess Boys was named one of the best books of the
year by
The Washington Post, NPR, and Good Housekeeping. She has taught creative writing at Colgate University and Queens University of Charlotte.

JUDITH THURMAN is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction, and Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Biography and the Salon Book Award for biography. A collection of her New Yorker essays, Cleopatra’s Nose, was published in 2007. She received the Rungstedlund Prize and the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for prose style, from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

JOHN WATERS is a filmmaker, actor, writer, and visual artist best known for his cult films, including, Pink Flamingos, Cecil B. DeMented, and Hairspray, which was adapted into the Broadway Musical. He is the recipient of the Filmmaker on the Edge Award from the Provincetown International Film Festival, the

Jack Smith Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Underground Film Festival, the GLAAD Media Stephen F. Kolzak Award, and the Copper Wing Tribute Award from the Phoenix Award Festival. He is also an accomplished photographer, as well as the author of Role Models, Shock Value, and most recently, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America

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