By Edward Nawotka
Berlin-based French book critic Fabrice Rozie and Giovanna Calvino, daughter of the late Italian author Italo Calvino, are raising money to launch a new literary webcast talk show in New York starting this summer. Entitled “Amateur Thursdays” the concept is to present five-minute, edited “show” featuring contemporary writers and celebrities discussion new and classic books that they love.
While the concept isn’t entirely new –- there have been several online book chat shows in recent years -– this one does have a distinctly European flair.
“The name comes from T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party in which a character calls his wife’s attempt at hosting a salon her “amateur thursdays,” said Rozie, who will serve as the show’s executive editor. “The idea is to host the show in the context of a New York cocktail party, where the camera can zoom in to a small group who will be discussing specific books. The show should appear to be seemingly casual, but will actually be carefully edited. We intend for it to be fast-paced and witty.”
The concept also calls for them to enlist commercial and film directors to shoot, with each contributing their own look and feel to the event.
The pilot show is already cast and will feature novelists Michael Cunningham and Uzodinma Iweala discussing Kierkegaard’s Diary of a Seducer and the recently published self-help book, The Pick-Up Artist by “Anonymous.” Francesco Carrozzini, a fashion photographer and director who created the NYTimes.com “screentest” celebrity interviews, is committed to direct.
“The idea is to give it the look of a Vogue magazine spread but the substance of The New York Review of Books,” said Calvino.
While this all sounds good on paper, finding funding is another matter. Even high profile efforts, such as Daniel Menaker’s much publicized 2008 effort “Title Page” -– which also had high production values and and a production team lead by new-Americans -– lasted just six episodes. Funding and support are keys.
To raise seed money, Rozie and Calvino have turned to the internet and are crowdsourcing funds through Kickstarter.com -– a site that invites people to contribute to and participate in projects they want to support.
In less than a month online, Amateur Thursday’s has already attracted more than $3,000 in donations -– or roughly a third of their initial goal of $9,000. Various pledge levels are available, with incentives at each level, ranging from exclusive previews, to signed books, to the ability to become an Associate Producer (for $1,000).
Again, the creators are bringing a quirky flair to the project, and are offering any $100 donor a genuine book by Italo Calvino “autographed” by his newest direct descendant –- Violette, who is Giovanna’s daughter. (Watch a video about it that’s hard to resist).
“This is the first time I’ve felt comfortable lending my last name to a literary project,” admitted Calvino, who otherwise teaches literature at New York University. “But this is something really exciting, that has a lot of potential. We really feel we can make an entertaining and worthwhile contribution to the literary life of New York City. What’s more, we can have fun doing it. Come join us.”
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