LIVE from the NYPL: Rebecca Mead’s Life in Middlemarch


A passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories. For Rebecca Mead, that book was George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which she first read as a young woman in an English coastal town, and reread regularly throughout her life. In My Life In Middlemarch, the New Yorker writer revisits her own past and Eliot’s work in a new way, by leading us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch blends biography, reporting, and memoir, taking the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece—the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure—and bringing them into our world. Mead comes to LIVE from the NYPL to explore the enduring power of Middlemarch, and how the books we read help us read our own lives. 

"Rebecca Mead has written a singular and inventive tale about her favorite book, and how it has changed — and changed her — over many years of reading and re-reading. Anyone who has ever loved the characters in a novel as dearly as we love our own families will recognize the passion, the devotion, the intimacy and the joy of returning again and again to a revered classic.  Both a memoir and a biography, both an homage and a homecoming, My Life in Middlemarch is a perfectly composed offering of literary love and self-observation. I adored it, and it will forever live on my bookshelf next to my own precious paperbacks of George Eliot.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

Buy tickets here:

Ann Patchett’s Commencement Address

"If all fairy tales begin ‘Once upon a time,’ then all graduation speeches begin ‘When I was sitting where you are now.’ We may not always say it, at least not in those exact words, but it’s what graduation speakers are thinking. We look out at the sea of you and think, Isn’t there some mistake? I should still be sitting there. I was that young fifteen minutes ago, I was that beautiful and lost."

The school year is just beginning, but Ann’s commencement words are a wonderful articulation about the passing of time. 

Join LIVE from the NYPL in hosting her and Elizabeth Gilbert on December 10. 

Publishers Weekly is piquing our interest in the many exciting books coming out this Fall.  We’re particularly thrilled to see shout outs to Margaret Atwood and Elizabeth Gilbert, both of whom will be joining LIVE from the NYPL this season!  

“The best advice I can come up with is this: Keep your living expenses LOW. The smaller you live (materially-speaking), the bigger you can live (creatively-speaking). This way the stakes aren’t so high…you aren’t demanding of your passion that it keeps you living a rich life. Then you can stretch and grow with the most possible freedom. This was my strategy in my 20’s, and it’s the reason I worked really hard to avoid all debts, and to keep my lifestyle really manageable. If I’d been saddled with a big life, I don’t think I ever could have found my way forward to the freedom I have now.”

In honor of National Culinarians Day, take a look back at Elizabeth Gilbert’s discussion with John Hodgman about her newly published cookbook, At Home on the Range, originally written by her great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter. Considered far ahead of its time, Potter espoused the importance of farmer’s markets and ethnic food, derided preservatives and culinary shortcuts, and generally celebrated a devotion to epicurean adventures. Click here for more.

"Allow 1 set of brains—or more, for true addicts—for each serving. Soak the brains in cold water for 1 hour or so and drain. Add 1 sliced onion, a bit of chopped parsley and celery, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1/2 cup of vinegar to enough boiling water to cover the brains, and simmer them gently for 1/2 hour. Drain and when cool tenderly remove the skin and any bits of bone the butcher may have left clinging to their surface. For each 2 sets of brains melt 1/2 cup of butter (or as much more as can be spared) in a shallow pan and allow it to brown slightly…." 

—From At Home on the Range

"Hesitation Blues" by Jelly Roll Morton, the father of Jazz, who passed away on July 10, 1941.

Elizabeth Gilbert, who came to LIVE along with John Hodgman in May, requested Jelly Roll Morton as the house music during the show. She might have wanted to elicit the charm and liveliness of eating with her family, since she came to talk about her great-grandmother’s cook book, which she ushered into its second printing.

You can watch/listen to the fantastic and warm conversation here…

“There’s a wonderfulness in stubbornness, about simply refusing to let even the facts sometimes interfere with your insistence of your worldview of a place of goodness and decency and hope and that it’s worth it—it’s worth it to take risks, and to try to make things even if people mock them and it’s worth it to choose a partner and stick with them even if it makes no sense to anybody else and it’s worth it to use the talcum powder and just hold your ground.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert at LIVE last May. She’ll be here tomorrow with John Hodgman, except this time, they’re talking east coast cuisine. Anyone make it to Frenchtown this past weekend?
“…she was an archaeologist of the foodways of greater Pennsylvania and coastal Delaware. That’s all she had access to, but my God, what she found! She found fishermen on the Eastern Shore who taught her how to cook eels, and she went deep into the Amish country and found people who taught her how to pickle pigs’ feet. If she’d had a range that was more than 100 miles, I can’t imagine what she would have done with it.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert on her great-grandmother and her cookbook, which Gilbert ushered into another modern-day printing. She’ll be discussing the book, At Home on the Range, with John Hodgman on the 22nd. Learn more here… And read the rest of the Bon Appétite interview here…