The Desert Island Books series asks a distinguished line-up to share what eight books would keep them company if they were castaways. A bookish homage to the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, this session features Paul Holdengräber – former curator of conversations at the New York Public Library and Founding Executive Director of The Onassis Foundation LA. Paul talks with Michael Williams about his most well-thumbed books, how these seminal works made their way into his life and the elusive qualities that make a text re-readable.
Paul Holdengräber (International)
Paul Holdengräber is the Founding Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation LA (OLA), an outpost of the Onassis headquarters in Athens that began its work as a ‘center of dialogue’ earlier this year. Prior to working at OLA, he was the founder and director of New York Public Library (NYPL)’s Public Programming, and the host of LIVE from the NYPL. A seasoned interviewer, Holdengräber is known for encouraging his guests to step outside their areas of specialisation and into wider-reaching discussions. His conversational partners have included Patti Smith; Zadie Smith; Jay-Z, Wes Anderson; Salman Rushdie; Christopher Hitchens; RuPaul; David Remnick; Pete Townshend and Werner Herzog. Over the course of Holdengräber’s tenure at the Library, about 200,000 people attended interviews at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Holdengräber has written essays and articles for journals in France, Germany, Spain, and the United States. He also taught at various universities including Williams College and Claremont Graduate University. He has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University, and the French government awarded him the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2003. In addition to his work at OLA, Holdengräber sits on The Sun Valley Writers Conference Board of Directors, The Onassis Foundation Board of Directors, and The Paul & Daisy Soros Board of Directors. He hosts the podcast A Phone Call from Paul on Literary Hub.
Michael Williams (Australian)
Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. A sometime Radio National presenter, he remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV. Michael has also worked in publishing and as a presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR (on Breakfasters), as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, and has written extensively for The Guardian, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and elsewhere.