WINGING IT - Randy Fertel in conversation with Beth Ann Fennelly

Join us for a presentation and book signing with Randy Fertel (The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak and A Taste of Chaos) featuring his new book, WINGING IT: Improv's Power & Peril in the Time of Trump. He will appear in conversation with author and poet Beth Ann Fennelly.

“At the farmers market, I'm responding to color, and smell, and I'm following my intuition. In my kitchen when I'm imagining how things will lead from here, I'm improvising. In his artful and authoritative new book Winging It, Randy Fertel explores how improvisation shapes and enlivens our wider world. Yield to your impulses, act spontaneously, and get this book — it's a revelation.”
Alice Waters, Founder of Chez Panisse and the Edible Schoolyard

In Winging It, literary scholar and cultural polymath Randy Fertel returns to the interrogation of improvisation he began with his earlier work A Taste for Chaos (2015). In this new volume, Fertel explores the wider landscapes of popular culture and public affairs, ranging deftly from the unmediated experience in Fred Astaire’s tap dancing, Frans Hals’s brush strokes, hook-up culture, psychedelic trips, social media, and Hamilton’s hip-hop to—last, though not least—the performative and demagogic posturing of Donald Trump. The gesture all improvisations share—“I will create this on the fly,” or as Trump has it, “my gut knows more than many brains”—defies rationality and elevates embodied emotions, instinct, and intuition, challenging our assumption that everything of value depends upon long study, tradition, and hard work. Claiming to be free of serious purpose, improvisation only pursues pleasure. Or so it says.

Randy Fertel is a writer and philanthropist dedicated to the arts, education, New Orleans, and the environment. Fertel holds a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University and is the author of A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation and The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir. Fertel has taught English at Harvard University, Tulane University, LeMoyne College, and the New School for Social Research. He specializes in the literature of the Vietnam War and the literature of exile. In addition to his writing, Fertel is president of the Fertel Foundation and the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation, named for his mother Ruth Fertel, founder of Ruth’s Chris Steak House. He lives in New Orleans and New York.

Beth Ann Fennelly is the author of three poetry collections, Unmentionables, Tender Hooks, and Open House; two memoirs, Heating & Cooling and Great with Child; and a novel, The Tilted World, coauthored with her husband, Tom Franklin. She teaches at the University of Mississippi, and was Poet Laureate of Mississippi. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.


Event date: 

Monday, May 20, 2024 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Event address: 

Octavia Books - 513 Octavia Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Pre-order your signed copy now to be signed at the event. If you are unable to attend, wirte "Signed Copy" in comments during checkout.

A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation By Randy Fertel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781935528685
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spring Journal - March 15th, 2015

Western civilization has always driven toward mastering the world through reason, will, craft, and scientific objectivity. Yet beneath this current swirls a riptide that suggests we can know more of the world through non-rational means - through spontaneity, intuition, and creativity.

The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir (Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography) By Randy Fertel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781496804136
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University Press of Mississippi - February 25th, 2015

The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak is the story of two larger-than-life characters and the son whom their lives helped to shape. Ruth Fertel was a petite, smart, tough-as-nails blonde with a weakness for rogues, who founded the Ruth's Chris Steak House empire almost by accident.

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