Brooklyn-based 7 Days of Genius partner, Think Olio, celebrates Jazz Age genius Nancy Cunard & the genius professor who inspired their event March 8 at Chinatown Soup.
He wore a fedora on the first day of class and he pulled a flask out of his pocket within the first seven minutes. He knew the Jazz Age better than Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, or any of those who lived it. There wasn’t an empty seat in the classroom.
Every Monday and Wednesday from 2:30 to 3:45, in Professor Charles Riley II’s class, I was brought to another time. I was there in Paris living the Jazz Age as vividly as any of the writers, painters, and expatriates of the time. I’d watch the clock, unable to understand how the hour and fifteen minutes could pass so quickly. I’d sneak out my phone in an attempt to record his analysis of a poem by Gertrude Stein or Picasso’s Woman in White, and he’d yell at me to put the doohickey away.
I’d take “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” to dinner with my parents and we would attempt to break apart Hemingway’s writing. I’d tell them that I wished they could come to the class, that they would love to see this guy in action. I wished there were a way that I could share the experience with them.
With Think Olio I can. I was able to bring Riley to a loft in the Chelsea where he taught on the Jazz Age as an audience of 25 took it all in over French wine. We revitalized the literary salons of Paris with a lesson on the literary salons of Paris. Riley was the star of the show, but it was really my night because I was finally sharing him with the world outside our classroom.
And for the 7 Days of Genius Festival, I am excited to say that he is teaching with us for a second time. He’ll be giving a passionate lesson on Nancy Cunard, the unknown genius of the Jazz Age, on March 8 at Chinatown Soup.