Online: American Vaudeville by Geoffrey Hilsabeck

Event date: 
07/01/2021 - 12:00pm

Join West Virginia University Press and Book Culture on Thursday. July 1st, 2021 at 12pm for an online event on Zoom for Geoffrey Hilsabeck's American Vaudeville. He will be joined in conversation by Andrew Erdman.

1) This event is free and open to the public, but you must register here in advance. We will send you the Zoom link to join the event in the days leading up to the event. You must register - the Zoom link will be sent to all registered attendees two days prior to the event.

2) Please purchase a copy of American Vaudeville from Bookculture to receive a signed bookplate.


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At the heart of American Vaudeville is one strange, unsettling fact: for nearly fifty years, from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s, vaudeville was everywhere—then, suddenly, it was nowhere. This book tells the story of what was once the most popular form of entertainment in the country using lists, creation myths, thumbnail biographies, dreams, and obituaries. A lyric history—part social history, part song—American Vaudeville sits at the nexus between poetry, experimental nonfiction, and, because it includes historic images, art books.

Geoffrey Hilsabeck’s book grows out of extensive archival research. Rather than arranging that research—the remains of vaudeville—into a realistic picture or tidy narrative, Hilsabeck dreams vaudeville back into existence, drawing on photographs, letters, joke books, reviews, newspaper stories, anecdotes, and other material gathered from numerous archives, as well as from memoirs by vaudeville performers like Buster Keaton, Eva Tanguay, and Eddie Cantor. Some of this research is presented as-is, a letter from a now forgotten vaudeville performer to her booking agent, for example; some is worked up into brief scenes and biographies; and some is put to even more imaginative uses, finding new life in dialogues and prose poems.

American Vaudeville pulls the past into the present and finds in the beauty and carnivalesque grotesqueness of vaudeville a fitting image of American life today.

Geoffrey Hilsabeck is the author of the poetry collection Riddles, Etc. His poems and essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the BelieverParis Review DailyTupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Andrew L. Erdman is the author of Queen of Vaudeville and Blue Vaudeville: Sex, Morals, and the Mass Marketing of Entertainment, 1895–1915. He lives in New York City.

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Pre-Order Now Badge
American Vaudeville (In Place) Cover Image
By Geoffrey Hilsabeck, Luc Sante (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781952271069
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: West Virginia University Press - July 1st, 2021

Queen of Vaudeville: The Story of Eva Tanguay Cover Image
ISBN: 9780801449703
Availability: Available for Special Order - Usually ships in 3-5 Days
Published: Cornell University Press - September 15th, 2012