Join us for a wildly over-the-top social satire reimagining the mad misadventures of the iconic royal cousins King Ludwig and Empress Sisi. The incomparable Jac Jemc will discuss her new book, Empty Theatre (MCD), with Amelia Gray!
History knows them as King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elizabeth of Austria, icons of the late nineteenth century who died young and left behind magnificent portraits and palaces. But to each other they were Ludwig and Sisi, cousins who shared a passion for beauty and a stubborn refusal to submit to the roles imposed upon them.
Ludwig, simultaneously spoiled and punished for his softness and "unmanly" interests, falls hard for the operas of Richard Wagner and neglects his state duties in the pursuit of art. Sisi, married at the age of sixteen to her beloved Franzl, bristles at the restrictions of her elevated position, the value placed on her beauty, and the simultaneous expectation that she ravage her body again and again in childbirth. Both absurdly vain, both traumatized by the demands of their roles, Sisi and Ludwig struggle against the ideals they are expected to embody, and resist through extravagance, petulance, performance, and frivolity.
A tragicomic tour de force, Empty Theatre immerses readers in Ludwig and Sisi’s rarefied, ridiculous, restrictive world—where the aesthetics of excess belie the isolation of its inhabitants. With wit, pathos, and imagination, Jac Jemc takes us on an unforgettable journey through two extraordinary parallel lives and the complex, tenuous friendship that linked them.
Jac Jemc is the author of False Bingo, The Grip of It, My Only Wife, and A Different Bed Every Time. My Only Wife was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her story collection False Bingo won the Chicago Review of Books Award for Fiction, was a Lambda Award finalist, and was long-listed for the Story Prize. Jemc currently teaches creative writing at the University of California San Diego.
Amelia Gray is the author of five books, most recently Isadora (FSG). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is a winner of the NYPL Young Lion and of FC2's Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for a WGA Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. As a screenwriter, she has written for the shows Maniac (Netflix), Mr. Robot (USA), and Gaslit (Starz), as well as the games Telling Lies (Annapurna Interactive) and Immortality (Half Mermaid). She lives in Los Angeles.