Working as a corporate lawyer in London, Caroline von Nathusius was troubled by the way that people would rush through the workday without taking a moment to breathe. Hoping to help people slow down, she organized a lunchtime lecture series, and when she and her husband moved to Charleston last February, she quickly set about organizing a similar series in her new hometown. Already in its third season, the Wide Angle Lunch Series welcomes engaging personalities from across the country for a midday hour of enlightenment.
A voracious reader, von Nathusius is always on the lookout for potential speakers who can offer interesting perspective on literary, cultural, and international issues. Previous events have featured Vogue.com's Managing Editor Alexandra Mack, Spoleto Festival USA director Nigel Redden, and filmmaker Arne Cornelius Wasmuth, who directed a biography on Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren. Other past speakers include artist Jonathan Green, historian Ron Atkinson, author Julie Flavell, and jazz musician Jack McCray.
"We always try to keep a sort of chocolate box of themes going," von Nathusius says. "The idea is really that you should be able to come to the talk blind, whether you're interested in the subject at the beginning or not, or whether you've even heard about the subject, you can rely on us to provide a delicious lunch, strictly an hour out of your day, and a really top quality, expert speaker, all in a beautiful and serene setting."
The latest series kicks off with a lecture from Mark Smith, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina, who will talk about 1969's Hurricane Camille. A pioneer in the field of sensory history, Smith suggests that simply looking back isn't enough if we want to understand people and past events. He'll examine how the senses shape historical experience.
Von Nathusius is also excited to welcome Texas-based author Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts on Nov. 10. While researching her first book, Harlem is Nowhere: a Journey to the Mecca of Black America, Rhodes-Pitts met many former Southerners, and she'll focus on those unlikely connections in her talk. Tara Fitzgerald is another female writer on the roster; Von Nathusius met her when she interned at Reuters years ago. Fitzgerald will give a preview of her upcoming nonfiction book based on the Aral Sea, a large, extremely polluted body of water in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Also on the agenda are poet Susan Kinsolving, who will speak about the history and myths behind common garden flowers; John Simpkins, who'll talk about democratic change in Africa; Edward Ball, who'll discuss trailblazing photographer and inventor Edward Muybridge; and Shannon Smith on why climate change isn't a left-wing issue.
All of the lectures will be held at the Charleston Library Society on King Street. "It's just a gorgeous little building," von Nathusius says. "It reminds me of an Oxford College library, very peaceful, but not in a dusty way." Lunches will be catered by Black Bean Co.