Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Filtering by Tag: Talks and Lectures

Such A Perfect Day. Lou Reed Live at BookCourt

Tonight, at Brooklyn book shop BookCourt I saw the brilliant, wry, laconic, curmudgeonly Lou Reed read the poetry and short stories of Poe from his lushly illustrated book The Raven.

At five minutes after 7pm, Reed, black-shirted and bespectacled, shuffled to the front of the speaking space, packed to capacity with hipsters seated, hipsters standing.

The room was stony quiet, sheepish and intimidated. "Give it up for Lou Reed!", a voice from the back boomed, giving everyone else permission to make a peep.

Story time. Reed, the headmaster, the audience his pupils. And no room for unruly behavior.

"I'll ask you, you probably won't listen, anyway, I'll ask you not to take pictures with a flash because then you'll blind me... like you. YOU. YOU. YOU. YOU.

"Don't take pictures with a flash. It blinds me then I can't read. Ok? I can't be clearer than that. Okay?? If you want to have a reading, fine. If you want to have a photo shoot I'll put the book away."

Various voices:
Man:"We want a reading!"

Alright, then.

"I was born here," Reed grumbled. "Brooklyn, I mean".

After he'd finished speaking, which he did abruptly with "thanks", Reed invited questions from the audience.

Again, the room was silent. (A proven method for the prevention of having one's head bitten off by legendary, but impatient, pop cultural icons).

Finally somebody broke the ice and one by one the questions trickled in, limply. Reed batted them away with one and two word responses.

Question: "What's your favorite Lou Reed song?"

Reed: "I don't have one". A pause. "It changes day by day". Next.

Question: "Which do you like most, reading or singing?"

Reed: "They're apples and pears". Pause.

Same questioner: "Do you prefer apples or pears?" The room, minus Lou Reed, laughed.

Reed dismissed the man as a "wise guy", lamenting that, clearly, he was in no danger of being asked a serious question.

He may have been right as it was about this time that a young woman at the back of the room chose her moment.

Has anyone ever given you the reed from a clarinet,  she wondered? Because then you would have your very own "Lou.... Reed". A collective noun of hipsters sighed.

Undeterred, the woman pushed her way through the crowd to the front of the room, to hand deliver the Reed reed.

She uttered something about a gift for "a man who has everything" and something else about "Andy Warhol". Everyone else looked on stunned, bemused.

If Reed was touched by the gift, he forgot to tell his face. But still he tolerated the girl politely and when the woman implored him to make sure he kept the gift, he replied "I will".

The young woman, clearly thrilled by her encounter, turned to walk away when Reed called after her, perhaps forcing some gesture to show that even though he neither needed nor cared much for the gift, it was thoughtful, he supposed. 

"What's your name," he asked?

"Nico. Nicole," she replied.

I don't know if the whole room groaned. But I fucking did.

Below is an audio recording of Reed's reading. The audio is difficult to hear in the first minute, but improves when the air-conditioner is switched off.

David Sedaris Live at the Strand

As the folks who work there like to say, New York's The Strand is "the 84-year-old home of 18 miles of new, used and rare books". It is also, we have happily discovered, the home of some wonderfully intimate events and lectures featuring some of the best and biggest names in books and literature.

We live, literally, a stone's throw away from this wonderful store of books and so wandering across the street after a day's work to enjoy an hour of stimulating intellectual argument and discussion from this famous writer and that has become a regular fixture of our social calendar.

To date we have listened to celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Michael White discuss the state of Italian cuisine in America and The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik eloquently discuss the true meaning of food in our lives.

Last night's lecture, by the American writer, broadcaster and humorist David Sedaris, was the first we have seen not strictly relating to food, but it was a discussion to savor, none-the-less.

Sedaris read from his book of funny animal stories Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, rejected magazine columns and short stories and extracts from his diary during a 43 city book tour of the US.

After the talk, Sedaris sat down at a small table next to the podium as dozens of fans formed a queue to get a book signed and just say "hi".  Sedaris looked relaxed as he chit chatted casually, signing his name and scribbling funny little pictures based on the person standing in front of him. A woman's head on a turtle body, that kind of thing.

More than once I saw him outline a serrated knife in black pen, before choosing gold and grey pens from a container on the table and filling the knife in. Just before he began the signing, a little blonde girl walked up coyly and Sedaris asked "Who are you here with?". The girl pointed to her mother standing a short distance away.

The line for the book signing was long and some the people looked impatient but Sedaris was unperturbed, spending a long couple of minutes talking to the girl, who was visiting from Spain and spoke three languages.

"I've got something for you," Sedaris said as he pulled out a calico bag and fished around inside.
He pulled out a small box which he opened and retrieved a couple of colored bangles, a small toy monkey and a pair of plastic children's sunglasses with clusters of sparkles on the front.

Which one would she like? Why didn't she take all three with her? She could give one of the items to a friend as a gift from New York. It was a lovely moment. Sedaris was thoughtful and sweet with his young fan. Shly, the girl looked towards her mother who instructed her to choose just one thing.

For some reason I didn't see what she finally chose, but as we were leaving, I saw the girl in the lobby. She was wearing those sparkly sunglasses. She was smiling.

Below is an audio recording of the lecture in full.

Adam Gopnik: Live at the Strand

 Adam Gopnik: ImageThe Strand

Adam Gopnik, essayist and staff writer at The New Yorker, live at New York's The Strand Book Store, November 14, 2011. Gopnik's lecture was about the power and meaning of food in our lives . His new book is called The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food. Go here for more in my Talks and Lectures series. And let me know what you think by leaving your thoughts and comments below.

Italian Cuisine in America: Mario Batali and Michael White Chew the Fat

There’s no doubt about it. Americans chew through truckloads of pizza pie and twirl their way to the bottom of bowl after bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

America has a rich and proud history of Italian settlement. But how far has Italian cuisine come in the last 30 years?

How has the access to authentic ingredients changed? And which of the poorly or little known regions of Italy are beginning to find themselves expressed on the plates and in the drinking glasses of the best Italian restaurants?

These were among a tasting plate of issues discussed at a recent panel discussion on the health of Italian Cuisine in America at New York’s Strand Book store, to highlight the release of the second edition of the famous Silver Spoon Italian cookbook, first published more than 50 years ago.

On the panel were;

Emilia Terragni, Editorial Director, Phaidon Press
Michael White, owner, executive chef, Marea restaurant in New York.
Mario Batali, celebrity chef, co-owner of 17 restaurants in US/Asia.
Frank Bruni, food critic, The New York Times

Below is an audio recording of the discussion.

After the discussion, the warm and accessible Batali signed copies of his latest book, Molto Batali, and was generous with his time, thinking hard to answer our question about finding a good, authentic espresso in New York. Two of the best? His own Eataly and Otto, of course.

Food for thought

What do you think of Italian cuisine in America?
Which chefs/restaurants are pushing the boundaries?
How do US ingredients compare to imported Italian ingredients?
What the hell is that brown bilge water Americans call “coffee”?

David Simon on the fall and fall of American civilization

David Simon, creator of the critically acclaimed HBO TV series' The Corner, The Wire and Treme on the disintegration of civil society in American cities like Detroit, his native Baltimore and New Orleans.
Simon, a former crime reporter with the Baltimore Sun, was speaking at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York City, on August 31, 2011. Find out more about the Lab, a mobile ideas space, traveling the world over six years to inspire innovative ideas for urban life.