“You have disobeyed me!”
Pete Seeger interrupted co-editor Rob Rosenthal, who was reciting an anecdote from their upcoming book Pete Seeger: His Life in His Own Words, to scowl out into the crowd and point his finger at a television journalist with his camera on a tripod. “Get to the back.” Mr. Seeger repeated this until the man begrudgingly complied and sulked to the back of the sizeable crowd in Bryant Park like a child humiliated by his teacher in class.
The embarrassed cameraman had been warned. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer had been welcomed to the Word for Word reading and signing last Wednesday by a standing ovation from about one hundred fans. Drowned out by the whoops and whistles, the 93 year old was handed a microphone.
“You should all be sitting. Everyone with a camera should stand at the sides. Everyone should be able to see,” he said.
Then, just as Mr. Seeger finished ensuring that everybody could see, nobody could hear—all of the microphones lost power.
With a great sense of community (and no acknowledgment of the infamous, apocryphal story of Newport Folk Festival incident, wherein Mr. Seeger was rumored to have pulled the plug on Bob Dylan’s recently electrified sound), the show went on and questions and answers were repeated loudly by a chorus of front-row audience members for the benefit of those further back, a la Occupy Wall Street’s “human microphone.”
By the time Meghan McCain and Michael Ian Black arrived at the Reading Room in Bryant Park last Wednesday, the rows green folding chairs set up for lunchtime Q&A session for the pair’s book, America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom, released last month, were almost completely filled. Political enthusiasts of all walks of life, many toting mixed green salads and bottles of sparkling water, had gathered to discuss the book.
Ms. McCain and Mr. Black took questions from the audience about their co-authored book, which analogues the cross-country road trip they took together in an RV, searching for ways to mend the gap between Democrats and Republicans.
Ms. McCain told the audience that the two met while working on a TV pilot that Mr. Black was shooting and quickly became friends. Mr. Black later asked Ms. McCain, via Twitter, to work on a book with him and she agreed.
“He asked Chelsea Clinton and Bristol Palin, but they both said no,” Ms. McCain said facetiously.
“Twenty-one year flat-line” was the way that Janet Groth, receptionist at the New Yorker from 1957-1978 described her aforementioned career last night at the reading of her memoir The Receptionist: An Education at the New Yorker at Greenlight Bookstore.
Ms. Groth recounted a time of William Shawn, E.B. White and Joseph Mitchell with a slightly nostalgic but none too romanticized air. She recalled telling the man who first interviewed her for the position that she wanted to write. “Can you type?” was his response. Not professionally, she told him. He reviewed her resume and inquired about a short story prize she had won while in college. “Did you type that?”
the literary scene
Sheila Heti’s new novel, How Should a Person Be?, is dedicated to Margaux Williamson, a main character who is the best friend of the book’s protagonist—Sheila—and, not exactly by coincidence, is Ms. Heti’s best friend in real life as well. Last night, at a launch party for the book at powerhouse Arena, the real Ms. Heti spoke into a microphone as the real Ms. Williamson sat in the front row.
“When I showed Margaux the first draft of this book,” she said, “I thought she was going to say, like, ‘This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read.’”
How Should a Person Be has the subtitle “a novel from life,” and it consists, in part, of a compilation of fictionalized emails and interview transcripts. Ms. Heti recounted the experience of showing Ms. Williamson her manuscript in real life, a process that is also documented in the novel. “It’s interesting to have characters that tell you that you did the wrong thing,” Ms. Heti said.