New York Mash

Last week I spent over an hour standing on the fourth floor on Barnes and Noble on Union St. (their “Flagship store”), waiting to hear Regina Spektor play a few songs and get interviewed along with Kurt Anderson by someone who’s name I do not recall. It’s on the internet now.

Afterward I wonder, why Regina Spektor and Kurt Anderson?

Then again, why not? New York is where everything just gets smashed together. Walking home from the 30th St. stop I typically hear couples or groups of young men and storekeepers speaking in two or three different languages. None of which I recognize. Greek? Italian?

I ask Kurt Anderson (via Twitter. Kurt Anderson does not know or care who I am) whether he is a fan of Regina Spektor’s music, and why they were paired together.

He is a fan, he says. They met and liked each other, etc. The Barnes and Noble organizers paired them together.

Mr. Anderson (trying to resist Matrix joke) has set his twitter feed such that I cannot email him back, or I would tell him what a disappointing answer that is. I should have asked why they were paired together, not how. But perhaps the how is the why. They are paired together because they are artists living in the same city, alive at the same time. Mix this with that and see what happens. Even if nothing happens, we’ll pack 1,000 people into our bookstore and maybe sell a few books.

They did not have a particularly interesting interaction. The questions were forced, Regina Spektor was clearly nervous. But her songs were lovely, and Kurt Anderson was charming and thoughtful. He read a little from his book, she played a song, he said some stuff about modernity, they talked a little about how the recession will help slow us down a little.

“To be modern,” says one of Kurt Anderson’s characters, “is to be artificially aglow.” Perhaps. Maybe to be in New York is to be artificially aglow. Artificially active and artistic and interesting just by association. You live in New York, and you’re somebody. Or you live close t somebody who is somebody, and maybe that’s good enough to make you somebody.

The next day I returned to Barnes and Noble to hear NPR host Michelle Norris interview Toni Morrison. There were half as many people there. The conversation goes more smoothly. Ms. Morrison talks a lot about her book, “A Mercy” out in paperback. I’ve never read it, but she is engaging enough to hold my interest. She talks about lore and religion and stories, and how they are the “way in which we grasp, control, and certainly decorate our lives.” Lovely.

There isn’t much to relate this experience with the previous night’s except that they both take place on the fourth floor of Barnes and Noble in New York City, where I stood quietly surrounded by people for a couple hours trying to think of interesting observations to make for a blog entry. Just things mashed together, unrelated dots I’ve connected. Why not?

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