This week the alternate universe CMJ known as the New Yorker Festival descended on the city from the highbrow places in the clouds and the Upper East Side and wherever that New Yorker office building is. God knows we’re nothing if not aspiring armchair intellectuals, so we were all up in that shit, touching on everyone from Doctorow and Danticat to Ray Kelly to Rufus to the RZA. The genius of the festival is that it covers a lot of ground, both geographically and as far as your mindframe is concerned, although here’s to hoping that, next year, hip-hop could have at least one representative who’s a little less safe. That’s not to say that we don’t heart the Rizz – we do – but sometimes it seems like he and ?uestlove are the only people who get to say their respective pieces. Not counting, you know, Chuck D and Russell Simmons or whatever.
The juxtaposition of readings by Doctorow and Danticat was perhaps our favorite event that we saw – and know that we’re buying The March as soon as it comes down off that $29.95 hard cover price. Doctorow read from a series of passages that concerned a lesser general rather than William Tecumseh Sherman himself, who is presumably the main character in the novel. In the passages we heard, Doctorow’s sense of humor and mind toward the more pedestrian details that might accompany a sort of rakish and decadent general on a war march made for an interesting Civil War account in that all of the tones of “the great gothic catastrophe” that we got from Faulkner are largely if not totally absent. Instead what you have is a vain scoundrel with a foodie’s palatte trying to eat well and get laid while still tending to his mission, namely to torch the holy hell out of the Carolinas and Georgia. Anyway, it made for a nice teaser that will hold us over until we get our money up or that damned paperback comes out.
If you missed William Finnegan’s extensive New Yorker piece on New York Police Commissioner Raymond W Kelly that ran in the aftermath of the London bombings, then play catch up fast – it’s one of the most informative pieces we’ve ever read on terror and counter-terror, if not the most informative. There is also an interview with Finnegan (as opposed to by Finnegan) that originally ran as the online companion to the piece in the magazine. The in-person held at Times Square Studios was like a continuation of what has been an ongoing, multi-media ping-pong event featuring Finnegan and the Commish. As a result we are way more attuned to what’s at stake and who’s responsible for what. We’re also marginally more frightened. Perhaps what’s most fascinating and surprising to us is the degree to which the NYPD has been able to suck up a huge amount of the power and responsibility that lay unclaimed in the aftermath of September 11th. Word to local government, even if it is huge local government with officers across the globe.
The NYer also hosted Mr Rufus Wainright, who we hadn’t seen since Antony & the Johnsons played the Bowery Ballroom. Live, Wainright is wonderful, and has seemed even more wonderful recently as his successive albums have become increasingly over-produced. Here’s to the next record (hopefully) being a more stripped-down affair. We miss you, Poses.