Jonathan Safran Foer Reading – Eating Animals
I’m a fairly nice guy with a sometimes tenuous grasp on reality. I’ve broken the windshield of a hit-and-not-run car with my bare fist and ended up hiding in a church until the police came. I recently screamed nonsense at a scalper in front of MSG for shouting me down when I tried to give away my extra ticket. I tend to do things without thinking and only afterwards realize potential dangers.
I now know: never wear a Pavement tee-shirt to a JSF reading.
The scene outside the auditorium was pandemonium, insofar as a bunch of white trust fund NYU kids can be a part of “pandemonium.” Those of us who showed up early watched as the line morphed from a double-backed, snaking line to a fucking mob. We kept expecting them to open the doors, to let in those of us who’d planned ahead. Instead, they waited to throw wide the doors, for whatever reason, until mere minutes before the announced start time. Of course as soon as the door opened, any pretense of fairness or courtesy evaporated in the heat of elbowing and shouldering through to the door.
Foer read from his delicious non-fiction Animals. The crowd was then treated to a cringe-worthy Q/A-cake, dolloped by the sickly fellow who questioned Foer’s dedication to animal rights based on his vegetarianism rather than veganism.
So in a way, I can understand Foer’s punchiness. I was the first in line for book signings. I’d figured out where the signing table would go, moved to the first row of that section after other attendees left early, perhaps bored of the idiot questions wasted on Foer’s genius, and positioned myself for the rush. There would be several hundred people waiting for his inscription; I refused to wait longer than I had given the chaos of the pre-show line-up.
Usual opening of thanks/love your work/could you insult me/etc. He immediately noticed my shirt, a blue tee with two illustrations of frying eggs and “Pavement” in cursive over the top.
“Oh,” he says. “Are you going to the show?”
I’m distracted, trying to get out of the way to let the next person up for a signature, but I say yes. My sister’d bought us tickets for the BillyBurg show a few weeks ago.
“Going to both?”
Here, I paused. I wasn’t aware of more than one show. I thought there was only one, to be honest. Suddenly, I felt like I’d offended Mr. Foer, and he was on a track to call me out, to Donald Sutherland my otherness in his zombie crowd of vegetarian Hipsters.
“Nah, just the one,” I replied.
He blinked and looked down at the next book he was to sign, and then out at the massing crowd of black shirts and (inexplicably) leather. Some young woman in a striped shirt that reminded me of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was waiting patiently for Mr. Foer to address her, acknowledge her quickened breath and probably damp, vegan panties.
“What’s your favorite song?” he asked.
I blanked. Panic, sweat, humiliation. I suddenly couldn’t conjure up anything about Pavement. Never mind the fact that my dad bought me Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain for my 13th birthday when he noticed I really liked a band called Built to Spill, or that I’m nearly 30 years old and caught Pavement twice in Seattle. Who the fuck are those guys, anyway? Aren’t they like Vampire Weekend or something?
“Um… Rain!… umm… something rain,” I was sinking, fast. He looked up from his signing to watch me drown. I shot out the first that that came to me. “PURPLE RAIN!”
“Did he just say ‘Purple Rain’?” I heard the Cool Police banging on my front door, led by a former literary hero. I was caught! I had counterfeited my right to wear a cool band’s shirt, and now Sergeant T.C Forschool had come to publicly flog me.
“You’re right,” I said. “I’m a fucking posseur.”
Sobering news to the gathering rabble. No one wants to murder a self-aware dork. There’s no joy in it, no pathos, no schadenfreude, no self-affirming warmth in your loins. Torches were extinguished, ironic hats readjusted. I swept up the last pieces of my shattered idol and headed for the elevator. My ladyfriend was waiting near Washington Square Park, cradling Tom McCarthy’s newest book. She’d had a nice time, and McCarthy, she said, was quite the gentleman. Loves contemporary art (my lady’s an art history major!), so they had a quick discussion, it seems.
I’d expected this sort of thing from Dave Eggers, or like, maybe Jonathan Ames or fucking J.M. Coetzee (he did a reading at my alma mater and talked about “moving units” instead of “selling books”). But with Foer, I’d expected the same light-hearted fun as Lethem or Moody. Turns out, he’s a bit of a jerk.
Ah well. At least I can die knowing one of my insults was real.