Jonathan Lethem at the Starbucks Salon
I must say, they really did this right.
The Starbucks Salon—ten days of writers, musicians and DJs performing for free in the heart of Soho—had been heavily hyped... and, naturally, greeted with some skepticism, given the massive-global-corporation-ness of the sponsor. I was pleasantly surprised, then, that pretty much everything about the event exemplified what you can do when you have a lot of money AND are smart enough to spend it well. From the Salon's simple, informative website to the fun, contemporary design of the airy space itself; from the pristine sound system to the comfy seating; from the friendly staffers to the impressive lack of corporate cheerleading: it all felt less like a marketing scheme and more like a... well, like a Salon.
Anyway, I finally made it to Greene Street on the event's final day to watch Jonathan Lethem, joined by director and fellow Brooklynite Isaac Bulter, tackle a "lightly theatrical" reading of a new short story. Now, I'm definitely a Lethem fan: I enjoyed Gun, With Occasional Music and Motherless Brooklyn quite a bit, and liked Fortress of Solitude even more. But this story—called Their Back Pages, and kind of like "Lost", but starring cartoon characters—didn't really convince me, though the animated Butler was pretty entertaining to watch, and Lethem was sharp and charming in the Q and A that followed... AND someone handed me a free almond toffee bar on my way out! Makes me hope Starbucks decides to spend this kind of money again next year.