Talk to Me: Patti Smith Chats with Jonathan Lethem

Friday, May 07, 2010

Turns out, Jonathan Lethem has been a fan of Patti Smith's music since he was hanging out at CBGB as a tween. In their talk from this year's PEN World Voices Festival, the two writers discussed their love of books, punk music, and New York City in its grittier days. The East Village these days is a far cry from being edgy, neither author seemed to have lost the punk-fueled passion they had when they were teenagers.

Though she considers herself a visual artist and writer, Smith took out her guitar and sang a song she penned about William Blake. The audience was absolutely rapt — some were even teary eyed. Smith, who walked out of the auditorium thronged by fans, clearly hasn't lost the aura of a rock star.

Listen to Smith's song and her conversation with Lethem by using the player above.

Bon Mots
Highlights from the conversation. Download the full audio above.

On Working for a Rare Book Dealer: "I falsified my credentials as a book restorer. He tried to train me, but I spilled rabbit glue all over a nineteenth-century bible." 

On CBGB, to Lethem: "You went to CBGB's when you were thirteen? I'm sorry!" 

On New Music: "[My children] stick stuff on my computer.  Like, one day I'm looking at my computer and I have all my opera, then there's the Yeah Yeah Yeahs." 

On New York Being Overpriced: "My advice is: Find a new city." 



Jonathan Lethem and Patti Smith


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About Talk to Me

Talk to Me brings you downloadable readings and conversations with writers, artists, and scholars – from author Joshua Ferris to choreographer Mark Morris to poet Sharon Olds – recorded at cultural institutions in New York City and beyond. Stream, download, or subscribe to the full-length podcasts here.


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