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  • Last week, at Brooklyn book shop BookCourt I saw the brilliant, wry, laconic, curmudgeonly Lou Reed read the poetry and short stories of Poe from his lushly illustrated book The Raven.

    At five minutes after 7pm, Reed, black-shirted and bespectacled, shuffled to the front of the speaking space, packed to capacity with hipsters seated, hipsters standing.

    The room was stony quiet, sheepish and intimidated. "Give it up for Lou Reed!", a voice from the back boomed, giving everyone else permission to make a peep.

    Story time. Reed, the headmaster, the audience his pupils. And no room for unruly behavior.

    "I'll ask you, you probably won't listen, anyway, I'll ask you not to take pictures with a flash because then you'll blind me... like you. YOU. YOU. YOU. YOU.

    "Don't take pictures with a flash. It blinds me then I can't read. Ok? I can't be clearer than that. Okay?? If you want to have a reading, fine. If you want to have a photo shoot I'll put the book away."

    Various voices:
    Man:"We want a reading!"

    Alright, then.

    "I was born here," Reed grumbled. "Brooklyn, I mean".

    After he'd finished speaking, which he did abruptly with "thanks", Reed invited questions from the audience.

    Again, the room was silent. (A proven method for the prevention of having one's head bitten off by legendary, but impatient, pop cultural icons).

    Finally somebody broke the ice and one by one the questions trickled in, limply. Reed batted them away with one and two word responses.

    Question: "What's your favorite Lou Reed song?"

    Reed: "I don't have one". A pause. "It changes day by day". Next.

    Question: "Which do you like most, reading or singing?"

    Reed: "They're apples and pears". Pause.

    Same questioner: "Do you prefer apples or pears?" The room, minus Lou Reed, laughed.

    Reed dismissed the man as a "wise guy", lamenting that, clearly, he was in no danger of being asked a serious question.

    He may have been right as it was about this time that a young woman at the back of the room chose her moment.

    Has anyone ever given you the reed from a clarinet, she wondered? Because then you would have your very own "Lou.... Reed". A collective noun of hipsters sighed.

    Undeterred, the woman pushed her way through the crowd to the front of the room, to hand deliver the Reed reed.

    She uttered something about a gift for "a man who has everything" and something else about "Andy Warhol". Everyone else looked on stunned, bemused.

    If Reed was touched by the gift, he forgot to tell his face. But still he tolerated the girl politely and when the woman implored him to make sure he kept the gift, he replied "I will".

    The young woman, clearly thrilled by her encounter, turned to walk away when Reed called after her, perhaps forcing some gesture to show that even though he neither needed nor cared much for the gift, it was thoughtful, he supposed.

    "What's your name," he asked?

    "Nico. Nicole," she replied.

    I don't know if the whole room groaned. But I fucking did.
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