Earthalujah! City Lights is excited to welcome Reverend Billy Talen back to our store on Wednesday, April 20. This time he’ll be celebrating the release of his new book, The Earth Wants YOU, which City Lights is proud to publish. The Reverend took the time to answer our 5 Questions as he traverses the United States on his book tour. More about him, and his answers, below.
Event: Wednesday, April 20, 7:00PM. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.
About The Earth Wants YOU: The Earth Wants YOU is a motivational handbook for earth activists, filled with inspired visions of a wild, creative, Earth-led cultural revolution. Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping offer up a heady mix of humor, insightful critique, passionate commitment, emotional catharsis, and example after example of vibrant direct action. Stop shopping and feel the love as you sign up for the struggle of our lives!
About Reverend Billy: William Talen moved to New York City from San Francisco in the early 1990s, where he had originally created a character that was a hybrid of street preacher, arguably Elvis, and televangelist called Reverend Billy. In New York, Talen began appearing as Reverend Billy on street corners in Times Square, near the recently opened Disney Store. Whereas other street preachers chose Times Square because of its reputation for sin, Reverend Billy’s sermons focused on the evils of consumerism and advertising—represented especially by Disney and Mickey Mouse—and on what Talen saw as the loss of neighborhood spirit and cultural authenticity in Rudolph Giuliani’s New York.
Talen is the author of various books, including What Would Jesus Buy?, which was also the title of Morgan Spurlock’s 2007 documentary about Reverend Billy and his mission. Though Talen does not call himself a Christian, he says that Reverend Billy is not entirely a parody of a preacher, and his Church of Stop Shopping has grown to number in the thousands.
City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?
Reverend Billy: Well I read Visions of Cody and then looked out my Wisconsin window and there was the highway and I put my thumb out. In the 70’s and 80’s I hitched everywhere and every off-ramp was an experience waiting, a job on a ranch, a love, a building full of squatters. Eventually I could be found lurking in the book store in North Beach, of course.
CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?
RB: Wind in the trees, the music of wind and birds and insects in the trees. As far as human culture goes? Well I wrote the book with the headphones full of Bird, Miles, Coltrane, Thelonious, Mingus.
CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?
RB: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? That’s the first one I remember.
CL: If you didn’t do what you currently do (activist, artist) what other “career” or “path” might you pursue/follow?
RB: My dream job would be a criminal one, against very large violent institutions. Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Laura Poitras, Edward Snowden. These are the heroes.
CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi).
RB: Without Savi and Lena? I would take a subway back to Brooklyn. That’s a trick answer but it was a trick question. Yeah, I would arrange to avoid that island.
Reverend Billy performing live is not to be missed. He’s appearing for free at City Lights Bookstore on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 promoting his new book, The Earth Wants YOU. For more about Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping, go to revbilly.com. Follow his 20+ city national tour promoting his new book by City Lights and album of the same name.