Friday, September 30, 2011

Michael Moore at St. Mark's

Last night, St. Mark's Bookshop was packed with people. All ages and colors, they were there to hear Michael Moore and to save the bookstore from shuttering. Moore came in with body guards, charged up from a day spent downtown at Occupy Wall Street. He took the microphone to thrilled and grateful applause.

"We're appealing to Cooper Union," he began.

"There's no appealing to them," shouted one woman. "They're fucking up the neighborhood!"

After some laughter, Moore continued, "We must appeal to their conscience and to the integrity of their history. They exist only because the people of New York have supported Cooper Union...and without the people there would be no Cooper Union. So we are asking for a very simple quid pro quo."

"I've seen enough of New York destroyed," he said, explaining that all St. Mark's Books is asking for is a "decent reduction" in the rent.

"It's not asking for a free lunch. Oh, God forbid! It's just asking for some decency. That's it. Cooper Union has to understand. We've been asked by the people who fund them, the largesse of this town that keeps certain institutions's time they shared the sacrifice, too. That's all we're asking for... They're not asking for a handout. They're not asking for a check. They're just asking that we support our local independent bookstores."

He made an eloquent plea for the communal consumption of culture, urging the audience to read real books from real bookstores--and to see real movies in real movie theaters.

When he makes a movie, he said, "I'm not sitting in the editing room thinking of you watching this on an iPhone. I want you sitting in the theater with 200 other fellow Americans that you don't know. And I want you collectively to be experiencing, in the dark, what I'm putting out there to you. I want you to laugh together, I want you to cry together, I want you to get angry together, and I want you to march out of the theater saying 'Goddammit, this is not the America I'm going to live in!' And that cannot happen as easily, or as good, when you're sitting at home alone in your underwear with your laptop!"

"The movies are not going to die," he said, because people are social animals. And for the same reason, "The bookstores are not going to die! ...We want to be around other people. That's why we love coming to a bookstore. That's why we love coming to St. Mark's. Right? There's just something that you can't put a number on. You can't really quantify it. But you know it, don't you? You know it as a feeling. And you know it feels good when you say, 'Hey, let's go over to St. Mark's for an hour. And just go through the shelves.' And when you leave here, you ran across something you didn't know...and you take that home and you read, and you learn something you didn't know before. It's a great feeling, isn't it?"

At the end of his speech, he urged people to support local indie bookstores: "They are the backbone of defeating ignorance in this country."

Before people lined up to get their books signed, there was a quick Q&A. These things always go awry. People make statements more than they ask questions. And they never stay on topic. One woman raised her hand and made a speech about the importance of veganism as she urged Mr. Moore to do the correct, feminist thing and become a vegan to lose weight and to fight the forces of "anti-speciesism."

It's still the East Village, after all.

More on the situation at St. Mark's Bookshop:
Buy A Book Weekend at St. Mark'sXmas in September
St. Mark's Vestibule


EV Grieve said...

Thanks for the recap, Jeremiah. I really wanted to go. Hope Cooper Union officials hear this.

Marty Wombacher said...

Thanks for this post, I wanted to go but I had to work. Michael Moore's a great guy, wonderful writer and a master documentary film maker. Nice of him to support St. Marks Bookshop.

LorenzoStuDuBois said...

My feelings towards Moore are the same here as always: while I'm happy he gives publicity to important causes, his tactics are ultimately ineffective and probably counterproductive.

Of course Moore would "appeal" to CU to "find it in their hearts" and "shame them" into doing the right thing. This is his rallying cry in the Obama era, to make our President be the best President he can be while criticizing and supporting him at the same time.

Whether he knows it or not, our political system evolved Mr. Moore to be the glue that keeps the activist left from breaking with the Democrats.

Little Earthquake said...

Michael Moore joined the fight? Jesus, those guys are so fucked.

Anonymous said...

Mixed emotions here, I understand the desire to keep this shop around, but as a Cooper Union alumni let me tell you that they run a pretty lean budget and only have so many source of income.

I resent Michael Moore's attempt at class warfare here, take a good look at CU's student body and it is virtually all middle class, people who have the brains but not the money to go to the Ivy Leagues etc.

While I am embarassed at many of the things CU has done and plans to do to the EV, this boils down to the fact that people simply don't shop at St. Marks Books enough to support the store at this location. Basic economics that a reduction in rent wont really solve.

Anonymous said...

maybe people are missing the point that st marks struggles because it's not a very good bookshop. specific to their art stock, they have had the same tired books on their shelves for over a decade. With strand about a three-minute walk away why would anybody choose st marks? for the zines that nobody wants? maybe consider the circumstances, what makes your store unique could fill a 100sq ft kiosk. deal with the changing nature of the business, and address that problem, that would be highly progressive. lobby cooper union to let you open a kiosk in the new pedestrian mall that astor place will become.

Cooper Student said...

Michael Moore, how about YOU sacrifice the money necessary to keep the bookshop open? Cooper is having its own financial troubles.