Events — 28 June 2011
Lou Reed Presents “The Raven” at Strand Books

Blog: Lou Reed At Strand Books

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Lou Reed is one of the defining members of the New York counter-culture scene from the late 1960′s. His work with the Velvet Underground and storied friendship with Andy Warhol is the stuff of legends. But time has done nothing to slow Mr. Reed down. He is always looking for a way to create.  In 2001, Lou Reed immersed himself in the work of legendary writer, Edgar Allan Poe. Reed’s main goal became taking his masterful songwriting skills, and producing an album inspired by Poe’s work. In 2003 this became a reality with the release of “The Raven.”

Reed’s Poe-inspired work would not stop with an audio disc. His original lyrics have been transformed into literature with a book version of “The Raven,” loaded with nightmarishly beautiful paintings inspired by both Reed and Poe, created by Italian cartoonist Lorenzo Mattotti. Last night, New York City’s famed Strand Books proudly hosted Lou Reed as their special guest of the evening.

Reed led a standing room only reading from his version of “The Raven,” with a capacity crowd made up of fans of all ages. In the audience, older fans reminisced about hanging out with Reed at CBGB’s in 1977, while next to them, sat a giddy group of twenty year old girls who first discovered Reed from his song, “Walk On The Wild Side” from his 1972 solo album, “Transformer.” They were all at the Strand for Reed, a New York icon, because his work had touched them.

The special event was held in Strand’s rare book room, a true sight to be seen by any book lover, as it is filled with first editions of many literary classics. It was also a perfect venue to hold a reading of this magnitude. Once the place was at capacity, Reed walked to the podium and the lights dimmed. A slide show was presented with the haunting illustrations found in the book. His reading selections were Poe’s greatest hits, including “The Raven,” “The Tell Tale Heart,” and “Annabelle Lee.” The mixture of Poe’s words mixed with Reeds iconic voice, made for a a memorably eerie rendition of this legendary work. Reed’s own additions gave the work a modern, yet Gothic feel.

After a short break, Reed returned for a brief Q&A period with the audience. The questions focused on the evening’s event, but helped to reveal key aspects of Lou Reed’s personality. At one point he was posed, “What Poe character do you identity with the most?” Reed, with a slight smirk on his face responded, “I most connect with the man from, ‘The Raven.’ He is surrounded by so much mystery, which adds to the complexity of the character.” Reed was later asked when he first read “The Raven.” He said, “I was invited to Saint Ann’s Church on Halloween several years ago, and read from it aloud. It was truly the first time I read ‘The Raven.’” Reed’s iconic image as a New York music legend translates incredibly well to print, especially considering his passion for Poe’s work. Lou Reed’s, “The Raven” will be released on Fantagraphics Books in July, and is worth checking out for fans of Reed or Poe alike.

-Alan Smithee

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