I arrive in New York after a long and slow train from Boston to Penn Station (surely a place specifically designed to confuse foreign travelers?) The constant rains have hit the trains hard and I was lucky to make it. (The rain kept coming putting large parts of the east coast under water and the service was later suspended due to flooding.) The delays mean I hit the New York rush hour carrying my luggage, which is about as much fun as gallstones. I make it to Lounge 47 in Long Island City to meet gent and scholar Adrian Mukasa, the wise-cracking videographer I met in this bar during my last visit and who has generously found me an apartment in Queens for my stay. We catch up over some beers before I head to the apartment. It’s blissfully quiet, which is just about the most important thing anywhere I sleep needs to be (and completely unlike my flat in London which is assailed from all sides by the lives and loves of my neighbours).
Today I meet my editor at Penguin Avery, the quietly formidable Rachel Holtzman. We have lunch at the swanky Marea restaurant bordering Central Park. Rachel has a kind of steely-softness that New York specialises in. She’s got a kind heart, but I suspect suffers fools about as gladly as the Vatican would respond to public conversion to catholicism by Gary Glitter right now. I’m glad to hear she’s happy with the four chapters I’ve delivered so far, and that the publicity and sales people at Penguin have responded well to the book (indeed, I’m to meet them, and the publisher Bill next Tuesday). Talking to Rachel also helps me begin to pull together some ideas about how the book’s narrative will play out. Most exciting however is that she’s brought a mock up of a front cover, and it’s brilliant. It’s simple but has a New Yorker kind of vibe. As soon as it’s finalised (we discussed a few tweaks) I hope to post it up here.
I spend the afternoon in the main branch of the New York public library preparing for tomorrow’s interview with Chris Anderson, CEO of the mighty TED talks. I’m hoping Chris will help me pull together some of the threads and trends I’ve been battling with, in short, to help me make sense of everything. Given that the TED talks are a nexus for the presentation and discussion of new ideas and ways of seeing the world Chris is probably in the top ten people assailed by the most new ideas on a regular basis on the planet – and so, I hope, has managed to develop a way of bringing them all together into a coherent world view, or (more likely), a coherent attitude to approaching the future.
After all, on one side you have James Lovelock who says, there’s no way to save the planet and on the other you have Ray Kurzweil who, as I reported in a recent post, says ‘Malthusian concerns’ about us using up the world’s resources are facile because they assume nothing in technology changes (i.e. we can engineer ourselves out of the climate crisis – and indeed just about anything else we care to think of). Meanwhile, in the middle you have eco-pragmatists like Stewart Brand (who I hope to interview in a couple of weeks) whose Whole Earth Discipline is described as ‘an eco-pragmatist manifesto’. (You can see Stewart talk about ‘four environmental heresis’ here.
Tomorrow’s going to be an interesting day…