WHAT SHOULD I DO IF REVEREND BILLY IS IN MY STORE?

Bill Talen, Author . New Press $21.95 (151p) ISBN 978-1-56584-824-5

The title of this engaging manifesto/memoir is taken from a Starbucks memo (thoughtfully reprinted) instructing employees on how to deal with its protagonist and author, New York City's most visible anti-shopping provocateur, "Reverend Billy." The reverend is, after all, the sort of person who, accompanied by his "devotees," might interrupt the gentle slurping of Mocha Frappuccinos with an impromptu discussion and preach-in, and perhaps a hymn or two. Starbucks's advice boils down to "try and ignore him," but the good reverend makes such an undertaking difficult. Combining the situational flair of Abbie Hoffman with an evangelist's tireless zeal, Reverend Billy's efforts against mindless consumerism and corporate greed have adding the oxygen of publicity to the flames of a number of worthy causes, as well as reintroducing a much-needed sense of fun to Manhattan's somber and overregulated plazas. One of the keys to the success of Talen's creation is reflected in the book's good-natured tone. Unlike many recent political tomes both right and left, Talen's account of his alter ego's pilgrimage is evenhanded and reflective and remarkably free of the rancor that poisons so much public debate. Reverend Billy was not born overnight, and Talen is candid and un-self-righteous about the ethical and moral considerations that accompanied both his emergence and career. Talen never confuses the employee with the corporation or mere disruption with thoughtful protest, and the discipline and inventiveness of his crusade demonstrates that sometimes the absurdities of power are best undercut with absurdity, and greed with generosity. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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Paperback - 151 pages - 978-1-56584-979-2
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