The Earth Wants You


Product Details

$13.95  $12.83
City Lights Books
Publish Date
5.0 X 0.4 X 6.9 inches | 0.2 pounds

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About the Author

Bill Talen (born May 25, 1950) is a Dutch-American Calvinist Minnesota-born, Franconia College-educated actor who 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. This character was performed in various San Francisco alternative theater venues, where Talen had earned a considerable reputation as both a performer and a producer (Life On The Water theater, the Solo Mio Festival, Writers Who Act, etc.) In New York, Talen began appearing as Reverend Billy on street corners in Times Square, near the recently opened Disney Store. Times Square had just begun its transformation from a seedy but lively center of small-time and sometimes illicit commerceand also of New York theatreto a more gentrified and tourist-friendly venue for large companies like Disney and big-budget stage productions like "The Lion King." Whereas other street preachers chose Times Square because of its reputation for sin, Reverend Billy's sermons focused on the evils of consumerism and advertisingrepresented especially by Disney and Mickey Mouseand on what Talen saw as the loss of neighborhood spirit and cultural authenticity in Rudolph Giuliani's New York.
Talen's chief collaborator in developing the Reverend Billy character was the Reverend Sidney Lanier. A cousin of Tennessee Williams with an interest in avant-garde theater, Lanier was then the vicar of St. Clement's, an Episcopal church in Hell's Kitchen that doubled as a theatrical space, where Talen was working as house manager. Lanier encouraged Talen, who was suspicious of religious figures after rejecting the conservative Protestantism of his youth, to study radical theologians and performers; of these, Talen credits Elaine Pagels and Lenny Bruce as particularly strong influences. Though Talen does not call himself a Christian, he says that Reverend Billy is not a parody of a preacher, but a real preacher; he describes his church's spiritual message as "put the Odd back in God."
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir is a non-profit organization that includes Talen, director Savitri Durkee (who is married to Talen), a 40-member choir, and the Not Buying It band."


"Welcome, brothers and sisters, to the Church of Stop Shopping in Brooklyn, where the right Rev. Billy Talen rocks his ecopulpit with impassioned performance art and guerilla theater happenings, reminiscent of back-in-the-day 1960s La MaMa Theater and the Living Theater, in service of his clarion call social activism to save our Black Friday-addicted shopping souls and heed Mother Earth's doomsday climate change wail. The gospel according to Reverend Billy can be found in this title, a compilation of short rants, monologues, and sermons decrying our collective crass commercialism, cultural propensity for materialistic gormandizing, and comprehensive ecological rape of the planet. A leitmotif throughout is the concept of 'The Replacement Planet, ' in which everything is a commodity to be monetized and marketed. Monsanto, violence in Ferguson, the annihilation of honeybees, Hurricane Sandy, and the Earth as being r-e-a-l-l-y pissed at us (and letting us know) are favorite pinatas, but the reverend juxtaposes these jeremiads with encouraging stories of humorous and sometimes successful nonviolent protest. VERDICT If Elvis and the Goddess of Greenpeace got together on and had a bastard child, it would be the Reverend Billy, and while it might be easy to dismiss his theatrical schtick, it would be wrong to ignore the message--brethren, can I get a Earthalujah!"--Barry X. Miller, Library Journal

"Reverend Talen is a warrior whose aim it is to wake the sleeping to the realities of climate change. He is guided by a higher power and fueled by love."--Clayton Thomas-Muller, member of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation (Pukatawagan, Manitoba)

"I had a dream about the Reverend Billy last night. He came to Harvard Divinity School. People were distraught that no one had authorized him as a reverend to preach, and yet he preached."--Tim DeChristopher, Peaceful Uprising

"The Church of Stop Shopping helps us ready ourselves for the times ahead by finding solace in the persistent force field of living beings."--Severine von Tscharner Fleming, The Greenhorns

"Reverend Billy will have you raising your hands in Hallelujah while the Earth's plight brings you to your knees."--Zen Honeycutt, Moms Across America

"This is a movement that you hold in your hands, which you will then feed back to the wind, to the fire and the water."--Leah Borromeo, The Cotton Film: Dirty White Gold

"This is a new Psalm for the Earth, for her human and other-than-human inhabitants."--Beth Stephens, ecosexual artist, professor

"The Reverend reminds us that we are complicit in the delusion that we are somehow separate from the evolutionary process of Mother Earth."--Alnoor Ladha, The Rules

"This is a kaleidoscopic journey, from disobedient grandma's fighting fracking to rebellious choirs against police racism, from profound animistic prayers on ecological collapse to complex political critiques of the NGO sector."--John Jordan, Laboratoire d'Imagination Insurrectionnelle

"He's hysterically serious."--Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets

Praise for Reverend Billy

"Combining the situationalist flair of Abbie Hoffman with an evangelist's tireless zeal, Reverend Billy's efforts against mindless consumerism and corporate greed have added the oxygen of publicity to flames of a number of worthy causes, as well as reintroducing a much-needed sense of fun to Manhattan's somber and overregulated plazas."--Publishers Weekly

"[Reverend Billy has] the zeal of a street-corner preacher and the schmaltz of a street-corner Santa.--The New York Times