Art Garfunkel discusses life, new memoir to fans in Bucks County

By Davin Jurgensen.

Life can’t be planned.

At least that’s what Art Garfunkel, the man from the folk-rock music duo Simon and Garfunkel, believes.

“You fall into things in life,” he said. “We don’t set out with conscious beginnings.”

It was a conversation between Garfunkel and his editor, or Vice President and Senior Editor at Alfred Knopf, Victoria Wilson, at Holicong Middle School in Buckingham Township Monday night.

Garfunkel wrote a memoir: “What is it All But Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man,” which releases Sept. 26.

But he didn't plan to become a novelist, he said.

He sat across from Wilson on the middle school’s auditorium stage; his curly hair a bit more gray.

He dazzled in a white, button-down dress shirt and navy slacks. His black dress shoes shined against the spotlight as he crossed his legs and clasped his hands, ready for all questions.

Each member of the audience held Garfunkel’s book.

Laura Steavenson, events manager of the Doylestown Bookshop, said Garfunkel signed about 450 books before the event.

Garfunkel started writing when he traveled across the country – by walking.

He said he started writing in the '80s by reflecting on his travels and the landscapes he saw, which gave him inspiration.

“I’ve been writing 30 years not thinking I was writing a book,” Garfunkel said.

But then a literary agent looked at his pieces and it became something more.

“These are scribblings that became a book,” he said.

When Wilson redirected the conversation to Garfunkel’s singing career, he gave the audience a snippet of some of his singing first hand.

He’d sing verses here and there, while he discussed vibratos and the lusciousness of sounds.

Garfunkel first became aware of his singing voice at age five. He used to play outside where he grew up in Queens.

At age 11, Garfunkel recalled meeting Paul Simon at a graduation play in sixth grade. Garfunkel said Simon was “really funny” and they took to each other.

He joked about how he sang and the girls would swoon, and that’s why Simon followed along.

His wit shined throughout the one-hour event, as he cracked jokes followed by laughter and applause from the audience.

He discussed when he and Simon recorded their first demo “Hey Schoolgirl” in the mid 1960s and brought it to Manhattan to be heard. From there, it all took off.

Garfunkel toured radio stations, his record slowly moved from a Top 40 hit to the No. 1 song and he said he was thrilled.

“I watched it climb and realized what a path I’m on,” he said. “I’m a pop star, I better go shopping for turtlenecks.”

An album took about one year to produce, Garfunkel said.

“It’s great fun to finish a song and see what wants to come next,” he said.

When Wilson asked how the name Simon and Garfunkel came to fruition, Garfunkel merely laughed.

“I call it the absence of finding a name,” he said.

To his recollection, the duo and the record company kept looking for a name and when they couldn’t find one, they decided on the duo's last names.

A question-and-answer portion followed Garfunkel and Wilson’s discussion, where many praised him and others asked questions regarding his career.

To note, he said his favorite song is “Scarborough Fair” because it “has a natural flow, as if humans didn’t write it.”

“I try to work for sincerity,” Garfunkel said. “I think of people listening to me, and I’m trying to be as real as I can for them.”

As the dialogue came to an end, Garfunkel stood up and gave the audience a smile and a big air hug.

He thanked the people and disappeared behind the black curtain, leaving the audience in its standing ovation.