Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Misc. you much

  • I had a really good time in Lincoln this weekend. Getting brunch with hungover people is one of my favorite things to do. There's something about being underslept and then drinking a lot of coffee that makes me giddy.
  • I've been reading The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro for a couple of months. It's one of the weirdest novels I've ever read. I keep asking people on Twitter about this book but no one will "engage" with me on it. It (the book, not Twitter) makes me feel sort of terrible: the tone and progression exactly mirror one of those endless and incredibly frustrating anxiety dreams where you can't get where you need to go and you're unprepared in any case for what you'll have to do when you get there. 
  • Clifford Irving, the guy who wrote the fake autobiography of Howard Hughes, lives in Colorado and according to one report is a yoga teacher. He sounds like a real pompous ass:
    I always found the Hughes hoax fascinating. Irving is over it. 
    "It's a subject I avoid because it bores me," he says. "I live a very quiet and secluded life. But it was a fun event in my life." 
    What about the 17 months he spent in jail after being convicted of fraud? 
    "I survived that," he says. "It was an interesting experience." 
    He also returned the $765,000 advance to his publishers. 
    I talked with an Aspen man who read the book, and he liked it quite a lot. He thinks Hughes, who died in 1976, should have gone along with it. 
    "I gave him a better life than he had," Irving says.
  • I must have been in my late teens before I figured out Howard Hughes and Hugh Hefner were two different guys.


  1. I was into my 20s before I realized that Hugh Hefner and Hugh Downs are in fact the same person.

    I shall put the Ishiguro on my list.

  2. If you haven't read anything else by Ishiguro, I'd recommend tackling another one first. Though that won't help us talk about The Unconsoled...

  3. I love The Unconsoled. It is one of my favorite novels of all time. I much prefer it to The Remains of the Day, which is very one-dimensional novel. The Unconsoled is similar to Kafka's The Castle in some ways, with that anxiety producing sense of being in a limbo. The narrative technique is quite adept too.

  4. Finally! You are the first person I know who has read it.

    I haven't read ROTD -- the fact that I've seen the movie already turns me off it. But I really love Never Let Me Go and A Pale View of Hills. This one is totally different from both of those.

  5. I had a similar problem distinguishing Alec Guinness and Allen Ginsberg into my teens. It remains one of the great embarrassments of my life. I'll never forget the scornful manner in which a classmate corrected my ignorance.

  6. Those moments can be truly humiliating. I mispronounced "ebullient" at a party when I was 25 or 26 and now I hate that word.

  7. I like another Ishiguro novel, An Artist of the Floating World. For some reason, I couldn't get into When We Were Orphans or Never Let Me Go. The Uncsonsoled remains my favorite.

  8. I couldn't get into When We Were Orphans either. I abandoned it. NLMG, on the other hand, I tore through. I'm keeping my eye out for a used copy of An Artist of the Floating World.

  9. I used the word "risible" in a poem as a noun, and never noticed until someone on a poetry board questioned it, and the next day I got a note from an editor said it was a brilliant choice. Oh, and I was like 40 before I knew how to pronounce miscellany, assuming that I even know now. Also, ignominy.

  10. I JUST (like last weekend) had a great conversation with a visiting artist friend about the Unconsoled...we both loved it but she had read it more recently than I had and I realized I needed to read it again. I read it over 10 years ago (!) and it made a huge impression on me. It is really odd and anxiety-producing and flawed and probably too long I loved it for all of that. I wonder what I'd think of it now. And also, we miss you here in MA!

  11. A brilliant choice! That is hilarious. Kind of like a dirigible.

    Sarah, we miss you too!! I think of you when John wears his yellow shirt.

    For some reason I had it in my head that the book was more recent, but it came out in 1995. I think his books invite re-reading, they're so nuanced. Definitely anxiety-inducing -- it's especially hard to read if you're at all sleepy because you start to feel like you're dreaming things.

  12. "Risible" reminds me -- there's a poem in which Rae Armantrout uses the word "meridian" to mean "median" (as in a road). I think it must be a mistake though I supposed you could argue/assume she is being artful.

  13. Really enjoyed your reading in Lincoln! Looking forward to reading The French Exit.

  14. Thanks!! You were part of an awesome crowd.

  15. Shamus 7474,

    I still confuse Guinness stout with ginseng tea.

  16. I first heard of James Joyce's Ulysses when I was about 17 years old, in a conversation with someone I'd just met. The guy talked with great enthusiasm about the novel, especially about what he called the "auditory" quality of it.

    Somehow as he was talking about it, I became confused and thought he was talking about the ancient character Ulysses (Odysseus), from the Odyssey. And so for some time after that, maybe a couple of years, I was under the impression that James Joyce (rather than Homer) had written the Odyssey.

    Fortunately I discovered my error somewhere along the way, in circumstances that weren't embarassing to me or anyone else...

    Many years later I did read some of Joyce's Ulysses, and though I haven't ever finished it, I have to agree with the guy from years ago about the auditory quality of the novel. The sounds in the book, in the scenes Joyce writes (people's footsteps on a gravel path; voices from the street heard through a window; etc.) are almost palpably audible.

  17. I was able to find "An Artist of the Floating World" at my local library; it was great. I haven't tried "The Unconsoled," but I really didn't love the other "big hits:" "Never Let Me Go" or "The Remains of the Day." (Although I do have a prejudice against books about clones being grown for organ harvest. I don't know why.)

  18. I used to invariably say and write "bespeckled" for "bespectacled." No one ever pointed out the error. So much of my speech and writing was nonsensical, I could've meant covered with spots, for all my auditors and readers knew.

    One could write a poem with the eccentric rhythm of this comment stream. Confessions of embarassing malapropisms could alternate with statements about Ishiguro novels. Readers would look for a mysterious relationship between gaffes and Ishiguro, or they'd forge a connection themselves.

  19. This is definitely my favorite blog comment stream for November.

    There should be a club of us who started Ulysses. We could fill Yankee Stadium.

  20. Lyle, once my boyfriend (on one of our first dates) mentioned the Ring cycle and I thought he was talking about Lord of the Rings.

    Jeannine -- no spoilers! ;)

    David -- my favorite mispronunciation ever (this wasn't me, I swear) is "bed-raggled" for "be-draggled".

    Whimsy, I tried to read Ulysses waaaayy too soon (when I was like 17). Only ended up finishing the Molly Bloom bit (which a child could read!)

  21. My late father-in-law knew Ishiguro's father, because both of them were oceanographers from Japan. I remember my late father once forgetting what he was reading and wondering how An Artist of the Floating World would have been "in the original Japanese." Of course, once he formulated that thought he realized his mistake.

    There is a hilariously stupid review of The Unconsoled by a classical musician who didn't understand the narrative technique, or was pretending not to.

  22. As soon as I finish I want to read some reviews, stupid and otherwise. But knowing Ishiguro, I'm worried about spoilers so will wait.

  23. The mispronounced/misheard/misused are really funny. I know someone who always turns vicarious and precarious around, which often puts her in a position.

    The malapops remind me of Norm Crosby. And Yogi Berra. Mondegreens (the mishearing of song lyrics, etc) are also a lot of fun. And there are great numbers of them, Dylan's alone could fill a phone booth.

    I always remember the one from John Travolta/Grease (but can never remember the name of the song):

    I've got shoes, they're made of plywood ...


  24. Peter DeVries was a master of comical solecisms and wordplay-inspired bizarrerie. His characters say things like "This time I'll pass mustard" and "Deep down, he's shallow." Or the protagonist will find a bunch of stamps stuck to his bathtub. He'll ask his kids what gives, and they'll say,"When we asked you where to put our Christmas seals, you said the bathtub." DeVries is a logophile's novelist.

  25. I had a book of those misheard song lyrics as a kid and I still hear all those versions in my head when I hear those songs. "The girl with colitis goes by," "Soy on my candy corn," etc.

  26. I'll never be your beast of burden
    = I'll never leave your pizza burnin'

    There's a bad moon on the rise
    = There's a bathroom on the right

    You may be right, I may be crazy
    = You made the rice, I made the gravy

    Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
    = Another turnip boy, the Ford stuck in the road

    Michelle ma belle,sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble,
    = Michelle ma belle, some say monkeys play piano well

    Now bring us some figgy pudding
    = Now bring us some friggin' pudding


  27. I love "Some say monkeys play piano well"!

    In the Patsy Cline song where she sings "When you're tired of foolin' around with two or three" -- I used to think she was saying "with Doo-wop Marie"

  28. my beatles professor at IU once told us about "some say monkeys play piano well" then played us the song while it was fresh in our mind, so that everyone laughed when we heard it because it really did sound like that's what he was singing, even thought it was of course a song we'd all heard many times before. there must be a scientific word for that phenomenon.