Sunday, March 08, 2009

I love Bill (sometimes) and Anthony Lane (all the time)

This morning, we start running in opposite directions and decide to meet up halfway somewhere. I follow the script but Bill loses his way (yes, in London). I get back home, shower, eat and get ready to call the cops when man saunters in with a bag full of books. Apparently, he somehow ended up in some second hand bookstore in Camden Lock and forgot all about running and me. In a blatant attempt at self-preservation, he remembers to get me a book. This.

From the Introduction (on the job across the pond):

I was also sprung free from the indignity of the picture byline - a bizarre English addiction, based on the surely unprovable theory that readers of newspapers will be more, not less, likely yo admire a piece of prose when given the chance to inspect the fate of the motheaten specimen who cobbled it together. Not so: any fragile support that I commanded among London moviegoers, for instance, was severly compromised by the fact that my column was topped by what appeared to be an unhappy reject from the Hitler Youth. All that sank beneath the waves as I shifted my allegiance to America, and to a magazine whose more diligent writers would, if stalked by a portrait photographer, take care to climb inside a passing weenie cart and wait till the peril had passed.


I knew that litigation was a popular sport in America, but it had never crossed my mind that one might be sued by imaginary characters. If I got Godzilla's name wrong, he could take me to the cleaners, and only the fact checkers could keep me in the clear. .....Needless to say, such mania for accuracy is a long way from the journalistic practice in England, where most newspapers are ideally read as a branch of experimental fiction.


What follows here, for a few hundred pages, is hardly a love letter to America; no book which pays such elaborate homage to Eveyln Waugh could in all honestly claim such a distinction. But it is no less ardently meant; think of it, instead, as one of the exit visas which Rick slips under the lid of Sam's piano, in Casablanca, away from the eyes of Captian Renault and his flunkies - just a dumb sheaf of paper, but stamped with the irrevocable permission to seek a world elsewhere. That world, to me as to Victor Laszlo, can only be America; then again, as Rick says to Ilsa on the runway, "We'll always have Paris." But that is another story.


Szerelem said...

oh my god~! I wants too!!

corny smith said...

i love Bill all the time!!!

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peter mild said...

Waugh's works were very successful with the reading public and he was widely admired as a humorist and as a prose stylist, but as his social conservatism and religiosity became more overt, his works grew more controversial with critics

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