Luigi Pirandello’s Six characters in search of an author is the 1921 selection for the 100 year book club. The Italian play is about a family seeking a theatre company and a writer, so that the company might take the family’s drama and act it out, thus absolving them of it. Are you following? Through the play the family reveals its crimes; adultery, incest, abandonment, to the theatre manager and his actors until the full truth of their anger and sorrow is revealed.
Earlier this year my best friend went on a date with a new guy to The Rex, a grimy but wonderful jazz bar in Toronto. She liked this guy a lot, but she really liked his friends who she considered cultured, sophisticated and the exact type of person she wanted to surround herself with. At The Rex, a place that serves beer in plastic pitchers and has a menu consisting primarily of nachos and chicken fingers, one of the girls in my friend’s group placed her Prada purse in the centre of the table and glared at the server every time he reached across it to deliver their drinks. When the night’s band went on the boyfriend of another of the girls repeatedly sent her text messages asking her to lower her voice because the other Rex patrons were staring at her instead of the band. She laughed and continued her conversation. My friend recounted all of this to me the next morning as she reiterated how much she wished to be included in this circle of friends.
I remembered this conversation when that dude broke up with my friend at around the same time I was re-reading Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. She had blocked the guy on social media so instead was stalking the social media accounts of his friends to catch glimpses of his activities. I was getting sent a lot of screenshots of the Instagram accounts of conspicuously wealthy thirty-somethings. None of the friends were “name a prominent business school after you” rich but they’d like you to believe they’re on their way. Here’s my theory on these guys. They all went out and saw Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby because Leonardo DiCaprio is their spirit animal and they thought “this guy is fucking cool.” Not Gatsby, he dies in the end and doesn’t manage to keep Carey Mulligan but this Tom guy, he really has it figured out. Where can they get something from Tom’s point of view? How do they get their hands on his rule book? Enter Newland Archer, the leading man of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.
If there is anything to be learned from the 100-year book club project it is that there is great pleasure in embracing 100-year old books. P.G. Wodehouse has fallen out of fashion and readers don’t have much occasion to encounter him these days. His stories aren’t read [much] in schools or studied in universities, they aren’t glamorous enough for Hollywood portrayals so Wodehouse stays in our common imagination largely because the name “Jeeves” has become to butler as “Kleenex” has to tissue.
1) In the first edition, an unnamed narrator chats with Jim Burden during a train journey and Jim talks about his unhappy marriage to a wealthy female activist. The narrator in the introduction to the first edition is female, many think it is meant to be Cather herself. Cather’s publisher asked for a revision for the second edition so we now have the milder opening without the mean, wealthy, female activist. The publisher sold Cather on the idea by telling her a new introduction would allow them to market the second edition as a brand new version – removing Jim Burden’s unhappy marriage just made good business sense.
What if James Joyce had written his semi-autobiographical work Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man not as a novel, but via the equally valid form of artistic expression that is a playlist of late 1990’s and early 2000’s hip hop. Look at the cover image of the book; Joyce is a thug, he’s ridin’ dirty. Let’s do a close reading of his music choices and see what else we can learn about the most influential writer of his generation.
Occupation: Formerly a travelling salesman. Temporarily unemployed
Height: About 100cm when fully upright. I’m all legs.
Self-defining song lyric: “I woke up like this”
Wants Kids: Yes. Though adoption will perhaps be necessary.