Day 71

5.03: In 1979, the year of my birth, Italo Calvino published a novel called If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller or, if you prefer, Se Una Notte D’Inverno Un Viaggiatorre. It’s a story about a book called If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller or, if you prefer, Se Una Notte D’Inverno Un Viaggiatorre, in which the reader is forced to search for the very book whose story he’s absorbing and whose pages he’s turning – proof if ever it were needed that many an unparallelled genius has also been an unspeakable jackass.

This week it emerged, or seemed to, that an interview with Phillip Roth in Berlusconi-coddling tabloid Libero was entirely made up, sparking off an intellectual chain reaction so fierce with pretention it could tranquilise a rhino with its sheer self-aggrandising highbrow juice.

The main scandal of the interview with freelance journalist Tommaso Debenedetti seems to be that the made-up Roth have committed the cardinal sin of criticising Barack Obama (“nasty, vacillating, and mired in the mechanics of power”). Yikes, that’s some tough talking, made-up Phillip.

The interview seemed to follow an established pattern, Debenedetti appearing to have made up an interview with John Grisham in which Grisham had allegedly said, “People are angry with Obama for having done little or nothing and having promised too much.”

All fun and games. A court case is busily ensuing with Grisham and Roth as joint plaintiffs like a sort of intellectual tag team in wrestling leotards smacking down the weedy Debenedetti like Hulk Hogan used to do to Bret Sergeant Hart.

But the literary industry’s like a tapeworm eating its tail in the small intestine of a fat man. The London Review of Books has now published a fictional (either fictional or beyond the grave, which would have been a better scoop) interview with Italo Calvino, in which it posits that Debenedetti is himself a made-up interviewer. Could be it’s a thin and maddeningly intellectual April fool, but Holy Roland Barthes, that’s some outrageous death-of-the-author gargling. They wang that theory like a welly at a summer fare.

Tune in next time to read Kenneth Williams’ interview with Willow the Wisp – I warn you though, the Wisp’s no toadying Obama-bopper.

6.58: Still chipping away like a druid trying to hew Stone Henge’s stones from the belly of some Welsh cliff. You never get the sense you’ve delivered the decisive chisel blow, but you’re vaguely aware that at some point the great loosened edifice is likely to topple forwards and flatten you like a cartoon character.

~ by David Thorley on April 1, 2010.

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