In this week's cheatsheet to sounding like you know all the hott books, Intern Alexis gets all randy over Abraham Lincoln and the Asian version of Jonathan Safran Foer. Oh, and she reveals this week's essayist, William Deresiewicz, is also a Yale professor casually known amongst his students as Cockmaster D. This and other forms of enlightenment after the jump.
The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln
By C.A. Tripp, edited by Lewis Gannett
Reviewed by Richard Brookhiser
This book is already getting noticed is how Richard Brookhiser dramatically opens his review of C.A. Tripp s expos-gay of Abraham Lincoln. But what does that even mean? If you think about it, every book reviewed in the New York Times Book Review is already getting noticed in one way or another. In fact, New York Times reporter Dinitia Smith already noticed this book a month ago. Just sayin.
Niv: The Authorized Biography of David Niven
By Graham Lord
Reviewed by Bruce Handy
Vanity Fair scribe and editor Bruce Handy was thoroughly entertained by Graham Lord s biography of David Niven, aka Niv. And in case you were all, Niv? Whaaat? Mr. Handy explains to us that Niv is short for Niven. David s last name: (cf. Coop for Gary Cooper or Hef for Hugh Hefner). Ohhhh, thanks for clarifying. To illustrate Niv s self-deprecating attitude, Handy quotes him telling John Hurt: I know exactly what my position is, old cock: I m second-rate star. We appreciated this penis reference and were appropriately satisfied with this week s NYTBR vulgarity quota. But, boy oh boy, that was before we read on. Handy explains that Niv was known for being unreliable and as a result, Lord had a difficult time separating fact from fiction. He points to this example as one of the key mysteries that has had Niv scholars scratching their heads for decades:
One example: While Niven was in the Italian Alps filming a skiing sequence for The Pink Panther in subzero weather, his penis became frostbitten. He was advised to soak it in alcohol as a first-aid treatment, and, quickly returning to his hotel, went to the bar, asked for a brandy glass full of whiskey and took it to the men's room. Question: When another patron walked in, saw Niven with his penis in a snifter and gasped, "What are you doing?" Did the actor quip that he was urinating "in a brandy glass. I always do," (Niven's account in "The Moon's a Balloon") or "I always give it a drink now and then" (Lord's account, based on an interview with Robert Wagner)?
Answer: We re putting our money on Robert Wagner. We assume the star of Becoming Dick (incidentally directed by Bob Saget) knows a thing or two about, um, drinking penises.
Babes in Thailand: Sightseeing Stories
By Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Reviewed by Darin Strauss
More like HOTTawut Lapcharoensap!
Mr. Strauss notes that the narrator in one of Lapcharoensap s stories has a pig named Clint Eastwood and gently (but firmly) reminds us that This has been done before, recently and funnier. In Jonathan Safran Foer s novel Everything is Illuminated, the Ukrainian boy s pet is named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.). Plagiarism, schlagiarism! We don t care! Lapcharoensap s is the prettiest face we ve seen in these pages in quite some time now. His horn-rimmed glasses, his skinny, loosened tie, his I don t give a fuck up-turned collar and his dramatic Carlos D. bangs scream Asian Man s Jonathan Safran Foer. Once Lapcharoensap gets himself a dorky watch and kooky award, the only thing setting them apart will be Safran Foer s receding hairline and punk smirk.
Essay: You Talkin to Me?
By William Deresiewicz
Our stupid college friends used to make up names for professors. And when said friends had Bill Deresiewicz for freshman English, all those years back, they coined the name Cockmaster D. And now the Cockmaster reviews two books on American English and opens his essay with a precious anecdote:
I came across the following sentence in a term paper recently. The student was about to describe how she had arrived at her conclusions. This is what she wrote: The following methodology was utilized. I see this kind of thing all the time. Not the following methodology was used ; not ever this is what I did. Like nearly all the students I ve taught, this young woman has learned to believe that the English language does not have room for her.
As a recent student of Billy D, I disagree and am insulted by his generalizations. The English language possesses area for me.
In all seriousness, though, we re all about simple prose, but Billy D seems to be something of a flip-flopper. About mid-essay he writes, But the obverse of anxiety is contempt. Are you kidding? Are you going to yell at people like me for being pretentious assholes and then write the phrase the obverse of anxiety is contempt ? No way, Cockmaster.
It s sort of awkward to review a review of a professor we once had, so we d like to close this edition of Reading about Reading by saying that we actually loved the class we took with Deresiewicz. The Daily Themes course changed our lives!!!! No, really!