Monday, October 01, 2007

the bad analogy

The New Yorker arrives in my mailbox every week, and I'm pretty much always toting around one or more issues. I like it most of the time, but every now and then I'm reminded that it's kind of ridiculous. In an article about On the Road in the Oct 1 issue, the writer says of Neal Cassidy (the inspiration for a character in the book): "He is the Lou Andreas-Salomé, the Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel, of postwar American culture."

The what? Does anyone (without the help of google) have any idea who either of those people are?

13 comments:

J.Bro said...

I'm not sure I even understand the references with Wikipedia's help. Judge for yourself:

Lou Andreas-Salomé (née Louise von Salomé) (February 12, 1861 – February 5, 1937) was a Russian Jewish-born psychoanalyst and author. Her diverse intellectual interests led to friendships with a broad array of distinguished western luminaries, including Nietzsche, Wagner, Freud, and Rilke.

Alma Maria Mahler-Werfel (née Schindler) (August 31, 1879 – December 11, 1964) was noted in her native Vienna for her beauty and intelligence. In her youth she was an aspiring composer. She was the wife, successively, of the composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and novelist Franz Werfel, and lover to the painter Oskar Kokoschka.

towwas said...

Oh, ok. The point he's making about Cassidy is that he was the muse of the Beat movement in general, so that does make sense.

David J said...

Alma was a woman who hooked up with a ton of leading cultural figures in Europe, including Gustav Mahler.

I don't know this because I'm a student of history, but because I'm a huge Tom Lehrer fan, and he has a song about Alma. Tom Lehrer is a former math prof (MIT?) who wrote satiric songs in the 1960s and 1970s. He famously said that satire died the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here's a YouTube video of the song Alma. Well, the video itself is literally video of the turntable playing the album that the song is on, but you'll still hear the lyrics.

David J said...

p.s. Besides, isn't the whole point of writing for The New Yorker that you show your education by dropping references that you know nobody will get, but you act as though EVERYONE will automatically get it?

I Blog, You Blog said...

Two things:

1. I'm pretty sure I'm not smart enough to read the New Yorker. I'm actually ok with this.

2. Tom Leherer is awesome! National Brotherhood Week for everyone!

towwas said...

Oh, my gosh, Dahvay, I grew up with that LP (and a few others of his that I know much better). I haven't listened to it in ages. Thanks for the link!! I hear Tom Lehrer still sings at faculty parties at UC Santa Cruz sometimes.

towwas said...

Wow, I'm listening to the rest of the video now - I still know most of the lyrics to "Who's Next" and I totally remember Wernher von Braun, so how did Alma just fall out of my head?

J-Vo said...

I liken the New Yorker to Gilmore Girls, only with obscure cultural references as opposed to obscure POP cultural references.

BASSO said...

...I read that same piece the morning and drew a total blank on the reference...too. I love the New Yorker because it makes me think, check and ask about things, but I think they do go out their way to be obsure. Thanks for the wiki ref here - saved me having to gwell on it. You go Gustav!

J.Per said...

I have such a complex attitude towards the New Yorker! On the one hand, I admire the writing styles, but on the other hand it can obviously be infuriatingly opaque. I often agree with the opinions (except a recent article on local food), but I have serious reservations about a friend's description of it as the zeitgeist. I like reading it, but I wish it didn't come every week so I'd have a chance of actually FINISHING an issue! Aaaah. ;)

miss shirley said...

Good call jvo. I still watch the Gilmore Girls because I get most of the references and that makes me feel smart. The New Yorker makes me feel stupid. I don't like it. :P

BASSO said...

..what's stupid is, after reading all this and not having clue who AMM-W was, I ordered an audio book after searchin iTunes with the name. All psyched and with an hour to kill on the Metro, I called it up on my iPod and - there it was, in German, auf deutch and me only knowing how to order food, a beer and get directions to the bahnhof. It made me laugh out loud, which got me plenty of looks from the other passengers. :)

towwas said...

HAHAHA! That is too awesome. Did you get your money back??