Archive for August, 2011

What’s the Big Idea?

Larry David on "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

In a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (“The Hero,” Season 8, Episode 6), Larry David attends a dinner party with a hot date and is peeved when the hostess tells him couples are being seated apart. What’s worse, he is relegated to the very end of the table, next to a stranger named Hank (SNL alum Chris Parnell), who remarks, “You know, when I first saw you I guessed you for a Spaniard.” We’ve all been in Larry’s shoes; assigned seating can spark a lively dialogue, even kindle a new friendship, but sometimes it’s heavy sledding. As always, the fictional Larry mines the comic gold in an uncomfortable situation by flouting social convention, asking his new acquaintance, “How’s your marriage?” When Hank takes offense, Larry explains he’s merely “trying to elevate small talk to medium talk.”

Leave it to Larry to say aloud what no one else dares: small talk is, by definition, superficial and shallow, greasing the conversational wheel but not moving the vehicle forward. Larry is being disingenuous, of course, to feign impatience with small talk. After all, in both Curb and in real life, he owes his fame and fortune to the success of an entire series “about nothing.” Inane small talk, whether by a “low talker” or a “close talker,” is his bread and butter. Yet, just imagine how the real Larry David must cringe when strangers quote chapter and verse from favorite Seinfeld episodes. Yada, yada, yada! Continue reading ‘What’s the Big Idea?’

Plus ça change?

Sarah's Key book cover

I’ve been starring at the cover of the paperback edition of Sarah’s Key, an international bestseller by Tatiana de Rosnay, trying to understand what would make a publisher (St. Martin’s Griffin in this instance) so willfully conflate the relative geography of two of Paris’s most familiar landmarks: the Eiffel Tower and the Luxembourg Gardens?

The publisher’s art director evidently believed that the Luxembourg Palace, which anchors the northern axis of the gardens and is where the French Senate meets, would not be recognizably Parisian enough without the Eiffel Tower visible in the background. Problem is, the photo is looking north, and the Eiffel Tower does not sit behind and to the right (northeast) of the Palace because it’s in the other direction – due west. Continue reading ‘Plus ça change?’

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