Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Two pieces in this week's New Yorker, complementary in interesting ways.

The first is Mark Singer's quite mesmerizing account of how William Barrington-Coupe tricked thousands of knowledgeable people into believing that his wife, pianist Joyce Hatto, was an unrecognized genius. One of Singer's more perceptive summings-up:
Just about every anecdote Barry shared, or invented on the spot, conformed to a fundamentally sentimental narrative that retained at least a quotient of plausibility, allowing him to harvest a bit of sympathy for two lifetimes’ accumulation of grievances. Of course, there was a transparent poignancy to the con: Hatto had possessed genuine talent but there had been no brilliant career. The con had a genius and the revenge a sweetness, the false persona providing a balm for her failed ambition. Still, how satisfying could it have been to live merely the simulacrum of success—to read about “her” inspiring renaissance, to hear “her” music so extravagantly extolled? The name-dropping, the evasiveness, the delusional stories, the woundedness, the self-pity, the resentment toward the establishment: it formed a ziggurat of self-deception. It was also a love story, one that would have been right at home on Sunset Boulevard.
And then a very nice juxtaposition to an equally mesmerizing and mysterious story by Paul Theroux, "Mr. Bones". Mr. Bones is the persona the child narrator's browbeaten father adopts for a one-off minstrel-show performance--the tone of the story's almost like something from the wilder regions of Stephen King or Clive Barker, it's quite excellent...

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