Sunday, August 12, 2018
Plaintive Hot Dog Reflection
Megan Abbott and I are in the habit of reading celebrity bios together. Right now we are reading the most astonishingly inept biography yet, I think - the writing and editing (and even the proofreading) so dismal that I shan't name it, though I have to relate that its subject is Mickey Rooney. Like, we have to send paragraphs back and forth to each other for analysis. What do they mean? How did they end up in the book? Was it a production mistake? Something breaks through occasionally... like the weary, plaintive quotation of an interview subject who invested in Mickey's hot dog restaurant: "They sold square hot dogs in a bun. Square hot dogs. I think that says it all." But! There is one loopy paragraph that, while still not good, rises out of the book, leaps off the page, because its tone becomes so unlike any of the other clunky, jumbled passages which make up the rest. The authors are describing an agent of Mickey's later years whose bedroom was filled with raccoons, both living and stuffed. The entire paragraph is worth quoting, if only to demonstrate that I'm not kidding about the writing, but sadly I have only enough energy to type up the end of it: "But it was the raccoons, the raccoons! Those eyes, red in the soft light, were unwavering; they would stare at you as she fed them. You would never forget them." You will have to take my word for it that nothing else in the text matches the urgency of "the raccoons, the raccoons!" and the desperate slip into the second person. For two seconds the writing verges into the expressively personal. Somebody is really haunted by those raccoons.