March 12, 2013 · 6:34 pm

Obscure Birds #1

solsbury_eagleOn the left is Solsbury Hill, as viewed through the author’s bedroom window. On the right is an adornment to an 18th-century house in Batheaston, on the eastern slope of aforementioned hill. Yes, it looks like a turkey, but the building is called Eagle House. The imagination need not stretch to picture Peter Gabriel, circa 1977, passing the second item before climbing the first and later writing:

“Climbing up on Solsbury Hill

I could see the city light

Wind was blowing, time stood still

Eagle flew out of the night”

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St. Crispin’s Day

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.”

Henry V, William Shakespeare


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Love song

Last night I dined with SNAPPER scholar Ian Berlin, his wife Kim, and their dog G. Over an exquisite sausage casserole, Kim said:

“To me, SNAPPER is a love song in a country mode. The pickup truck breaks down, the dog won’t shut up, and the leading lady keeps running around. The object or muse or beloved of this song is the state of Indiana, and if she’s insulted on every other page, that’s just a convention of the form. The author can’t really be held responsible for that.”



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‎”…American folk tales usually end with a “snapper” — that is, after starting with the plausible, they progress through the barely possible to the flatly incredible, then wait for a laugh. Magazine fiction used to follow — and much of it still does — a pattern leading to a different sort of snapper, one that calls for a gasp of surprise or relief instead of a guffaw. [Sherwood] Anderson broke the pattern by writing stories that not only lacked snappers, in most cases, but even had no plots in the usual sense. The tales he told in his Midwestern drawl were not incidents or episodes, they were moments, each complete in itself.”

— Malcolm Cowley, Introduction to Winesburg, Ohio (Penguin Classics)


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More from Berlin

Ian Berlin, Director of the Centre for SNAPPER Studies, directs us to this item from a letter Mark Twain wrote to Joseph Twichell in 1898:

“Everytime I read “Pride and Prejudice” I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

Mr. Berlin does not explain the relevance to SNAPPER. Personally I find it disconcerting that Twain and Austen might not be getting along up there, or wherever they are. So I was pleased to read, on Mr. Berlin’s recommendation, this VQR essay suggesting that given time, Twain and Austen would be sort of like Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen.

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Songs harmed in the making of SNAPPER

With 11 months until publication, we have a lot of blog space to fill here. Fortunately SNAPPER scholar Ian Berlin has gotten in touch to suggest periodic updates on his research into what he calls the “densely allusive texture of the work, ranging from Milton to Shakespeare to ZZ Top.” In what is either an example of outstanding critical acumen or inspired guesswork he has compiled a playlist of popular songs referred to either directly or obliquely in the text. He has promised to “unearth and elucidate the meanings and messages of the less obvious examples” at a later date, and to cover the more literary plagiarisms allusions as well. In the meantime, here are the results of his intensive research.

  1. LOLA, The Kinks
  2. MEET ME IN THE MORNING, Bob Dylan [note: Mr. Berlin draws your attention to the line “you know I’ve even outrun the hound dogs / honey, I’ve earned your love…” –Ed.]
  4. BANG BANG, by Cher, covered by Nancy Sinatra and later by Paul Weller
  5. APEMAN, The Kinks [note: presumably this is a Tarzan / Jane joke which Mr. Berlin will illuminate at a later date. –Ed.]
  6. PAINT IT BLACK, Rolling Stones
  7. BACK IN THE USSR, The Beatles
  8. MAMA TRIED, Merle Haggard
  9. MAMAS, DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE COWBOYS, written by Ed & Patsy Bruce, performed by Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings [Within the SNAPPER text the first word of the title is dropped; Mr. Berlin does not comment on whether this is authorial sloppiness or what. — Ed.]
  11. I FOUGHT THE LAW (AND THE LAW WON), by Sonny Curtis, covered by The Clash
  12. I DON’T WANNA PLAY HOUSE, Tammy Wynette
  13. AIM HIGH, Paul Weller
Mr. Berlin kindly appended a link to Mr. Weller performing the last tune:


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