Wednesday, July 31, 2002

LIFE IN THE BIG CITY. Yesterday evening I saw I Live in Fear at the Film Forum (not a great movie, but an amazing performance by a young Toshiro Mifune as an aged factory owner who wants to drag his unwilling family off to Brazil to escape the H-bomb). Afterwards I stopped off at Kati Roll for a chicken-and-egg-roll dinner (delicious, but I kept wondering which came first), walked across Washington Square Park where I listened to a salsa band play to a good-sized, appreciative crowd, and continued on to Shakespeare & Co. on Broadway, where I stopped in before hitting the subway home. I went down to the basement and found it set up for a reading, with rows of empty metal chairs; the reading seemed to be over, but people were still milling around. I looked towards the back of the room to see if the featured author was still there. A man wearing nothing but black racing shorts was standing talking to people; encasing his head was what looked like a large fishbowl attached to a white plastic neck ring. He may well have been the featured author; I didn't sully the purity of the moment by staying to ask questions. I hit the subway home.
BEGINNINGS. The start of a Robert Irwin review (intriguingly titled "Arabian Antwerp") in the June 28, 2002 Times Literary Supplement:

"In his Origines Antwerpianae (1569), Goropius Becanus argued that not only was language divine in origin, but that its original form was Dutch. More specifically, he identified the Primal Language as a dialect of Antwerp. The ancestry of the burghers of that city could be traced back to the sons of Japeth, and the latter were folk who had not become linguistically confused by working on the Tower of Babel."

There you have human egomania and illogic in a nutshell: My language is the best language, and the original language to boot! There are many examples, but I like the obscure specificity of this one.

Irwin continues: "Becanus's thesis commanded more support in the sixteenth century than it is likely to receive today." I love the TLS. (Wearing my editor's hat, however, I must point out that the second "that" in the quoted paragraph would have been better omitted.)