Wednesday, August 31, 2011

John Ford

I didn't show up at the ceremony to collect any of my first three Oscars. Once I went fishing, another time there was a war on, and on another occasion, I remember, I was suddenly taken drunk.
John Ford, who died on this date in 1973, was perhaps the greatest of all  American film directors.

Ford is remembered mostly as a director of Westerns.  Ford won the "Best Director" Oscar four times -- more than any other director -- but never won it for one of his Westerns.  

It's hard to believe that he wasn't even nominated for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or The Searchers -- "a darkly profound study of obsession, racism, and heroic solitude" that stars John Wayne as a very different kind of hero than he usually portrays -- which is now widely considered to be the greatest Western ever made.  Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Jean-Luc Godard, and several other well-known directors have paid homage to The Searchers in their movies.  

Ingmar Bergman, who many would say is the greatest movie director of all time, said Ford was the best.  After viewing Ford's The Informer, Jean Renoir reportedly told another director, "I learned so much today . . . I learned how to not move my camera."  When Orson Welles was asked to list his favorite directors, he said, "I like the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thomas Hardy

There is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in [love].  Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail.

From his 1874 novel, Far from the Madding Crowd.  The haughty young heroine of the novel first rejects the suit of an up-and-coming shepherd, and later turns down a prosperous farmer's proposal.  Instead, she marries a dashing young soldier who impresses her by demonstrating his expert swordsmanship.  (That's about as Freudian as it gets, n'est-ce pas?)  The soldier later tells her that his former lover -- who has died giving birth to his illegitimate child -- "is more to me, dead as she is, than you ever were."  He then disappears and is presumed to have drowned, but suddenly reappears years later -- after the heroine has agreed to marry the prosperous farmer.  The farmer kills the soldier with a shotgun, and is packed off to an insane asylum.  Finally, the heroine does marry the shepherd.  If only she had done that in the first place!

Poster for the 1967 movie

Monday, August 29, 2011

Led Zeppelin

If it keeps on raining, 
Levee's going to break 
If it keeps on raining, 
Levee's going to break 
When the levee breaks, 
Have no place to stay . . .
Crying won't help you, 
Praying won't do you no good 
Crying won't help you, 
Praying won't do you no good 
When the levee breaks, 
Mama, you got to go

(On this date in 2005, Hurricane Katrina's storm surge caused 53 levee breaks in New Orleans.)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hugh Cornwell

Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky? 
He got an ice pick 
That made his ears burn

From the Stranglers' 1977 single, "No More Heroes."

Leon Trotsky was a major figure in the Russian Revolution, second only to Lenin in importance.  But when he opposed some of Stalin's policies, he was exiled from the Soviet Union, and resided in Turkey, France, Norway, and Mexico successively.

At the first of the Moscow "show trials" in 1936, Trotsky was sentenced to death in absentia for having conspired to assassinate Stalin.  Trotsky was murdered in his home in Mexico City 1940 by a Soviet secret police agent who whacked him on the head with an ice axe.  Not exactly the same thing as being stabbed in the ear with an ice pick, but we must allow a little artistic license.

Today is the 62nd birthday of Hugh Cornwell, the founder of the Stranglers and the lead singer on "No More Heroes." 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Theodore Dreiser

She looked into her glass and saw a prettier Carrie than she had seen before; she looked into her mind, a mirror prepared of her own and the world’s opinions, and saw a worse.  Between these two images she wavered, hesitating which to believe.
From his novel about turn-of-the-century urban life, Sister Carrie (1900).

Theodore Dreiser was a great novelist but a fairly mediocre stylist -- his novels are all substance and no style.  

Sister Carrie is the story of a beautiful and innocent country girl who goes to the big city (Chicago) to live with her older sister.  Thanks to her beauty, she quickly loses her innocence.  

After becoming a traveling salesman's "kept woman," she then has an affair with a married man.  The couple move to New York City, where the book takes an interesting turn.  Her lover's fortunes wane, while hers wax -- his business fails and he becomes a homeless beggar after she leaves him, while she ends up as a star on Broadway.  But do fame and fortune bring her true happiness?  What do you think?  

One perceptive reviewer praised Sister Carrie because it was “absolutely free from the slightest trace of sentimentality or pettiness, and dominated everywhere by a serious and strenuous desire for truth.”  Some readers were offended by the book because it portrayed characters engaging in illicit sexual relationships without negative consequences.  Others simply found it bleak and depressing.   (Oprah would have hated it, I think.)

Dreiser was born on this date in 1871.

Theodore Dreiser

Friday, August 26, 2011

50 Cent

It's like Paul McCartney's stuck in my head,
He fell in love with a bitch, 
She walked away on one leg,
She ain't even have to run to get away with the bread
From his 2009 song, "Do You Think About Me?"  50 Cent -- who was born Curtis James Jackson III -- is not one of your more politically correct rappers.

The woman that "Fittie" is rapping about here, of course, is Heather Mills, a model who lost part of her left leg when she was hit by a motorcycle in 1993 and who married Paul McCartney in 2002.  A London judge awarded Mills £24.3 million (which is the equivalent of about $39 million) when the couple were divorced in 2008. 

But don't cry for Sir Paul.  His net worth at the time was estimated at £450 million (roughly $720 million).  He can afford quite a few more bad romances.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bruce Springsteen

Baby, this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
'Cause tramps like us,
Baby, we were born to run
(The Born to Run album was released on this date in 1975.  I think Bruce Springsteen is the most overrated rock star of all time.  All Springsteen songs are essentially the same song.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A. S. Byatt

No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed. . . . I am not at all safe with you.  But I have no desire to be elsewhere.
From her highly-praised novel, Possession: A Romance, which was published in 1990.  Byatt (whose sister, Margaret Drabble, is also a distinguished novelist) was born on this date in 1936.

Possession is a fascinating literary detective story and also the most moving love story I've ever read.  The main characters are two Victorian poets and two modern-day academics who discover the story of the poets' relationship through their letters and journals.  Large parts of the book consist of poems supposedly written by the poets, which are so authentic that you can't help but be impressed by how learned Byatt is -- but I found much of that poetry essentially impenetrable.  It doesn't matter: you can skip all that and still be captivated by the rest of the book. 

The 2002 movie version (starring Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam as the poets and Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart as the modern couple) is good, but can't be compared to the book.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nathaniel Hawthorne

It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object.

From his 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter.  Elie Wiesel once said the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  I think Hawthorne would have agreed with that.

Lilian Gish as Hester Prynne (1926)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dorothy Parker

It costs me never a stab nor squirm
To tread by chance upon a worm.
"Aha, my little dear," I say,
"Your clan will pay me back some day."
From her "Thoughts for a Sunshiny Morning," which was published in the New Yorker in 1927.

Parker, who was born on this date in 1893, was one of the funniest writers of her era, but also one of the saddest people of that era.  Given her unhappy marriages (she said that one of her husbands was "queer as a billy goat") and equally unhappy extramarital affairs (at least one of which resulted in a pregnancy and abortion), it is not surprising that her writings expressed a low opinion of romantic relationships. 

Parker was one of the founding members of the famous "Algonquin Round Table," but later denigrated the group (including herself) as mere wisecrackers: "Think who was writing in those days.  Lardner, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway.  Those were the real giants.  The Round Table was just a lot of people telling jokes and telling each other how good they were.  Just a bunch of loudmouths showing off, saving their gags for days, waiting for a chance to spring them.  There was no truth in anything they said."

Parker died of a heart attack in 1967.  She was cremated, and so had the last laugh on the worms.

Dorothy Parker

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nikita Khrushchev

[Politicians] are the same all over.  They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

From a speech he delivered in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, on this date in 1963.  Nikita Khrushchev succeeded Joseph Stalin as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1953, and became the Soviet Premier in 1958.  He was ousted from power in 1964 and spent the rest of life essentially as a nonperson.  Khrushchev died of a heart attack in 1971, at age 77.

Khrushchev was the face of the enemy when I was a child -- the symbol of our fear of nuclear war -- but it was hard to take him seriously.  He wouldn't have been out of place as a "Three Stooges" cast member.

Fidel Castro with Khrushchev

Saturday, August 20, 2011


All in a line 
All in a line 
They're all in a line 
Like adult books I don't understand 
Jackie Susann meant it that way
From their 1981 song, "Adult Books."

Jacqueline Susann was born on this date in 1918.  Susann was an actress, TV-show host, playwright and author who married her press agent, who had wooed her by placing items about her in the theater and society pages of  the New York City papers.  She cheated on him more than once -- perhaps with women as well as men.  (It is even rumored that she had an affair with fashion designer Coco Chanel and pursued Broadway legend Ethel Merman.)

Susann's 1966 novel, Valley of the Dolls, eventually sold 30 million copies.  It was quite explicit for its era, and I remember sneaking many peeks at my grandmother's copy of it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

50 Cent

Please don't interrupt me 
When I'm talkin' to my jeweler
He's puttin' them diamonds 
All over my Franck Muller
From "OK, You're Right," the lead single from his 2009 album, Before I Self Destruct.

Rappers loves expensive watches.  A search of for various high-end watch brand names turned up 84 mentions of Rolex, 44 mentions of Audemars Piguet, and 15 mentions of Breitling, just to name a few.  

Franck Muller is a Swiss luxury watch I was not familiar with, but it seems to be 50 Cent's favorite.  Muller watches carry the slogan "Master of Complications."  A "complication" is a watchmaking term meaning something that a watch does in addition to telling you the time -- e.g., day, date, year, phase of the moon, etc.  

Muller's Aeternitas Mega 4 has 36 complications, making it the most complex watch ever made.  It sells for $2.7 million, but you can get a simpler Franck Muller watch for less than $10,000.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Learned Hand

One utterance of [Oliver Cromwell] has always hung in my mind.  It was just before the Battle of Dunbar; he beat the Scots in the end . . . but he wrote them before the battle, trying to get them to accept a reasonable [compromise].  These were his words: "I beseech you . . . think it possible you may be mistaken."  I should like to have that written over the portals of every church, every school, and every courthouse, and, I may say, of every legislative body in the United States.
From testimony he delivered to a Senate committee in 1951.  Learned Hand was a federal district judge in New York City for 15 years, and a federal appeals court judge for 37 years.  He was considered a political liberal, but believed strongly in judicial restraint and opposed those judges who legislated from the bench.  He wrote about 4000 judicial opinions, which were admired for their clear and precise language, and it is believed that no other judge was ever quoted more often by the Supreme Court.  Author Louis Auchincloss said that the hero of his famous novel, The Rector of Justin, which was about the headmaster of a New England boarding school, was not modeled on a real headmaster but on Judge Hand -- "the greatest man it has been my good luck to know."  Hand died on this date in 1961.

Judge Learned Hand

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ira Gershwin

There’s a somebody I’m longin’ to see
I hope that he
Turns out to be
Someone who’ll watch over me . . .
Won’t you tell him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead
Oh, how I need
Someone to watch over me
This song is from the 1926 musical "Oh Kay!"  It has been recorded by dozens of singers, including Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Willie Nelson, Renee Olstead, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Brian Wilson, and Amy Winehouse.

Ira Gershwin, who died on this date in 1983, wrote the lyrics to this song and many other wonderful songs (including "I Got Rhythm" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me").  His younger brother, George, wrote the music.  After George's sudden death in 1937 -- he was only 38 -- Ira stopped writing for nearly three years, but eventually started working with other composers.

It's truly a mystery how one of two brothers could be one of the greatest lyricists in the history of American popular music, while the other brother could be one of the greatest composers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Otto Harbach

Now, laughing friends deride 
Tears I cannot hide
So I smile and say,
"When a lovely flame dies, 
Smoke gets in your eyes"
From his lyrics for the 1933 song, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."  (Jerome Kern wrote the music.)  Harbach was born on August 18, 1873, in Salt Lake City to Danish immigrant parents.  I could have waited until his birthday to post this quote, but decided it was perfect for "Bad Romance Tuesday."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Alban Butler

[St. Roch] was born of a noble family . . . and making a pilgrimage of devotion to Rome, he devoted himself in Italy to serve the sick during a raging pestilence. . . . Falling himself sick, and unable to assist others, and shunned and abandoned by the whole world, he made a shift to crawl rather than walk into a neighbouring forest, where a dog used to lick his sores. . . . Many cities have been speedily delivered from the plague by imploring his intercession, in particular that of Constance [now Konstanz, Germany] during the general council held there in 1414.

From his monumental work, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints, which was published in four volumes in 1756-59.  

After the death of his parents when he was 20, St. Roch (or St. Rocco) gave away his goods and made a pilgrimage from his birthplace in southern France to Rome.  There was a plague epidemic in Italy at that time, and Roch selflessly tended the sick and effected many miraculous cures by making the sign of the cross.  When he became infected while in Piacenza, he was expelled from the city and forced to live in the forest.  Legend has it that he would have perished without the aid of a local nobleman's dog, who brought him a loaf of bread each day and healed his wounds by licking them.

St. Roch, whose feast day is tomorrow, has been invoked against cholera, the plague, and other epidemic diseases for centuries.  He is also the patron saint of dogs.  He is usually depicted in a pilgrim's tunic, displaying the plague sores on his thigh, and accompanied by a dog carrying a loaf of bread in its mouth. 

St. Roch

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Russell Baker

Being solemn has almost nothing to do with being serious . . . . [T]hough Americans talk a great deal about the virtue of being serious, they generally prefer people who are solemn over people who are serious. . . . Jogging is solemn. Poker is serious. Once you grasp that distinction, you are on your way to enlightenment.
From his 1980 collection of newspaper and magazine columns, So This Is Depravity.

Russell Baker, who wrote a nationally syndicated column for the New York Times from 1962 t0 1998, won two Pulitzer Prizes -- the first was for his columns, the second for his 1982 autobiography, Growing Up, which is a delightful book.

Baker was born on this date in 1925 in Loudoun County, Virginia.

Russell Baker

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Roy Clark

Yesterday when I was young
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung,
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see. . . .
The game of love I played with arrogance and pride
And every flame I lit too quickly, quickly died.
The friends I made all seemed to drift away
And only I am left on stage to end the play.
There are so many songs in me that won't be sung,
I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue.
The time has come for me to pay for
Yesterday when I was young.

(This song is an English version of Charles Aznavour's 1964 French hit, "Hier Encore."  Roy Clark recorded it in English in 1969.  Clark was a good friend of Mickey Mantle, who felt that the song could have been written about his life and insisted that Clark perform it at his funeral.  Mantle died of liver cancer on August 13, 1995.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

50 Cent

I take quarter water 
Sold it in bottles for two bucks, 
Coca-Cola came and bought it 
For billions, what the f**k?
Have a baby by me, baby 
Be a millionaire 
I write the check before the baby comes, 
Who the f**k cares? 
From his 2007 song, "I Get Money."

50 Cent -- who didn't drink alcohol and was a workout fanatic -- was a big fan of the enhanced water called VitaminWater.  When Glacéau, the company that made VitaminWater, decided to introduce a new product called "Formula 50," 50 Cent agreed to an endorsement deal.  But instead of taking his payment in cash, he got a piece of the company.

In 2007, Glacéau was sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion.  50 Cent's payout was estimated at somewhere between $60 million and $100 million.

"Quarter-waters" (which used to sell for 25 cents) were Kool-Aid-like flavored drinks sold in plastic bottles at every convenience store and bodega in the 'hood.  (Formula 50 costs a little more.)  50 Cent's favorite flavor?  Grape, of course.    

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mark Knopfler

That's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin' 
That's the way you do it
Money for nothin' 
And your chicks for free
From the 1985 Dire Straits hit, "Money for Nothing."  The Brothers in Arms album it was included on was the #1 album in the US for 9 weeks, and the #1 album in the UK for 10 weeks, and eventually sold 30 million copies worldwide.

The wickedly funny music video for "Money for Nothing" was voted as the #2 music video of all time by the community.  (Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was voted #1.)  The computer-animation it depended on is far from cutting-edge today, but doesn't look dated.

Tomorrow is Mark Knopfler's 62nd birthday. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Isaac Hayes

Who's the cat that won't cop out 
When there's danger all about? 
SHAFT!  (Right on!) 
They say this cat Shaft is a bad mother . . .
From his soundtrack for the 1971 blaxploitation movie, Shaft.

I loved Hayes in his recurring role on "The Rockford Files" as Gandolph Fitch, Jim Rockford's old cellmate.

Hayes died on this date in 2008.  He was 65.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sonic Youth

Did you get your disconnection notice?
Mine came in the mail today . . .
It simply states "You're disconnected, baby"
See how easily it all slips away?

From "Disconnection Notice," which is on their 2002 album, Murray Street.

"See how easily it all slips away?" may be the truest line quoted on 2 or 3 lines a day.  (Since it is 100% true, it has to at least be tied for first -- right?)

Click here to read the "Disconnection Notice" post on our sister blog, 2 or 3 lines.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thomas Pynchon

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.

From his 1973 novel, Gravity's Rainbow, which has been compared to James Joyce's Ulysses -- most but not all people would consider that high praise indeed -- and is regarded by some critics as the greatest of all post-World War II American novels.

Pynchon is a recluse in the tradition of J. D. Salinger -- he has shunned reporters and photographers for over 40 years.  Pynchon invited author Salman Rushdie to meet him in New York City once, and Rushdie later described him as "extremely Pynchon-esque."

I picked this date for this post somewhat at random.  However, 8/8/11 can be seen as a representation of the "Dead Man's Hand" (a pair of eights and a pair of aces) that Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot and killed by Jack McCall.  I think that is at least somewhat Pynchon-esque, although perhaps not extremely so.

Pynchon voiced himself in two episodes of The Simpsons:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Elizabeth George

I imagine [he] kept his deepest and most heartfelt wish a secret . . . born as it was from the midnight joining of hope and fantasy.
From her 1993 novel, Playing For The Ashes.

George has written 16 novels featuring the fictional Scotland Yard detective Thomas Lynley, who happens to be the 8th Earl of Asherton.  Despite the veddy, veddy upper-class British setting and style of these books, George has lived almost her whole life in California.  These books transcend their genre -- especially What Came Before He Shot Her, which tells the story of the murder of Lynley's pregnant wife from the point of view of her murderer (a 12-year-old boy).

Elizabeth George

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Harry Truman

Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. . . . 

It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam.  Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum.  If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.
From the White House press release announcing the bombing of Hiroshima on this date in 1945.

On July 26, 1945, the leaders of the US, UK, and nationalist China issued the Potsdam Declaration, a statement that demanded the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces.  The ultimatum concluded with these words:  "The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction."  

The "Little Boy" atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima killed about 70,000 people (30% of the city's population) immediately.  As many as 200,000 people may have eventually died from burns, radiation, cancer, and other bomb-related causes.  The bombing of Nagasaki three days later resulted in a somewhat smaller number of deaths.

The Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria with an army of about 1.7 million men several hours before the Nagasaki bomb was dropped.  The Soviet invasion may have been the more immediate cause of Japan's surrender -- until the Soviets declared war, Japan had hoped the Soviet Union might help it negotiate acceptable peace terms with the Allies.

Friday, August 5, 2011

50 Cent

I bring the straps out
The Tec and the Mac out
The Sig and the Taurus!
The Koch and that Heckler . . .
You want some? Come get some!
Nigga, it's murder one when you see my gun
I just squeeze and squeeze 
'Til the whole clip done
You just bleed and bleed 
'Til the police come
From his 2009 album, "Before I Self-Destruct."  (Sounds like it's too late!)  All of August's "Rap Friday" posts will feature 50 Cent's lyrics.

Curtis Jackson (a/k/a/ "50 Cent") began drug dealing when he was 12.  When he was 25, he was shot nine times at close range, but was fully recovered within six months.

50 Cent has quite a selection of guns ("straps") in this song.  The "Tec" is presumably the TEC-22, a semi-automatic handgun, but could also refer to the TEC-9, an inexpensive machine pistol that was used at the Columbine High School massacre and subsequently banned by name in a 1994 federal statute.  The MAC-10 is another well-known machine pistol. 

SIG-Sauer, Taurus, and Heckler & Koch are all well-known small-arms manufacturers that produce a variety of weapons.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nick Paumgarten

[Christian] Rudder has discovered, for example, that the answer to the question "Do you like the taste of beer?" is more predictive than any other of whether you're willing to have sex on the first date.

From "Looking for Someone," a fascinating article about online dating from the July 4, 2011, New Yorker.  Rudder is one of the founders of OK Cupid, a "geek-hipster" dating site that matches up people based on their responses to questions.  He spends much of his time trying to determine which of the 280,000 different questions on the site are the best indicators who should be matched up with whom. 

But wouldn't simply asking "Are you a male?" be just as predictive as the "Do you like the taste of beer?" question quoted above?

The OK Cupid website

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Joseph Conrad

Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through it.  Face it.  
From his 1902 novel, Typhoon.  Conrad died on this date in 1924 and is buried in Canterbury, England.  He was a master of English prose even though he was born in Poland and did not learn to speak English fluently until he was in his twenties.

Joseph Conrad

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

John Galsworthy

James had passed through the fire, but he had passed also through the river of years which washes out the fire; he had experienced the saddest experience of all -- forgetfulness of what it was like to be in love.
From his 1906 novel, The Man of Property.  The only thing worse than a bad romance is no romance at all.

John Galsworthy

Monday, August 1, 2011

Julian Barnes

He thought of trying to explain something he had recently noticed about himself: that if anyone insulted him, or one of his friends, he didn't really mind . . . Whereas if anyone insulted a novel, a story, a poem he loved, something visceral and volcanic occurred within him.  He wasn't sure what this might mean -- except perhaps that he had got life and art mixed up, back to front, upside down.

From his 2011 short story, "Homage to Hemingway."  Barnes, an English novelist whose best-known book is Flaubert's Parrot (1984), is a Francophile, and his books have been very successful in France -- but we won't hold that against him.

In this story, a novelist talks about the Ernest Hemingway story, "Homage to Switzerland," with three different groups of students at three different times.  The Barnes story resembles the Hemingway story it discusses in certain ways, and the protagonist of the Barnes story has certain similarities to Barnes himself. 

Is this a case of life imitating art?  Art imitating life?  Art imitating art?  None of the above?

Julian Barnes