Results tagged “Henry Luce” from ARTicles

There is a moment in "Annie Hall" when Diane Keaton, playing a native of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, utters the name of her home state. "Wis-con-sin," she says crisply, instantly betraying the fact that she is neither from there nor under the guidance of a dialect coach. As any upper Midwesterner knows, the locals -- and those of us, like me, who grew up there but long ago moved away -- pronounce the proper name of America's Dairyland with a casual verbal slouch in the middle: Wi-scon-sin. When Diane Keaton gets it wrong, the movie falls apart for me, every time. A sweet Southerner I used to know felt the same way about the accents in the film version of "To Kill a Mockingbird." He couldn't bear to listen.

Wisconsonians.jpg

What prompts this is not, in fact, Doug's post questioning New York's cultural dominance but a gracious letter of reprimand in the current issue of The New Yorker. Marsha Rabe (quick! guess which famous playwright is her brother) takes the magazine to task for failing to ascertain the proper name for denizens of her hometown, Dubuque, Iowa. In Jill Lepore's recent piece on Harold Ross and Henry Luce, the term used is "Dubuquian" -- not "Dubuquer," as it should be, Rabe points out. "Getting it wrong is a small matter," she writes, "but it seems in a subtle way to bear out the provincialism-of-the-big-city syndrome."

Her excellent letter brought to mind a similarly jarring error in Curtis Sittenfeld's 2008 novel, "American Wife." Set largely in Wisconsin, it feels extraordinarily true to the place -- which is why it was such a shock, when I was reading the book to review it, to come across the word "Wisconsonians" where "Wisconsinites" ought to have been. My marginalia grew emphatic in response: "ARE YOU KIDDING?" Though I was reading the galley, the mistake made it all the way into the hardcover.

This is a big country, I know. But is it really too much trouble to learn the names of the people in the middle?

May 19, 2010 12:00 AM |

Is the 92nd Street Y some sort of notorious pick-up joint, and everyone forgot to mention it to me and I neglected to notice?

I went there last night to hear Alan Brinkley talk to Frank Rich about his Henry Luce book. Not exactly a meat-market milieu, or so one might think.

But, before the festivities began, the man sitting in front of me (handsome, white-haired, in his 60s, lives in the neighborhood and has a house in Connecticut) started chatting up the woman one empty seat away from him (striking, long-haired, in her 50s, native New Yorker not from the neighborhood but takes art classes at the Y). He seemed sweet, charming, curious, and determined to enjoy the world, while she was whiny, cynical, and excessively flakey in a way that a disproportionate number of artsy New York women have perfected. He made dry little jokes; she had no apparent sense of humor. I wanted to fling my body between them to stop them from getting involved with each other. (The comic strip "Sylvia" has a superhero character called Relationship Cop who nips incipient disastrous liaisons in the bud. It was that kind of impulse.) But of course as soon as the talk was over, he asked her out for coffee.

And then the weird thing happened. I was waiting at the end of my row to merge into the aisle when a completely unfamiliar guy in his 30s or 40s, heading toward the exit, stopped to address me.

THE GUY: (pleasantly) Hi! Want to see my apartment?
ME: (startled) What?
THE GUY: Want to see my apartment?
ME: No.
THE GUY: (surprised, slightly incredulous) No?
(ME shakes her head. THE GUY rejoins the stream and continues up the aisle.)

May 12, 2010 9:21 AM |


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