In a 1975 interview with the New York Times, MAD Magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman recalled an illustration of a grinning boy he’d spotted on a postcard in the early fifties: a “bumpkin portrait,” “part leering wiseacre, part happy-go-lucky kid.” It was captioned “What, Me Worry?”
“Bridge is such a logical game,” he told me. “When you do a lot of strange things in a very short period of time, and those strange things are successful—it just doesn’t happen.” He spent hours studying records of hands that he and his partner had played against Fisher and Schwartz, and concluded that they had been cheating. “I just didn’t know how they were doing it,” he said.
There is a special risk in writing about Orson Welles. The dimensions may get a little out of hand, as if they had to mime the physical size and imaginative reach of the subject. Patrick McGilligan’s excellent biography of Alfred Hitchcock takes 750 pages to cover the director’s life and his fifty films. By page 706 of Young Orson, Welles is about to start shooting Citizen Kane, his first full-length movie: he is twenty-five years old, and he lived till he was seventy. There is a thirty-nine-page postlude about the day and night of Welles’s death.
From certain angles, it’s a kind of New England gothic, where the lost children and dead women and doppelgängers serve to add atmosphere and meaning to the narrator’s past peregrinations, her dalliances and uncertainties. It turns out in the end that this is in fact a book about an arty person with a complicated personal life. But it’s a lovely one, written in a moving and uncanny register.
If “Every Song Ever” has an overarching theme, it is an injunction to open your ears! Music, or a component of music like repetition or pitch, is around us all the time, even “the distinct blasts of the commuter train whistle down by the river.” In his smart, provocative introduction Ratliff reminds us that we live in a different musical universe now, at least as regards the multitude of digital delivery systems and platforms along with the fact that “every song ever” is downloadable: total access around the clock.
The story of gentrifying communities is always about the dynamic between the new and the old, the outsiders and the insiders, but that friction is palpable when you feel as if you need to stake your claim to the neighborhood on your restaurant’s menu. ‘‘It’s funny,’’ Monika said. ‘‘I moved away a few years ago, but now, when I come back with my baby and go to a cool coffee shop, the people look at me like: ‘Great. Here come the stroller people. There goes the neighborhood.’ ’’