In Which We Display, Yet Again, Our Ignorance

August 31st, 2005 · 4 Comments
by Booksquare

Here is a real-life problem: say you are cruising through your morning reading, coffee at the exact right temperature. Suddenly, you encounter a lead sentence that gives you pause. Not the good, thoughtful kind of pause. The kind of pause that makes you swallow said exactly right temperatured coffee the wrong way. The kind of pause that can only be caused by an intellectual lament of dubiously obscure value:

Why, oh why, did Salman Rushdie, in his new novel, “Shalimar the Clown” (Random House; $25.95), call one of his major characters Maximilian Ophuls? Max Ophuls is a highly distinctive name, well known to movie lovers as that of a German-born actor and stage director who, beginning in 1930, directed films in Germany, France, Russia, Italy, the Netherlands, and, after 1946, the United States.

And, yeah, we know the reason for our lack of knowledge about the arcana of the movies business: apathy (seriously, do you have any clue how many directors there have been in the past hundred years? Lots.).

P.S. – For those who care (and we’re sure you’re out there), Rushdie’s Ophuls bears no resemblance to the real Ophuls except in the most surface ways.

File Under: Books/Mags/Blogs

4 responses so far ↓

  • ed // Aug 31, 2005 at 9:47 am

    I should point out that Rushdie is a big-time film geek and that Ophuls was arguably one of the most important German filmmakers to come out of the 20th century.

  • Booksquare // Aug 31, 2005 at 10:16 am

    apparently, this news did not reach Lompoc. It’s rough growing up in a city that is arguably the edge of cultural universe. That and I don’t watch many movies. Though, in reading previous Rushdie, one would get a sense of his movie mania.

    So with this knowledge, does this make Updike’s comment quite logical or less important?

  • ed // Aug 31, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    That’s a good question. Personally, I don’t mind little jokes like that. There are some authors (like Pynchon and G. Sorrentino) who feel the need to name their characters very strange or referential names. I don’t mind this, as I’ve encountered so many folks with names stranger than fiction.

  • Booksquare // Aug 31, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    I like the joke (because I presume Rushdie did this intentionally, which makes one wonder if there was something Updike missed in his reading…) even if I don’t get it. I’m always willing to fake like I was in on the game the whole time.

    My favorite Pynchon trick is carrying characters from book to book. In a manner of speaking — I haven’t (and likely will never) finished Gravity’s Rainbow yet, so don’t know the full extent of his inside joke. But the one soul I know who has slogged through and lived to tell the tale (swearing it’s a great read after the first 200 or so pages) assures me this is the case.