March 09, 2006

Dreams of Glory

This bit of detail from this week's New Yorker cover (by Jean-Jacques Sempé) seems like it was drawn with my peculiar sensibilities in mind. It took me about 1.5 seconds to recognize that and for the well-known lump to generate in the throat, but none of the several generally-astute-and-knowledgeable people I've shown it to have had anything like my reaction. They (the g-a-&-k persons) aren't guitar players, but I wonder if the image is even more specifically targeted? It all hangs on (1) who the dude in the stripes is and (2) the precise placement of lines in the faces of the other two players.
There was a wonderful series of cartoons in the New Yorker in the 40s and 50s, captioned as Dreams of Glory, drawn by William Steig and depicting the fantasy lives of kids, who imagine themselves rescuing maidens from dragons or arresting Hitler with a cap gun... The two unstriped guitarists are the grownup versions of those kids. It's just paralyzingly obvious that (1) the stripy guy is Django Rinehardt (look at the left hand, but take in as well the insouciance of the posture), and (2) the event of Django coming over to play music is in the realm of glorious fantasy...
Anyway, Sempé really GOT me with this one.

Posted by oook at March 9, 2006 09:05 AM

Just got this in the mail and hadn't looked carefully at the cover. Led by your first paragraph, I began to suspect Django in the stripes, and yes I keyed into the hand as well. But I didn't know the Steig series at all, so the big resonance was lost on me until I got through your last paragraph.

Then, thrum.

Did you ever see Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown"? Overlooked and underrated movie IMO. Although it's very annoying to see Sean Penn's fake guitar playing, I found the emotional arc of the story very moving, especially considered musically and in terms of this musical culture.

Posted by: Gardner at March 9, 2006 10:58 AM

Yep! Django, and the other two are dreaming, thinking: where the hell is he getting this music from, and how come he can do it better with 2 fingers than we can with all of them. it is called musical genius, and is rarer than one might think, as many supposed geniuses of music are only talented. Genius isn't comforting, it disturbs because it is incendiary. A few others: Armstrong, Bechet, Parker, Evan Parker...

Posted by: Daniel Heikalo at March 11, 2006 10:34 AM