December 26, 2017

"There is darkness in 'Child Star,' of course. The passage that I clung to as a child, like a favored, glamorous nightmare..."

"... was about a woman whose daughter died the hour Shirley [Temple] was born. In 1939, the woman tried to assassinate Shirley while she was singing 'Silent Night' on a live radio show, under the logic that the star had swiped her daughter’s soul and shooting her would unleash it. 'The tale seemed understandable to me,' Temple writes. When I first read 'Child Star,' perched by the cold cuts at one of my sister’s swim meets, I loved the idea that Shirley Temple’s soul was endlessly transferrable, and as sought-after as the Maltese Falcon. I remember eating a slice of ham so ribbony and translucent that you could bird-watch through it, and wondering whether couples across America were timing their childbirths to synch with Temple’s death.... So my sister and I joined the legions of Shirley mimics—like Andy Warhol, who became obsessed with her after seeing 'Poor Little Rich Girl' and... aped her mannerisms 'for the rest of his life…folding his hands in prayer and placing them next to his cheek, or twisting them together and holding them out to the right just below his waist.' This remains Temple’s peculiar feat: she makes children want to be adorable and sickly sweet and dull, to flatten their emotions out. It’s hard to imagine any subsequent child star surviving an assassination attempt and thinking simply, 'The tale seemed understandable to me.' (In 1981, Jodie Foster would respond to the Hinckley incident by sinking into depression, demanding to read all her hate mail, and ironically hanging an enormous photo of Reagan getting shot in her kitchen.)"

From "Shirley Temple's Strange Loot" by Matt Weinstock, which appeared in The New Yorker in April 2013.

There's so much going on in that paragraph. I love the way Andy Warhol shows up... and then Jody Foster. And ham.

That makes me want to quote this one sentence from a David Foster Wallace story I've been reading, because of the way it goes on and on from one thing to another, yet all connected, making sense:
The lone time that Atwater had believed he was seeing his own father smile, it turned out to have been a grimace which presaged the massive infarction that had sent the man forward to lie prone in the sand of the horseshoe pit as the shoe itself sailed over the stake, the half finished apiary, a section of the simulation combat target range, a tire swing’s supporting limb, and the backyard’s pineboard fence, never to be recovered or even ever seen again, while Virgil and his twin brother had stood there wide eyed and red eared, looking back and forth from the sprawled form to the kitchen window’s screen, their inability to move or cry out feeling, in later recall, much like the paralysis of bad dreams.
That's from the story "The Suffering Channel" (which you can find in the collection "Oblivion").

28 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

I was editing this post (to add an Amazon link for "Child Star") just as Meade was reading it (out loud).

I also decided to add "And ham" after "There's so much going on in that paragraph. I love the way Andy Warhol shows up... and then Jody Foster." Before I published again with these improvements, Meade read out "There's so much going on in that paragraph. I love the way Andy Warhol shows up... and then Jody Foster" and added "And Reagan."

Darrell said...

'The tale seemed understandable to me,' Temple writes.

Is this supposed to be a quote from Shirley Temple herself? I don't believe it. And it is immediately mixed with the other voices in the writer's head, which seems to be a busy place like an old train station.

Bill Peschel said...

I like Reagan, but I can still eat ham. Reagan is inedible.

And I love these twinned stories. I knew Shirley Temple successfully sued (through her studio, MGM) a British magazine because Graham Greene said her appearance in "Wee Willie Winkie" attracted pedophiles.

tcrosse said...

I like Reagan, but I can still eat ham. Reagan is inedible.

But the mention of ham reminds me of Olivier.

Ann Althouse said...

"And I love these twinned stories. I knew Shirley Temple successfully sued (through her studio, MGM) a British magazine because Graham Greene said her appearance in "Wee Willie Winkie" attracted pedophiles."

Here's a YouTube video amassing the evidence that Shirley Temple was outrageously sexualized.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

This is....a lot of weirdness. (nttawwt)

Robt C said...

That was one HELL of a sentence.

dbp said...

Okay, wait a second, how would this work? "and wondering whether couples across America were timing their childbirths to synch with Temple’s death"

tcrosse said...

That writing reminds me of the pattern on a celtic brooch, or the deedle-deedle of Irish music.

William said...

I don't think I'll be reading Shirley's autobiography anytime soon. I did, however, read the New Yorker review that you posted. The writer seemed extremely mean spirited in his appraisal of Shirley. Is making an invidious comparison between Shirley Temple and Anne Frank some kind of perverted form of Godwin's Law for pedophiles? Shirley didn't use her friendship with Bill Robinson to jump start the civil rights movement and she voted Republican. The sorrow and the pity......Shirley seems to have led a successful life, especially when you compare her to other child stars. The writer of the review was obviously rooting for her to come to a sad end, but some people triumph over early success and go on to lead happy, productive lives.

Mike Smyth said...

"In 1981, Jodie Foster would respond to the Hinckley incident by sinking into depression, demanding to read all her hate mail, and ironically hanging an enormous photo of Reagan getting shot in her kitchen."

Reagan was shot in Jodie Foster's kitchen?

Darrell said...

I didn't know Reagan was shot in her kitchen.

tcrosse said...

Let's go suffering now. Everybody's learning how. Come on a sufferari with me.

Darrell said...

wondering whether couples across America were timing their childbirths to synch with Temple’s death

Only on the Left side of towns.

Quaestor said...

The sentence is ruined by an error of fact. Shirley Temple was not singing "Silent Night" when the crazed bereaved woman drew a gun from her purse. The song was "Someday You'll Find Your Bluebird".

Yeah, any song with such a title is bound to suck, so maybe the dopey broad was just trying to kill the stupid song.

Paco Wové said...

"There's so much going on in that paragraph."

Yes, indeed. So much. So, so much. In my opinion, far too much; same as the DFW sentence, both massively overwritten, aren't-I-a-clever-boy! blocks of prose, both making me think you're not entertaining enough to be this discursive.

Quaestor said...

To me, Jodi Foster has always looked twitchy, dangerous, and borderline psycho... sort of a female Bruce Dern.

I haven't seen anything featuring her since Contact, which was barely watchable — those rheumy eyes with those yellow globs in the sclera — yuck!

Quaestor said...

I've known some twitchy dames in my time. They can be entertaining... in the same sense that minefields can be entertaining if you're not the one probing the ground with a bayonet.

Wilbur said...

Shirley Temple was a truly remarkable individual who led a remarkably successful life.

Translucent Ham: sounds the title of a Mothers of Invention album back in the day.

David said...

"This remains Temple’s peculiar feat: she makes children want to be adorable and sickly sweet and dull, to flatten their emotions out."

Shirley Temple was hardly sickly sweet and dull. She was the center of energy in nearly every scene she was in.

Shirley was outrageously sexualized. However, it was the makers of that YouTube video that did so.

james james said...

"That makes me want to quote this one sentence from a David Foster Wallace story ..."

You might want to add the tag.

I've clicked on that one more than once.

- james james

Ann Althouse said...

“Reagan was shot in Jodie Foster's kitchen?...”

One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas....

Ann Althouse said...

I hate the movie Contact.

Bad Lieutenant said...

I hate the movie Contact.

Of course you do, your taste is in your mouth.


(In 1981, Jodie Foster would respond to the Hinckley incident by sinking into depression, demanding to read all her hate mail, and ironically hanging an enormous photo of Reagan getting shot in her kitchen.)

If Hinckley turned Foster into a lesbian, he has a lot to answer for!


Jessica said...

Oblivion is amazing. The shortest story (about the burned baby boy) is the best.p

Lucien said...

Wait -- wasn't Reagan shot in the armpit, not the kitchen? (Or was he shot in the chest & the bullet wound up in the armpit (still no kitchen, though)?)

Michael Ryan said...

What? No mentions yet of the movie Being John Malkovich?

Jupiter said...

"the shoe itself sailed over the stake, the half finished apiary, a section of the simulation combat target range, a tire swing’s supporting limb, and the backyard’s pineboard fence, never to be recovered or even ever seen again".

Oh, for Christ's sake. If they really wanted to find the damned thing, there's only a certain number of places it could be.