The Movie: The Man with Two Brains, 1983 (George Gipe, Steve Martin, and Carl Reiner, screenwriters; Carl Reiner, dir.)
Who says it: Steve Martin as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, inventor of “screw-top zip-lock brain surgery”
The context: Dr. Hfuhruhurr quotes the works of John Lillison, “England’s greatest one-armed poet,” to his beloved, the unscrupulous Dolores (Kathleen Turner).
How to use it: As self-defense, when people start quoting poetry at you.
A weird thing happened on Wednesday afternoon. I was supposed to go down to Kate's for Ken Bruen's signing of The Magdalen Martyrs; I'd been planning it for weeks, and really looking forward to it. Getting to Boston has become very easy since I discovered The World's Most Luxurious Bus; I drive to Portland and take an express bus that gets me to South Station in two hours, from which it's a straight shot on the Red Line to Cambridge.
I got about halfway to Portland when I suddenly had a overwhelming feeling that I should turn around and go home. I ignored the feeling for a couple of exits, but it didn't go away; so, somewhere just past Freeport, I turned around and went home.
Once I got home, everything was fine. I have no idea whether this was a genuine premonition, some kind of phobic episode, or a mild anxiety attack; it probably had more to do with the fact that I'd only gotten four hours of sleep the night before.
Anyway, this movie was on TV when I got home. I hadn't thought of it in at least 15 years, and I'd forgotten how completely, insanely, laugh-till-you-choke funny it is. It mesmerized me for the next two hours. I may need to own it. This will not be the last quotation you see from The Man with Two Brains.
Work interfered with my usual reading habits this week -- not just the time demands of deadlines, but the fact that I'm too distracted to be able to focus on an extended narrative. I've started three books this week that are lying around my apartment unfinished, waiting for my attention span to return to normal, and I did read a big chunk of From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000, by Lee Kuan Yew, for a research project.
But these are the only books I actually managed to finish this week:
Susan Isaacs, Any Place I Hang My Hat. Before anyone coined the phrase "chick lit," Susan Isaacs was writing funny, joyful novels about the dilemmas of modern women's lives (and, in my beloved Shining Through, Nazis). Her latest is the story of political writer Amy Lincoln, whose search for the mother who abandoned her ultimately shows her who she really is -- and isn't. Susan Isaacs could teach Tom Wolfe something about writing from a younger person's perspective.
Victor Gischler, Suicide Squeeze. A washed-up repo man, some Japanese gangsters and a female ex-NSA agent with serious daddy issues chase a priceless piece of Americana: a Joe DiMaggio baseball card signed by Joe, Marilyn and Billy Wilder on the set of The Seven Year Itch. Very silly, very violent, very entertaining. Gischler shows great affection for his characters, even while he's blowing them away. (Full disclosure: I don't really know Victor Gischler, but have consumed beers in his presence. Also, I let him try on my hat. It was that kind of night.)