Sunday, 20 September 2009

Get your texts out

Sampling, of course, has had its place in pop music for some time. In art or literature it's usually couched in the form of homage, but a few of my favourite authors seem to have taken to dropping in quotes, and more, in their books as a form of literary parlour game. Though Geoff Dyer's Paris Trance was described by Tim Pears as 'A Tender is the Night for the ecstasy age' on its cover, Dyer took instead to dropping lines from Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) by Ernest Hemingway among his pages. 'It was amazing champagne' (p120), 'He took a big gulp of coffee...' (p218) are among the book's handful of what Dyer refers to, typically engagingly - and in his engaged manner - as 'samples'.

Arthur Phillips notes of his latest, The Song is You: 'beginning with its title (Kern-Hammersmith), this book incorporates in its text several song names'. He namechecks such estimable - and notaby UK-centric - sources as the Beloved, the Blow Monkeys, David Bowie, of course, Leonard Cohen, the Dream Warriors, EMF, Haircut 100, the Pet Shop Boys, Swing Out Sister and They Might Be Giants in his book of pop voyeurism.

And now The Escape, by Adam Thirlwell, 'contains quotations, some of them slightly adapted, from works by WH Auden, Mel Brooks, Alfred Hitchcock, Groucho Marx, Marcel Ophuls, Saïan Super Crew, Tupac Shakur' [my editing, again, of his much longer list]. Considering its form, verging on pastiche of the elderly lothario's antics in a generic mittel-Europa spa, there's also Saul Bellow, Bohumil Hrabal, Ladislav Klíma as well as Mann, Nabakov and Tanizaki.

Most appropriate of all, though, is probably the quote from Milan Kundera on The Escape's cover - and perhaps most important to the potential buyer of this very readable work. Credit, also, the book's designer, who seems to have spent some time matching the breasts of the cover's model with the description of the novel's gamine central character, Zinka: 'Her nipples were long, and almost black, with stained pools of areolae.'

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