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Correspondence

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For some time now, I’ve had it in mind to write a book called Everything You Know Is Wrong.  Among other areas, it would visit various modern celebrities whose fame, it could be said, is more a function of lurid self-projection, and the unrelenting embrace of the media, than of any innate creative ability on their part.  There would be ample room for the politically voluble but essentially ungifted movie star, the bestselling author of more than ordinary mediocrity, and the humorless comedian so prolific on television these days.  (Of this last trend, I’m often reminded of the late Peter Cook’s remark to the effect that, “If someone gets a big enough name for being a wit, he can reduce a dinner table to hysterics by asking for the salt.”  Friends and admirers still speak of the extraordinary rococo palaces of absurdity that Cook himself could construct from a single word, such as gerbil, or kumquat.)  Premature death is often seen as a sort of martyrdom, and there would be a chapter of the book given to those whose reputations gained by their early departure from the stage.  The reader may have his or her own preferred candidate, but I admit I always think of John Lennon as one whose acolytes have proved to be particularly adept at advancing the solemn personal myth occasioned by his tragic murder in 1980.  Lennon was a great...

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