Wednesday, June 22, 2011


English sandwich (British Sandwich Week Contest entry)


     Do you think that an elliptical method like that* has a function other than, as you say, suggesting the tautness and spareness of a particular situation?


     I don't know, I suppose the more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in -- not true of taking the filling out of a sandwich, of course -- but if one kept a diary, one wouldn't want a minute-to-minute catalogue of one's dreadful day.

American sandwich from Carnegie Delicatessen, New York City

Reader Note:   Terry Southern's interview with the English novelist Henry Green (the excerpt here concerns Green's second novel, Living, and its notable omission of definite articles throughout the text), which was published in the Summer 1958  issue (No. 19) of the Paris Review, remains one of the most enjoyable, amusing and enlightening artifacts of Green's remarkable career.  It is anthologized in the collection of previously unpublished Henry Green writings called Surviving.  The interview can also be found online Here.

Terry Southern photographed by Stanley Kubrick near Shepperton Studios, Surrey, 1962, during the production of Dr. Strangelove

           The Paris Review interview is well worth reading and re-reading.  Like all of Green's work, you don't and can't take it all in at once, although the comment I've selected, about suiting style to subject matter, is pretty straightforward.  Some of us are a lot more skilled at this than others.  The other day I tried to write about something that recently caused me to be enervated at a time when I was extremely tired.  In other words, I had been shocked semi-awake by an unpleasant event and I tried to convey this by writing a series of overlong, edgy-seeming sentences, which I normally wouldn't do.  I think I was trying to convey fatigue and anxiety in the way Ray Davies did by elongating lines and pauses in Tired Of Waiting For You, although my mood felt distinctly more Kurt Cobain-desperate.  I'm not sure my effort succeeded, but at least I expelled, briefly,  the demon experience from my body. 

Talk Talk (Mark Hollis, l.)

           Green's comment about sandwiches reminded me of  something that happened to Caroline during the 1980s when she was working as a publicist for the fine London band, Talk Talk.  Caroline's job involved devising and executing public relations campaigns for rock groups, including soliciting and arranging  press articles and reviews.  This often involved long days of back-to-back interviews at the record company for the acts, who were usually exhausted from the daily grind of performing and constant travel. One day, Caroline ordered an extra-special "New York-style lunch" to be delivered to EMI Records' Manhattan offices  from the famous Carnegie Delicatessen.   When Carnegie's trademark offerings arrived, Mark Hollis, Talk Talk's soft-spoken and mild-mannered composer and singer, became noticeably agitated at the sight of the sandwich monuments in the way one might imagine a just-unblindfolded Druid acting when coming into view of Stonehenge and thinking "this means curtains for Gareth" or something like that.  Mark is an exceedingly polite person, but he knew his own mind and intentions, and Caroline noticed him begin quietly and deliberately to deconstruct Carnegie's work by removing and discarding about 9/10th of the sandwich's fillings.  When she asked him what on earth he was doing, he replied that he was making the New York sandwich into an English sandwich.  

Stray Cats

          Several months later when the Stray Cats, a New York band who had gone to England to achieve enormous success, returned in triumph to the U.S., one of the first things they enjoyed during a record company visit was a Carnegie Deli sandwich luncheon.  The group liked England quite a bit and they were highly appreciative both of their UK success and their British fans. They said that English sandwiches were another thing altogether, however.  They were, in their view, lacking in just about everything except for miniscule portions of green-tinged roast beef, soggy lettuce and bread that seemed cottony and unpalatable.  These criticisms mirrored earlier ones of The Ramones, another group Caroline worked with at the beginning of their career.  When that band returned from their first U.K. junket, they complained that the milk they were served contained floating debris and the Coca-Cola tasted funny.  I would like to think that Henry Green, the author of  Living,  would have appreciated The Ramones for their humor and their radical, simplified approach to writing and performing music in order to achieve maximum impact.  

        The very best record company party I ever attended was a "listening party" celebrating the release of the the group's second album, The Ramones Leave Home.  The party was held in an over-crowded New York recording studio near Washington Square and featured Carnegie Deli sandwiches, Veuve Clicquot champagne and, of course, the new Ramones record, a great one that in the best American tradition "moved the ball forward."

The Ramones

Henry Green


  1. Wonderful.

    I assume you have seen End of the Century, the best rock 'n roll movie I ever saw.

  2. I love End of the Century, although I find it almost impossibly moving. Caroline worked with the Ramones through their first four records and we saw a great many performances. She was a tour publicist at the time and travelled with them across the US as they "left home." I'll never forget the first show we saw and the physical reaction it provoked in me. I also remember ABC Records crafting the first big newspaper ad promoting the debut lp, which included pull-quotes from everywhere ranging from the most negative to the most ecstatically positive reactions. Critics whose comments were left out of the ad were miffed and called to complain. The party I mention really was the very best and the most cleverly planned event I've ever attended. Hearing "Glad To See You Go" for the first time is something I will never ever forget. I'm glad you liked this. If you've never read the Henry Green Paris Review interview, you'd like it. Curtis

  3. You and Caroline need to write your rock memoir.

    End of the Century is nearly unbearably sad, although that's not the only way it moves one.

    I confess that I was not much of a fan back in the day. I liked their image very much, as presented in albums and titles. And I was glad when their songs played on the radio. Joey's voice wonderfully conjured early 60s singing; he reminds me of the Shirelles, for example.

    But I was not a buyer of their records and never saw them play. End of the Century made me a fan.

  4. The memoir idea is a good one, I think, and lines up with a few other memoir ideas we've had. She's had the opportunity (and I through her) to witness some fascinating stuff. She tends to see things through the right end of the telescope, even when the situation seems opposite, so when she describes things you get the complete picture. Increasingly, I've been feeling that I tend to live mentally at the wrong end of the telescope, except when I'm working on mundane professional matters. I guess I should be grateful to have her. Caroline's mid-70s analysis of the Ramones song Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World (from the first lp), which she described as being about the fascism inherent in romantic love relationships was acute. I think it would have surprised Dee Dee, the songwriter (who certainly gave no conscious thought to feminism), but she nailed it. The physical feeling that came over me at the first Ramones show we attended (which I didn't describe above) was one of hysterical laughter. That was great. As with Television, you couldn't really understand the lyrics (the only thing that you could understand were Joey's song intros, which were remarkable), but you absolutely knew it was great. The Ramones record release party I described was planned by their manager, Danny Fields, who was and is a great talent in his own right and was perfectly paired with the group. Curtis