Of late I have gotten a little obsessed with sussing out the origins of this song, to the point where I purchased both Sean L. Maloney’s “33 1/3” book on the album The Modern Lovers and Tim Mitchell’s Jonathan Richman biography There’s Something About Jonathan. Neither one, sadly, offered much illumination. The latter does provide this one biographical passage which is, perhaps, relevant:
Jonathan was the first of two boys. His musical influences started early; in adult life he was to recall being sung to as a two- or three-year-old by his parents; his memory was of having been very moved by music from this time on. By the age of five he was spending his days drawing pictures — and chasing girls. Their failure to reciprocate his affection made him confused and hurt.
Hmmm, well, yes. (Strokes imaginary beard.) I, too, remember being absolutely enthralled with the female of the species from a tender young age; but admiring them is one thing, and actually interacting with them quite another. With the admiration comes fear, which leads to failure, and at some point one protects one’s self by cultivating a cool detachment. In a performance of “Pablo Picasso” from 2022 — which I only just came across this very minute, and is proving somewhat revelatory — Jonathan says: (more…)
Marc Leeds, The Vonnegut Encyclopedia
Sean L. Maloney, The Modern Lovers (33 1/3)
Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
D.M. Thomas, The White Hotel
Mark Twain, The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn
Charles Shields, And So It Goes
Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman
Gore Vidal, Death in the Fifth Position, Death Before Bedtime, Death Likes It Hot
Gore Vidal’s three mystery novels — written in the early-to-mid 1950s under the pseudonym “Edgar Box” — were perfect summer reading: plot-driven and involving, but with enough literary panache to placate one’s inner English major. I ripped through them in a trice, and used some of the time left over to learn more about Gore, who was a complicated guy. Just to give you an idea, here’s an excerpt from his Wikipedia page:
Vidal would cruise the streets and bars of New York City and other locales and wrote in his memoir that by age twenty-five, he had had more than a thousand sexual encounters. Vidal also said that he had an intermittent romance with the actress Diana Lynn, and alluded to possibly having fathered a daughter. He was briefly engaged to the actress Joanne Woodward before she married the actor Paul Newman; after marrying, they briefly shared a house with Vidal in Los Angeles.
Vidal enjoyed telling his sexual exploits to friends. Vidal claimed to have slept with Fred Astaire when he first moved to Hollywood and also with a young Dennis Hopper.
In 1950, Vidal met Howard Austen, who became his partner for the next 53 years, until Austen’s death. He said that the secret to his long relationship with Austen was that they did not have sex with each other: “It’s easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part, and impossible, I have observed, when it does.” In Celebrity: The Advocate Interviews (1995), by Judy Wiedner, Vidal said that he refused to call himself “gay” because he was not an adjective, adding “to be categorized is, simply, to be enslaved. Watch out. I have never thought of myself as a victim… I’ve said — a thousand times? — in print and on TV, that everyone is bisexual.”