Thursday, October 25, 2012
the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man, excerpt three)
from The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith:
He crossed the floor and knelt down before the television. He retrieved The Girl From Peking from the video recorder. He put it into its case and felt a soothing pulse of happiness. Prompted by beauty. On the cover were the two beautiful faces of his favorite actress, the musical star Kitty Alexander. In the picture on the right, she was dressed as a Peking girl, her eyes Sellotaped into an approximation of his own epicanthic fold, wearing her coolie hat and cheongsam. She was lost on the streets of fifties Broadway. And then, on the left, the same girl but now made over, dressed as the toast of Hollywood, in a mushroom-shaped ball gown, with the little white gloves, the pink princess slippers, the coil of lustrous black hair peeking over one shoulder. The story of the film, essentially, was the progress from the picture on the right to the picture on the left. You had to read the video case backwards, like Hebrew.
There was a split in the protective plastic. Alex slipped his finger in and felt around, touching first one Kitty and then the other. Citizen Kane. Battleship Potemkin. Gone with the Wind. La Strada. It amazed him that so many people--in fact, it would be fair to say most people--were unaware that the 1952 Celebration Pictures musical The Girl from Peking, starring Jules Munshin as Joey Kay and Kitty Alexander as May-Ling Han, was in fact the greatest movie ever made. Carefully, he squeezed her into a fold of his bag.