Thursday, October 19, 2017

the last book I ever read (Cigarette Lighter (Object Lessons) by Jack Pendarvis, excerpt four)

from Cigarette Lighter (Object Lessons) by Jack Pendarvis:

To confuse things even more, one collector’s guide features other items shaped like lighters: earrings, cufflinks, bracelet charms—in a double switcheroo, some of the miniscule lighter-shaped charms actually work, making them lighters shaped like bracelet charms shaped liked lighters. “Have you got your lighter?” the Mencken-cynical reporter Gregory Peck asks his ratty beatnik friend Eddie Albert in that comedy of doomed love and everlasting despair, Roman Holiday. (Forget Bob Hope: is there anyone left alive who understands why it’s funny to imagine Eddie Albert as a beatnik?) He’s referring to a lighter that doubles as an inconspicuous camera. Peck wants to steal some candid shots of incognito princess Audrey Hepburn. Peck knocks Albert around a good bit throughout the film to keep him from blowing their cover. There must have been some deep satisfaction for a heartland audience to watch the square-jawed American paragon and future Atticus Finch belt the stuffing out of a depraved beatnik.

In a sidewalk cafĂ© Peck and Albert offer a lustrous Hepburn her very first cigarette, a sweet, virginal interlude marred by Albert’s furtive clicking. He advances the reel by turning the flint wheel, his lighter both chivalrous and dastardly. It’s 1953, the Cold War is on, and they give Albert’s bearded character with the spy camera the last name Radovich. (In Dr. Strangelove, the spy camera that provokes Peter Sellers’s outraged, “You can’t fight in here, gentlemen, this is the war room!” appears to be a matchbox.)

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