Sunday, February 17, 2008

Yet another misleading title, I'm afraid

I was reading this here essay about Benjamin Franklin in the New Yorker. It's got a bit about his autobiography here:

Franklin began writing his autobiography. He never finished it; it breaks off in 1758, just after he tells the story of sailing to London.

I didn't think about it then, but it came to me later, that it would be a very unusual autobiography indeed if it was finished. You can hardly write the complete story of your life without including in it an account of your death, and by the time you get around to completing all the details of that, you will have already run out of time.

'Complete autobiography' is one thing. But as misleading titles go, Final Fantasy XII has got to be up there. Well, if that's final, you might say, what happened to Final Fantasies I through to XI? Final Fantasy, in case you didn't know, is a computer game series, which certainly lost credibiliy the minute they released Final Fantasy II. Final? The increasingly-less-final-as-it-goes-on computer game series, more like. (Apparently they're just getting ready to release XIII.)

Douglas Adams was at least good-humoured when he released volumes four and five of 'The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy' trilogy, referring to it as 'increasingly inaccurately named..'. George Lucas, however, was quite possibly being sadistic when he called his first Star Wars film 'Episode 4' and his fourth Star Wars film 'Episode 1'. Perhaps he liked the thought of viewers deciding to watch the final episode, and then proceeding to fight over whether this final episode would be the third (which is the sixth) or the sixth (which is the third). It would be uncharitable, after all, to suggest that he couldn't count.

Not to mention Schubert's so-called Unfinished symphony (actually finished after his death by other composers), or the blatant rip-off that was The Neverending Story: as Lionel Hutz says to Homer, "Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, "The Never-Ending Story"."

Still, it's not all bad. It's probably a relief that The Song That Never Ends actually does end. The rhymes were never that good anyway.


alexis said...

Wow! Links!

alexis said...

The above point offered in lieu of more thoughtful commentary.

alexis said...

And that was my final comment.

proserpine said...

It's funny, isn't it? Just a little slip in synonyms- a memoir is not the same as an autobiography after all- and voila, a blog post! Perhaps something of this sort is the closest one can get, although one might argue, with many a poststructuralist, that the book itself is confirmation of the author's death and its publication and continued reception is that final postscript.

Incidentally, following your example, I was looking at the copies of the New Yorker in the newsagent and golly, it's expensive! And The Spectator is very expensive too. The mark up seems quite ridiculous, when one takes exchange rates and postage into account.

TimT said...

Yep, links, and thanks for the glorious three comments. Verily, my cup runneth over with comments, though not enough comments to get me drunk, obviously. (I read comments in moderation, and responsibly.)

Thanks Proserpina, and good point. Thee New Yorker is cheap to subscribe to (not far over 100 dollars Aus for a year, I think), but a real bastard in delivery (usually two weeks late, sometimes more, very rarely less.) The Spectator is, conversely, better at delivery, published more frequently, but more expensive (I think the subscription price for that is closer to 300-400 dollars Aus.) I did wonder, too, if there is such a thing as an author who has written several professedly 'complete' autobiographies, which would be an entertaining vanity, to be sure.

nailpolishblues said...

I think I'm going to second Alexis's first (comment that is).

Great linkage - going for an award?

proserpina said...

Well, $100 p.a. seems to be a good deal cheaper than the newsagents, although there's obviously another price to be paid, but $300-$400! I seem to recall that it had just under three pounds as the UK cover price (perhaps I'm wrong).

As for "complete" autobiographies, Franklin and Hitler both, it seems, although they did restrict themselves to just the one. It strikes me that "Poor Richard's Alamanack" might be something of which you are fond.

(Just noticed I put an "is" where I should have an "are". I am in a mood of general frustration, so this bothers me and I find myself wishing for a magic marker attached to the computer screen).

proserpine said...

Christ! Almanack.

(Alco-ma-hol consumption was last night!).

TimT said...

What can I say, I'm a link fink. And yeah, I'd totally love to read that Poor Richard's Almanack. I'd be an Almanack Hack.

nailpolishblues said...

Oh man, step away from the computer. That's right, walk away, no, no last comments. Just take a little walk away for a week or two.

And, yes, there is a chant of in my head.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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