SThe Michigan Daily
*Nick D elbanco tackles history
by Joseph Schreiber
Tuesday, September 17, 1991
Nicholas Delbanco swings his feet up onto his desk. He is a deeply-tanned
man with a purring, understated manner of speaking that makes you lean far
forward to listen, afraid you'll miss a word. After all, this is an interview,
and I've forgotten my tape recorder. What I've got instead is a clear
memory of a man who has written ten novels and is three years into his
newest work, a man who's won the Guggenheim once and the National
Endowment for the Arts Fellowship twice.
But this isn't a memory I'm working from. It's a recollection. And,
Delbanco can tell you the difference.
For three years he's been re-collecting the scattered and sometimes elu-
sive pieces of another man's life for Rumford: His Book. Count Rumford
was a genius, expatriate and spy whose world travels landed him in
Germany, where he was hired to design winter coats for the German army
at the end of the 18th century. Because of his theories on heat mechanics,
some scientists today call him the father of nuclear physics.
That's how the Brittanica entry might end. For Delbanco, it's just a
Re-collecting is also re-connecting, and in writing what he calls "the
fiction of Count Rumford," Delbanco has had to imagine a connective tis-
sue of detail and daily life, a texture, to hold Rumford's history together.
The task is not advised for greenhorn novelists. Rewriting history,
Delbanco concedes, can be a "severe" business, and it takes serious fortitude
to push aside a stack of Rumford biographies, as if to say, this isn't enough.
Last week Delbanco was in Massachusetts viewing a portrait of the
good Count, and this week he'll read from the next-to-last draft of
In writing what he calls 'the fiction of Count
Rumford,' Delbanco has had to imagine a con-
nective tissue of detail and daily life, a
texture, to hold Rumford's history together
Rumford. Just listening to his whispering, almost conspiratorial voice will
*make the hour a worthy experience.
What you hear on Tuesday, however, won't completely reflect the style
of the book when it's published - in the final draft, Delbanco vows to fic-
tionalize the Count's character a bit more. But neither will you recognize
the "inward-facing" tone of his previous work. "If you go to the reading
on Tuesday, you won't recognize the author of About My Table," Delbanco
says, referring to his 1983 collection of stories. "Rumford is deliberately
Delbanco considered writing the book as a modern-day rumination on a
historical figure, a timeworn device which he abandoned in order to get
closer to the character of Count Rumford himself. And while Delbanco has
not altered any of the established facts of the Count's life, he admits he has
given the character "at least a few redeeming qualities."
"I think in reality," says Delbanco, "that he was probably an irascible
son of a bitch." But, wonderfully, no one is sure, and the topic is fertile for
NICHOLAS DELBANCO will be reading from Rumford: His Book today at
4 p.m. in the Rackham Amphitheatre. Admission is free.
Deco (Andrew Strong), the obese, obnoxious, pony-tailed lead singer of the Commitments, looks suspiciously like the obese, obnoxious, pony-tailed
lead singer of a certain local Ann Arbor band, doesn't he?
Say it loud: Black
dir. Alan Parker
by Annette Petruso
It doesn't make much sense that
The Commitments is in wide release
- i.e. at Showcase, where you can
also see Freddy's Dead every hour.
on the hour. Alan Parker's ex-
quisitely detailed photodrama, an
adaptation of a book by Roddy
Doyle, is embellished with the
accents, slang and attitude of the
Dublin working class.
It's not that American audiences
will be unable to appreciate the Old
Country, or that a deft narrative
about getting out of an unem-
ployed/low-labor hell hole is some-
how not universal. But The Com-
mitments could easily go underrated,
a potential wash-up that defies- the
current wave of stupidly cliched
feel-good movies. The film makes
you feel something, but good is only
one emotion in the spectrum - and.
good is not how life turns out when
you're from the slums. If nothing
else,The Commitments is the most
honest movie in ages.
Jimmy (Robert Arkins) is an un-
employed young adult who agrees
See 'MENTS, Page 8
Through Kill 'Em All and Ride
the Lightning there was always
Metallica; through Master' of
Puppets on the late-night radio
shows with hundreds of other metal
groups, many long ago kicked over
and dead; through ...And Justice For
All, past the groups long sold out to
Dokken-like Bon Jovi clones trying
to get Top 40 but only sounding pa-
thetic; through the thick Danish ac-
cents sounding weirder than the sub-
jects they sang about, there was
Metallica, and 'if one album never
sounded like the last it was because
they,were letting us know that you
have to keep moving to stay alive.
(Now there is "Nothing Else
Matters," a ballad that sounds
Scorpion-y, and "The Unforgiven,"
the slow part of "One" without a
speed part to intensify. This reeks of
sell-out. So do the self-title and the
shadowy portraits inside. Shit. The
album starts with guitars going
way too slow. "Wherever I May
Roam" has a chorus almost sing-
songy. There are cheese-metal ele-
ments like the kid's prayer on
"Enter Sandman," the I-like-to-ive
liet-iein-America guitar intro to "Don't
Tread on Me" and the sometimes
self-consciously weird song lyrics.
But listen: stare at the portraits
for hours on end and turn up the
volume and soon you will begin
wishing you had longer hair to
thrash about because the guitars are
there and the vocals are there.
Listen to Metallica and you will
hear the sounds that have been there
for the last ten years, and if they
haven't gotten faster, they have got-
See RECORDS, Page 8
______with Beaver College
OK, so it's not exactly the Holy Trinity - how about the Dynamic Duo?
Jimmy (Robert Arkins), manager of the Commitments, stands in awe.
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Study in Greece 0 Study in Austria
Study in Ireland Study in Britain
A representative will be on the campus to meet'
with students about the numerous study abroad
opportunities available through Beaver College.
Wednesday, Sept. 18
The International Center '
next to the Michigan Union & West Qu,1d
with your host
and student comedians
Intefested, but can't make the meeting?
Call for a copy of our catalog:
S(800) 767 0029
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