Boston accent

I have started watching season 3 of “Ray Donovan,” which brings to mind again the current rage for Boston accents in the media.  Here is Seth Myers’ trailer for “Boston Accent”, the movie — directed by Ben Affleck, probably.

Myers spent a chunk of his childhood in Bedford, New Hampshire, so he knows a bit about the accent.  The thing he gets wrong in the trailer, though, is making fun of Brits who try to do the accent.  In “Ray Donovan,” Eddie Marsan, who plays Terry, is from London, and he has a pretty good accent.  Paula Malcomson, who plays Abby, is from Belfast, and I’d swear she was from Southie.  (I love the way she calls her son Conor “Cawn-uh”.)  Maybe it’s so foreign to them, they know they have to work at it.

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No! Not an unreliable narrator!

In my post about first person narrative, I forgot to mention the sub-genre of unreliable first-person narrators.  In my misspent book-reading youth I was quite enamored of such contrivances, even though I’ve never bothered with them in my own writing.  An obvious example of an unreliable narrator is Huckleberry Finn, who often doesn’t quite understand the events or people he’s describing, so readers have to intuit what’s really happening.

But that’s pretty straightforward.  More interesting, to me at any rate, are narrators who at first seem to be reliable, but whom we gradually realize aren’t, thereby requiring us to reassess the entire story.  Just typing that sentence makes me want to re-read Nabokov’s Pnin and Pale Fire, which blew me away when I first read them decades ago.

I watch movies more than I read books nowadays (they’re shorter!), and unreliable narration seems to show up constantly in films and even in TV shows.  Mad Men does it all the time.  In last week’s episode (the first episode of the last half-season), we suddenly see one of Don’s old flames modeling a chinchilla coat for him.  We are never told that this didn’t actually happen–we just have to figure out what’s going on in reality and what’s going on in Don’s somewhat enigmatic imagination.

The one time I really didn’t expect unreliable narration was in Hitchcock’s movie Stage Fright.  This is a straightforward Hitchcock thriller, except for an early flashback that (spoiler alert) turns out to be a false version of a murder.

No! Not an unreliable narrator!

IMDB tells us that audiences were baffled and then enraged by this device, and I think I read somewhere that Hitchcock later called it the worst directorial decision he made in his career.  It certainly gives you a jolt.

As I said, I don’t do this sort of thing in my writing, but I find myself close to the Huckleberry Finn style of unreliable narration sometimes in The Portal and its sequel, both of which are narrated by a young teenager.  Sometimes, to be true to his character, he can’t be allowed to quite understand what’s going on.

I hope this doesn’t enrage my readers.

Wanna see my son in a Jordanian sitcom?

“Wait,” you say, “there are sitcoms in Jordan?”

Yes, there are.  This one is called My American Neighbor.  It’s a mild cross-cultural satire: Jordanians misunderstand American customs; Americans misunderstand Jordan.  In this episode, the American guy living in Jordan is getting married to a local girl, and his family arrives from the States.  They show up at around the seven-minute mark.  His kid brother is wearing a Red Sox cap — hey, I recognize that cap!  Later he wears a Celtics jacket, and in another scene he wears a green shirt with the Narragansett “Hi, neighbor!” slogan on it.  I recognize that shirt, too!  Clearly he’s giving off a New England vibe.

Here’s the show:

Anyway, I think James is pretty good (not that he got paid or anything).  The best part of the show, though, is the Mona Lisa print on the wall with duct tape covering her décolletage.