(This blog is just basically now my dumping ground for Divine Comedy-related lists, isn't it?)
I recently had cause to be posting a load of background information about "The Booklovers" onto a forum, and I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to have a complete list of all the authors mentioned, who they are, what the little speech samples say, and what they're referring to?
And then I found that a lot of the job had been done by Ashortsite.com - a fantastic start there by Alphi and various other helpers. I have copied a lot of that text to use as a basis so thanks Alphi for making such a great jumping off point available!
It just remained then for me to fill in the gaps by listening 37 times to the song very loudly on headphones, Googling the authors' names (how did it always seem to know which one I was looking for next, is everyone playing this game?) and making some of my own deductions! (Still very proud of my Daniel Defoe sleuth work...) Thanks also to a few members of the SHTV forum for their corrections and additions!
It may also be interesting to know that some of the voices are Neil, some are samples from films and TV shows, and some of them are other people who visited the studio whilst "Promenade" was being recorded. Apparently Neil would hand visitors a list of names and ask them to choose a couple to impersonate in whatever way they saw fit!
Here we go then, buckle up...
"This book deals with epiphenomenalism, which has to do with consciousness as a mere accessory of physiological processes whose presence or absence... makes no difference... whatever are you doing?" - The opening sample is from the 1957 film "Funny Face", where Audrey Hepburn is trying to sell someone a book - a direct influence on the reason this song came to be, as mentioned by Neil in his new liner notes for Promenade!
- Aphra Behn (“Hello” in a hoarse voice) (England, 1640-1689) is said to be the first female novelist.
- Miguel De Cervantes (“Donkey”) (Spain, 1547-1616) wrote Don Quixote, where the hero’s sidekick Sancho Panza rides a donkey instead of a horse. Presumably the joke here is that most British people pronounce Don Quixote as “Donkey Oaty” 😉
- Daniel Defoe (“it’s a Crisp ‘N Dry day!”) (England, 1660-1731) wrote Robinson Crusoe, where the hero christens his companion Friday, because it’s the day they meet. Crisp ‘N Dry is a British brand of cooking oil – with a famous advertising catchphrase claiming to make any day into a “Fry day” ….! (torturous, but oh so funny)
- Samuel Richardson (“Hello?”) (England, 1689-1761), a novelist best known for 3 epistolary novels.
- Henry Fielding (“tittle tattle, tittle tattle”) (England, 1707-1754) wrote Tom Jones, a novel of a gossipy style (i.e tittle-tattle). The corresponding extract is said to be taken from the film of the same name with Albert Finney.
- Lawrence Sterne (“Helloooohhh…”) (Britain, 1713-1768) wrote Tristram Shandy, a novel displaying much bawdy humour, hence the Leslie Phillips-style “Hello…”.
- Mary Wollstonecraft (“Vindicated!”) (Britain, 1759-1797) was one of the first feminists and wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
- Jane Austen (“Here I am!” in a posh girly voice) (England, 1775-1817) Austen’s heroines are somewhat perky and childish.
- Sir Walter Scott (“We’re all doomed” in a Scottish accent) (Scotland, 1771-1832) inspired Private Fraser in the sitcom Dad’s Army, another Scot, whose catchphrase was indeed “We’re all doomed!”
- Leo Tolstoy (“Yes!”) (Russia, 1862-1910) a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.
- Honore de Balzac (“oui!”) (France, 1799-1850) A French novelist and playwright.
- Edgar Allan Poe (*horror movie scream*) (US, 1809-1849) wrote short-stories in the fantasy / horror genre
- Charlotte (“hello?”) England, 1816-1855), Emily (“hello?”) (England, 1818-1848) and Anne Brontë (“hello?” in a deep man’s voice) (England, 1820-1849). It has been suggested that this is a reference to the fact that they used male pseudonyms to publish their works initially, but Neil confirmed in a 1999 interview that he just thought it was funny and unexpected to have the third voice be a man! One of the female voices was recorded by Alice Lemon of The Catchers, who were recording at The Church studio at the same time.
- Nikolai Gogol (“Vas chi”??) (Russia, 1809-1852) A Russian novelist, short story writer and playwright. No idea what “vas chi” refers to, any ideas?
- Gustave Flaubert (“Oui?”) (France, 1821-1880) A French novelist, and the leading exponent of literary realism.
- William Makepeace Thackeray (“Call me William Makepeace Thackeray”) (England, 1811-1863) Known for Vanity Fair. Presumably a joke on the standard phrase “Call me Jim” etc.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne (“The Letter A”) (US, 1804-1864) wrote The Scarlet Letter, where the heroine stitches a red A for adultery on her clothes.
- Herman Melville (“Ahoooooy theeeere!”) US, 1819-1891) wrote sea stories, such as Moby Dick.
- Charles Dickens (“London is so beautiful at this time of year…”) (Britain, 1812-1870) wrote many novels which took place in London. The sample comes from Michael Palin playing Cardinal Richelieu in an episode of Monty Python (Series 1, Episode 3 – “Court Scene” sketch)
- Anthony Trollope (“good e-good-e-goo-goo-good-evening”) (England, 1815-1882) was an English novelist and civil servant. Not sure why the voice stammers his introduction, but he did apparently die from a fit of the giggles, so maybe that’s why? (Another Monty Python quote, apparently, from Series 1 episode 6.)
- Fyodor Dostoevsky (“Here come the sleepers…”) (1821-1881, Russia). Novelist and journalist. A quote from his piece “The Adolescent”: “Some sleepers have intelligent faces even in sleep, while other faces, even intelligent ones, become very stupid in sleep and therefore ridiculous. I don't know what makes that happen; I only want to say that a laughing man, like a sleeping one, most often knows nothing about his face.”
- Mark Twain (“I can’t even spell Mississippi!”) (US, 1835-1910) wrote stories about the Mississippi river including Huckleberry Finn. Mississippi is also a notoriously difficult word to spell. The voice playing Mark Twain is Ben Wardle, an A&R man who wanted to sign Neil at the time.
- George Eliot (“George reads German?”) (Britain, 1819-1880) this is a sample from the film A Room with a View, which as we all know, Neil was obsessed with. The movie quote does not actually relate to George Eliot, but a character in the film.
- Emile Zola (“J’accuse!”) (France, 1840-1902) wrote J’accuse! a letter in support of Jewish colonel Dreyfus against anti-Semites.
- Henry James (“Howdy, Miss Wharton!”) (British of American origin, 1843-1916) He and Edith Wharton (US, 1862-1937) (“Well hello, Mr James!”), mentioned later in the song, were lovers.
- Thomas Hardy (“Ooo-arrrhhh!”) (Britain, 1840-1928) wrote stories set in the fictional British county of Wessex, meant to be in the West Country, hence the accent.
- Joseph Conrad (“I’m a bloody boring writer”) (British of Polish origin, 1857-1924) was an impressionist writer. Evidently whoever picked this voice to record wasn’t much of a fan!
- Katherine Mansfield (*pathetic cough*) (Britain, 1888-1923) died of TB.
- DH Lawrence (“Never heard of it”) (Britain, 1885-1930) wrote highly controversial novels with emancipated heroines. Some were even censored (for instance, Lady Chatterley’s Lover). Thus, people who had read him might deny having ever heard of him. This is a sample from the film A Room with a View, based on a novel by EM Forster.
- EM Forster (*sighing*“Never heard of it”) (Britain, 1879-1970) This is yet another sample from the movie A Room with a View (different from the one before). Presumably a little joke, as everyone who was paying attention would know by now that Neil was obsessed with Forster.
- James Joyce (“Hello there” in an Irish accent) (Ireland, 1882-1941) Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. Author of "Ulysses", a novel in which everything happens on one day. Neil was trying to read this novel whilst writing "Promenade", which gave him the idea for the album's central concept.
- Virginia Woolf (“I’m losing my mind!”) (Britain, 1882-1941) suffered from mental health issues and ultimately committed suicide.
- Marcel Proust (“Je ne m’en souviens plus” = “I don’t remember it any more”) (France, 1871-1922) wrote Remembrance of Things Past. Good joke, someone!
- F Scott Fitzgerald (“baaah bababa baaaah”) (US, 1896-1940) wrote ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’.
- Ernest Hemingway (“That’s ‘Papa’ to you, son”) (US, 1899-1961) A recently worked out connection, the 2020 mix makes this quote much clearer and now seems to be a clear reference to Hemingway’s nickname of “Papa”. (Previous attempts you can find online say “I forgot the ether”, which doesn’t make much sense.)
- Herman Hesse (“Oh es ist so häßlich” = “oh, it’s so ugly”) (Switzerland, 1899-1961) Presumably a play on the similar sound between “Hesse” and the first syllable of “häßlich”.
- Evelyn Waugh (“Whooooaaarrrr!”) (Britain, 1903-1966) A wordplay on his name.
- William Faulkner (“Tu connais William Faulkner?” = “Do you know William Faulkner?”) (US, 1897-1962) – this is a sample taken from the movie Breathless (A Bout de Souffle), which pops up again later, and also in “When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe”.
- Anaïs Nin (“The strand of pearls”) (US, 1903-1977) She wrote erotic books, but it’s not exactly clear what the pearls refer to.
- Ford Madox Ford (“Any colour as long as it’s black”) (Britain, 1873-1939). A joke on the famous quote from car-maker Henry Ford.
- Jean-Paul Sartre (“Let's go to the Dôme, Simone!”) France, 1905-1980) and Simone de Beauvoir (“C'est exact, present” = “That’s right, here!”) (France, 1908-1986) were a famous couple of intellectuals. Le Dôme was a bar in Paris frequented by many writers it seems.
- Albert Camus (“The beach… the beach!”) (France, 1913-1960) wrote The Outsider, where the protagonist kills a man on a beach.
- Franz Kafka (“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”) (Czechoslovakia, 1883-1924) wrote paranoiac works like The Trial. The sample is perhaps taken from the film with Harold Pinter.
- Thomas Mann (“Mam”) (Germany, 1875-1955). Mam/Mann? With bad handwriting, it works…!
- Graham Greene (“Call me Pinkie, lovely…”) (Britain, 1904-1991) Greene wrote Brighton Rock, a novel which was adapted into a film with Richard Attenborough as Pinkie. The sample is taken from the film.
- Jack Kerouac (“Me car’s broken down!” in a Yorkshire accent) (US, 1922-1969) The amusing accent is quite a juxtaposition with his book “On The Road”, the story of a road trip across the US.
- William S. Burroughs (“Woowwwwww!”) (US, 1914-1997) took LSD and wrote some quite hallucinatory stuff.
- Sir Kingsley Amis (*cough*) (Britain, 1922-1995) Not sure if there is any significance to the cough!.
- Doris Lessing (“I hate men!”) (Britain, 1919-2013) is a feminist writer. I can recall in the 1990s feminists (particularly female comedians) having a reputation for hating men, so this was probably amusing at the time...
- Vladimir Nabokov (“Hello, little girl…”) (British of Russian origin, 1899-1977) wrote Lolita, where the protagonist is obsessed with a young girl.
- William Golding (“Achtung, Busby!”) (Britain, 1911-1993) wrote Lord of The Flies, which describes how a group of young boys beached on a desert island regress to a tribal and violent stage. One of the protagonists is called Busby, and the joke is a reference to the album Achtung Baby by U2 (1991).
- JG Ballard (“Instrument binnacle”) (Britain, 1930-2009) wrote Crash. “Instrument binnacle” is an expression Ballard uses for a car’s dashboard. This is another line recorded by Ben Wardle.
- Richard Brautigan (“How are you doing?”) (US, 1935-1984) an American novelist, poet, and short story writer. His work often clinically and surrealistically employs black comedy, parody, and satire, with emotionally blunt prose describing pastoral American life intertwining with technological progress.
- Milan Kundera (“I don’t do interviews”) (Czech Republic, 1929- ) A quick Google suggests that plenty of interviews have been done with the author of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” so not sure what this is about…
- Ivy Compton Burnett (“Hello…”) (Britain, 1884-1969) An author of several novels consisting mainly of dialogue and focusing on family life among the late Victorian or Edwardian upper middle class.
- Paul Theroux (“Have a nice day!”) (US, 1941-) A travel writer, whose best-known work is The Great Railway Bazaar. The quote is presumably some Brit’s dig at the perceived fake cheerfulness of Americans!
- Günter Grass (“I’ve found snails!”) (Germany, 1927-2015) A novelist, poet and playwright. Snails… in the grass… get it? 😉
- Gore Vidal (“Oh, it makes me mad…”)(US, 1925-2012) Another sample taken from Monty Python, in a sketch from series 1, episode 3, where John Cleese is dressed as a chef, hitting a table with a meat cleaver (quite… gory?). Also Vidal was known for getting worked up about various causes.
- John Updike (“Run rabbit, run rabbit, run run run”) (US, 1932-2009) wrote “Rabbit, Run”. A novel whose title is presumably based on the wartime song “Run Rabbit run”, whose rhythm is used in the quote here.
- Kazuo Ishiguro (“Ah so, old chap!”) (British writer, born in Japan in 1954) wrote The Remains of the Day, where the main character is a butler in a country house. A juxtaposition between a Japanese-sounding expression (from Japanese ā sō, interjection signaling attention or understanding in conversation), and an English one, which might be used by people in country houses.
- Malcolm Bradbury (“Stroke John Steinbeck, stroke JD Salinger”) (Britain, 1932-2000) I can’t find any particular connection between these 3 authors, so my strong guess here is that Neil had all 3 written on his list to choose between (i.e. “Malcolm Bradbury / John Steinbeck / JD Salinger”) and whoever picked that line decided to read them exactly like that.
- Iain Banks (“Too orangey for crows!”) (Scotland, 1954-2013) One of Banks’s most famous books is called The Crow Road. The sample is a reference to an advert for Kia-Ora orange squash, which starred… animated crows.
- Dame AS Byatt (“Nine tenths of the law, you know…”) (born in Britain in 1936) wrote Possession. A reference to the legal proverb “Possession is nine-tenths of the law”.
- Martin Amis (*Grunt*) (born in the UK, 1949) Presumably a reference to the vulgar behaviour of the characters in many of his books.
- Brett Easton Ellis (*blood-curdling scream*) (born in the US in 1964) - wrote American Psycho.
- Umberto Eco (“I don’t understand this either”) (Italy, 1932-2016) wrote books which are considered quite hard to understand.
- Gabriel García Marquez (“Mi casa, tu casa” = “My house is your house”) (Colombia, 1927-2014). Presumably this was the only Spanish phrase that whoever recorded this voice could remember…
- Roddy Doyle (“Ha ha ha!”) (born in Ireland in 1958) wrote Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha.
- Salman Rushdie (“Names that will live forever…”) (born in India in 1947). It seems that this quote is not specifically related to Salman Rushdie, but a general comment to wrap up the song. It most likely again relates again to “A Bout de Souffle”, where the film’s heroine is interviewing a journalist and they discuss how artists become immortal once their works are famous. (as once again referenced in “When The Lights Go Out…”!). This is yet another Monty Python sample, from series 1, episode 6.
So now you know.
Please feel free to leave any corrections in the comments below!