People Tell Me Things by David Finkle (And Give-Away)

With an acerbic wit that had me smiling, if not laughing, on every page, David Finkle tells us the things that people have told him in a wonderful compilation of stories. For those of us who wish we could listen to the personal stories of others, or for those of us who are glad we don’t have to sit across from someone face to face in order to hear their anecdotes, People Tell Me Things is an hilarious glimpse into lives that people have led. (Although, as anyone knows, the other side of hilarity is sorrow, and at the same time that I was laughing, I was also grieving for the poor choices, the loss, the maze that one calls life when one has lost one’s way.)
In the course of reading this book, I came across many names which I felt sure I should have known, especially if I had lived in New York and been employed in a more sophisticated place than an elementary school classroom. For example, I know of Rembrandt. But, Diane Arbus? Never heard of her, this photographer from the 1960’s who apparently made perfectly normal people look completely deranged. Case in point:
These are not the two men which are told about in the story “Duck! It’s Diane Arbus!” But, they are as close an example as I could find of Arbus’ work under a Google search. And they do give a clear indication of why it might not be appealing to be photographed by her, and then appear unbeknownst to you, the subject, in an exhibit.

The stories in People Tell Me Things include fantastical tales with the following chapters:
  • Hey, that’s me up there on the printed page!
  • People tell me things
  • Rembrandt paints again
  • Duck! Here comes Diane Arbus!
  • Stanley Konig writing as Conrad Stamp
  • Off on the wrong foot
  • Blue Beard
  • Not Talking
  • Banana nose
  • Memorial
Most of them have to do with the famous people the author knows, or have anecdotes which include him, to his own chagrin. For example, in Blue Beard he is an  aspiring lyricist…but, at the ripe age of 20 something doesn’t realize that he and his pianist are actually the cover-up for an illicit affair.
My favorite story was the one which dealt with Rembrandt. The real Rembrandt van Rijn appears to Cleve Morris, and not only talks with him in his studio, but paints Cleve’s portrait. When invited to see the painting, this is what Finkle describes, “There on the wall where the Fischl had been was a portrait of Cleve. I don’t mean just any commonplace likeness. I mean a magnificent specimen. Cleve, in a single-breasted brown suit (Tom Ford?), olive-green shirt and green-and-brown patterned tie, sat against a black backdrop looking simultaneously intelligent, affluent and ineffably sad. The likeness was remarkable.” Sadly, Rembrandt disappeared before Finkle could meet him. But, the sheer incredibility of such an event happening gives me a thrill of hope that maybe it could. Some day.

I ended up uncertain as to the veracity of these stories, but as with any novel perhaps that matters not at all. What matters is that we are amused, that we look around us with newly opened eyes, and that as often is the case, we are relieved by the lives we may be lucky enough to live ourselves.

TLC Book Tours tells me I can give away one copy of this book (U.S. and Canada only, please). Simply leave your name if you’re interested in joining the drawing, and I will pull a name a week from today.
Find more stops along the tour here:
Monday, November 7th: Books Distilled
Wednesday, November 9th: The Broke and the Bookish
Monday, November 14th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Tuesday, November 15th: Life in Review
Friday, November 18th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 23rd: Take Me Away
Monday, November 28th: Literature and a Lens
Wednesday, November 30th: Unabridged Chick
Thursday, Dec. 1st: Sarah Reads Too Much