Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Life-altering factoids

1. Why Leno, Letterman et al always sit on the right.

Because it makes them seem powerful. In Western culture, we read from left to right, and we watch theater and television that way, too. Our eyes end up on the right side of the screen—where the host sits (also known as stage left). In the theory of stagecraft, it's understood that a rightward placement telegraphs royalty. So no matter how famous the guest may be, sitting to the left makes him or her seem subservient. Late-night hosts also sit slightly upstage (farther back and slightly elevated) from their guests, which likewise reinforces the notion of a power imbalance.

2. How, in the age of TV and YouTube, J.D. Salinger successfully hid from the world.

For more than five decades, the author's neighbors and friends hid his whereabouts from what Cornish resident Peter Burling called “the annual parade of English majors.”

It was, “one of the most enjoyable municipal conspiracies ever, how to keep everyone guessing where Jerry Salinger lived,” said Burling, who for 44 years has lived several doors from Salinger's Lang Road home...

As word of Salinger's death spread yesterday
[Jan. 28], residents were still closing ranks around him.

“I think I don't have anything to contribute,” said a genial older man who came to the door at the home nearest Salinger's. The man smiled and pressed his hands together as he refused to talk about his neighbor, as if he was carrying out a cherished responsibility.


PLUS: Did he really mean to do a Garbo? To the most persistent fans, the very ostentatiousness of Salinger's privacy--has any writer ever been so well known for refusing to be well known?--must have seemed a kind of flirtation.

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