discontent #4. Spring 1997







The latest addition to my vocabulary is the word "mezzobrow," which apparently refers to a young person with an obsessive and encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture. I think that this word describes myself, but it definitely applies to Rob Fleming, the narrator and protagonist of Nick Hornby’s seminal novel High Fidelity. You of course remember how Rob has the sweet habit of distilling his opinions into Top Five Lists. Even before I read the book I found that list making, and the Top Five in particular, constitutes a satisfying miniature psychological evaluation. Looking over my journals from the last eight years, I notice that I not only make lists about my activity for the week (never, not once, followed up), but I also almost annually list my favourite movies, my favourite eighties singles, the characteristics I require of my imaginary fiancé, even poorly considered New Year’s Resolutions ("Stop Smoking. No Boys. Learn Guitar."). To the slacker, the Top Five List is like a PhD proposal: it’s carefully considered, it can be vigorously defended, and it’s perpetually subject to change. I was surprised that one hundred percent of the men to whom I recommended Hornby’s book found it tiresome and unrealistic, and all of the women who have read it think that its brilliant accuracy simultaneously belies the charm and the tedium of the contemporary male. In this issue I’ve picked my five favourite nouns that can be used as verbs. See what you can divine.


1. To Lavendar. Apparently this actually applies to lavendar, perhaps some heroine in a Madame de Scudery-esque tome would "lavendar" her boudoir before her levée. I prefer to think that one can be "lavendared" with praise.

2. To Handbag. Always refers to Margaret Thatcher. This is her mode of veto, according to Julian Barnes’ Letters from London.

3. To Sulphur. The verb so far refers to figs, but could be applied to anyone’s life that has become hell.


4. To Rubbish. Used effectively by the ethereal Anthony Lane in a "New Yorker" review of the film "French Twist": "The graces of courtship were rubbished, then restored..." (Jan. 15, 1996, p. 78). A witty verb.

5. To Chapter (on). Again from the "New Yorker," but this time my misreading of a piece about Anthony Julius ’ book on Eliot... I thought it said: "the book chapters on...[various topics]." Would appreciate this verb being in circulation at once..