The lead review of last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review considers Beautiful Children, a novel by Charles Bock that introduces readers to a motley lineup of characters. There is, for instance, “a balding, pear-shaped cartoonist, burdened with the name Bing Beiderbixxe, playing Doom-like video games into his 20s and nurturing sociopathic fantasies.” Here I’m quoting reviewer Liesl Schillinger, who also mentions “a midget convenience-store clerk” and “a stripper who attaches sparklers to her pneumatic bosom to score extra tips.”
Schillinger is polite enough not to mention that Beiderbixxe’s burdensome name is what one might expect were Bing Crosby and Bix Beiderbecke to collide head-on. They were great friends, those two, so it’s a nice thing they didn’t. Still, such a name! Later in her review, Schillinger returns to Bing:
Early in the novel, Newell, Kenny and Beiderbixxe, the cartoonist, meet at a Saturday talk in a comics store called Amazin’ Stories, where Beiderbixxe has come to discuss his illustrated series, “Wendy Whitebread, Undercover Slut.” Newell isn’t impressed. Too young and undereducated to pick up on Beiderbixxe’s ironies, he’s bored. “Honestly, it wasn’t exactly easy to get jazzed about Bing Beiderbixxe,” he thinks, puffed up with preteen scorn. “From the looks of things, Newell wasn’t alone in this opinion. The store was largely empty, just a few underclassman types solemnly wandering the new arrivals racks, and three or four guys standing a respectful distance from the autograph table, nodding and listening, but seeming unconvinced.”
Again, Schillinger is too polite to point out the almost sophomorically obvious irony of not getting “jazzed” about a man whose very name tangles together two of the all-time greats of jazz. But that is to Schillinger’s credit and perhaps a sign of the book’s charm.
Albert Haim, it should be said, has never been so easy to charm as me. On his Bixography forum, the retired professor calls the name “tasteless.”
Which is exactly why I love it.
[February 6, 2008]