six scenes from the life of william james sidis, wonderful boy

Published on January 7, 2011

The Music: Scene 1: First song is “Brand New Day” by Worm is Green. Then a little bit of Gary Numan doing “Trois Gymnopedies,” then the “Second Gymnopedie” (lost the name of the pianist). Scene 2: is a small piece from the score to Please Give, the (quite good) Nicole Holofcener movie. Scene 3 uses a piece from the soundtrack to Une Parisienne, the Bridgette Bardot movie and then goes back to Gymnopedie 2. Scene 4 starts with an excerpt of “My Wave, Your Shore” from an Angel Olsen EP (which you should own, by the way). That’s followed by “Drop” by Akira Kosemura and something from the 500 Days of Summer score, kind of smushed together. Scene 5 uses a piece of Michael Andrews’ score to the still-excellent You Me and Everyone We Know, and then back to the Kosemura. Scene 6: back to the Satie and then finishing on “Nag Champa” by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Carlos Nino.

The Footnotes: Since this episode was a total bear, I read a lot about and by Sidis while trying to wrestle it into submission. There’s a perfectly readable, proper biography called The Prodigy that’s out of print but probably at your local library. Turns out the Sidis fanatics (and they are legion) think the author is pretty harsh on W.J., but, you know, sure. To dive right into the deep end: run, don’t walk, to, a lovingly curated compendium of most things Sidis. Scans of many of his books and articles. Links to outside articles. It’s not one stop shopping, but it’s like the directory at the mall. Don’t be scared off by the fact that the web-design looks like someone clicked on the “Crazy Conspiracy Theory” template. It’s really well put together.

The Ephemera: If you do read some of his actual writings, Sidis comes off rather well. However singular and odd his interests and, I suppose, obsessions, are he writes clearly (he’s not raving) and he’s often kind of funny in a super-dorky way. “Notes on the Collection of Transfers” is unreadable. But that’s only because no one can care about transfers as much as the author does. I defy you to. But, that said, Sidis comes off like a genial, almost charming tour guide to the world’s most boring museum. It’s hard not to like the guy.

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