Paul Simon Stefan Kanfer - Essay

Stefan Kanfer

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Instead of following the mainstream of the major popular lyricists, Paul Simon seems to have skipped Freshman Composition (Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein) and majored in 20th Century Poetry, principally T. S. Eliot, A. E. Housman and E. A. Robinson. In The Dangling Conversation he aims for no less than a Prufrock effect:

And the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
Are the borders of our lives.
Yes, we speak of things that matter,
With words that must be said,
"Can analysis be worth while?"
"Is the theater really dead?"

And in A Most Peculiar Man, he restates Robinson in a song about a man who lives "within a house, within a room, within himself," who committed suicide, "and all the people said, 'What a shame that he's dead, but wasn't he a most peculiar man?'"

Like all young men hovering on the brink of life, Simon and Garfunkel are a little too obsessed with the death of things, a little too enchanted with disenchantment. Far more than half their recorded numbers speak poignantly of loss—of love, or youth (I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song. / I'm twenty-two now but I won't be for long), or loneliness (Hello darkness, my old friend, / I've come to talk to you again, /...

(The entire section is 595 words.)