“Selfie in a Convex Mirror”: John Ashbery and … Amanda Bynes?

Parmigianino Self-Portrait            Amanda-Bynes-709x1024

I’m probably not the right person to comment on this strange development, since I’m embarrassed (or proud?) to admit that I don’t really know who Amanda Bynes is, except for being dimly aware that she’s a scandal-ridden actor and media figure, a la Lindsay Lohan, who is constantly in the news for “Lana Turner has collapsed!“-type behavior and bizarre tweets. But the other day I saw an item posted by Vanity Fair (and retweeted around the poetry world) that declared that

Amanda Bynes Nets $200,000 Record Deal for Spoken-Word Album of John Ashbery Works

The piece, supposedly written by Bynes, explains that rather than pursuing a new career as a rapper, as had been rumored, she is trying her hand at “spoken word”:

Now, this was supposed to be a surprise, but I am releasing an album in which I perform selections of John Ashbery’s work, and for which I received a sizable advance. I’m sure you’ll recognize Ashbery only from his Pulitzer Prize–winning collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1976), although his work in the 60s is delightfully stranger, and, I believe, more influential within the canon. Ashbery, a dear friend, turns 86 on July 28. The album was an early birthday gift, the surprise of which has now been ruined.

A later update noted:

Since the public is so curious, I’ll release more details: the spoken-word album is to be called called Selfie in a Convex Mirror—an explicit reference to the aforementioned Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror and a playful meta-comment on the information age’s ability to warp (some will say pervert) linguistic traditions.

From what I’ve seen on Twitter, people seem to think Amanda Bynes is actually releasing an album of spoken word versions (whatever that means!) of John Ashbery’s work.  And, even more bizarrely, that she and Ashbery are “dear friends,” that she prefers his poetry of the 1960s to Self-Portrait, and that someone actually gave her a $200,000 advance for it.

Um, call me crazy, but I think this is a parody.  (Maybe everyone already realizes this, but it wasn’t clear from what I saw being batted around Twitter and Facebook). The faux-announcement was posted as part of an ongoing column called “Journey to Relevancy: The Amanda Bynes Manifest” which is described as “A daily gloss corresponding to the oft-misinterpreted public-relations policies of self-promotional savant Amanda Bynes. In her own words, Amanda explains what Amanda did today and why.”  

The other entries by “Amanda” are clearly Onion-like satire — as in the post about why she “chose a blue hairpiece for my court appearance. Wearing wigs to court is a reference to both the traditional dress of English barristers and the Whig Party. I would not identify as a Whig per se, although I think the inclination to impose limits on executive power was a prescient one. (I suspect Snowden and Greenwald would agree!) Of course, apathy toward the issue of slavery is unforgivable and inexcusable.”

I may be wrong — and the idea of an album called “Selfie in a Convex Mirror” being released by a pop culture figure who may be most famous for recently throwing a bong out of a 36 story window may be tantalizing — but I think this whole thing is a big, albeit rather erudite, joke.  Nevertheless, it’s certainly another interesting, and funny, sign of Ashbery’s enduring relevance!

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