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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lady Writer/Dire Straits

At Classics Rock! we're celebrating our one-year anniversary with a song that appeals both to our occupation (book publicity) and our avocation (songs inspired by literature).  Lady writer on the TV/Talk about the Virgin Mary/Reminded me of you, Mark Knopfler sings on Lady Writer, from the 1979 Dire Straits album Communiqué.  In the song the narrator compares an ex-girlfriend unfavorably to an author he sees on a television talk show (Yeah she had another quality/The way you used to look/And I know you never read a book, he says at one point, and later: She knew all about a history/You couldn't hardly write your name).  It's a song book publicists can embrace because it was inspired by an actual author interview Knopfler saw on TV.  However, we could find no evidence that he ever identified the author.  So who is it?  The title of the song conveniently limits the pool of possible contenders to female authors, and a consensus has formed around one lady writer in particular.  The song's reference to the Virgin Mary suggests strongly that the author in question was scholar, historian and mythographer Marina Warner.  Her controversial book Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary came out in 1976, so she could have been promoting it on television around the time Knopfler was writing the song.  What's more, Warner herself seems to believe "Lady Writer" refers to her:  "When reminded of [the song], said lady writer breaks into peals of embarrassed laughter," wrote another lady writer from Time Magazine in a 1999 feature about Warner.  "I guess that was me," Warner is quoted as saying.  "I wish I could claim something of more distinction in terms of popular culture, but I don't know that I can."  If Marina Warner is indeed the "Lady Writer," we are left with another mystery:  Who's the unfortunate ex-girlfriend?

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