"Blue Suede Shoes" Translated into Cuneiform

Goldberg and Orlean

"Blue Suede Shoes" Translated into Cuneiform

Goldberg and Orlean

"Blue Suede Shoes" Translated into Cuneiform
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Jan. 25 1999 11:20 AM

Goldberg and Orlean

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Dear Jeff,

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Breakfast? Fiber, obviously: tons and tons and wagonloads of (apparently) useless fiber. Plus coffee. And then more fiber, because I'm worried about the good folks at Kellogg's, since the entire premise of the breakfast industry has (apparently) been debunked.

Thank you for shamelessly plugging my book, which I desperately wanted to do but felt inhibited by my teeny-tiny sense of propriety. Frankly, since reading your message, I feel a growing sense of love and affection and respect and even passion for you, even though we have never met.

I wasn't going to bring up impeachment either, but since you did, I'll make my first and last comment (at least in this message): Did you take a good look at the pictures in the times this morning? Can I ask you this: Since when did impeaching the Most Powerful Man on Earth become a casual-Friday event? Don't any of these bums--I mean, senators--own a tie? God, if I were impeaching the president, I'd wear something really nice--not a dress (too ironic) but a good-looking gabardine pantsuit, maybe, with a low-heeled shoe and matching bag. And I would definitely do something good with my hair. There, I said it.

I apply the Orlean scour-the-pages technique to the New York Times, but usually come up empty-handed, and when I find something tantalizing, I always assume it's a prank--you know, like those prank letters Yale students used to send to Ann Landers about how they dated their sister and then barbecued their mother and fed her to the sister, etc. etc. etc. Anyway, on Friday, the Times had a luscious piece of weird news that is either a demented prank or the best story in the history of the world:

HELSINKI, Finland--A Finnish academic known for recording Elvis Presley songs in Latin is planning a new record of eternal hits--in the ancient Sumerian language....He has been practicing with the song "Blue Suede Shoes"--translated into the cuneiform language of Babylonia, which died out in 2000 BC.
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I'm particularly interested because I thought cuneiform was written, not sung, and especially not with a Memphis-style beat.

May I point out these last few important issues?

--Didn't everybody always assume that the members of the Olympic committee were bribe-sucking self-indulgent pasha-like creeps? I mean, I sure did. I'm utterly suspicious of anything that refers to itself as "a movement" to begin with.

--What is it with golf? I swear, I just do not get it, especially when I see a photo of His Airness M. Jordan in suburbany dorky golf wear. Is it meant to be ironic? Is it fun to play golf? I hope you don't have an answer for that.

Write soon--

Susan

Jeffrey Goldberg is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and Slate. Susan Orlean is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Orchid Thief, which was published this month.