Small World

“In the course of an interview that took place some twenty years ago, Michael Stipe made a passing reference to an essay that had a deep impact on him. It’s what came to his mind when, after having been harangued by fans and journalists alike about Murmur‘s lyrics…he finally threw up his hands… ‘Anyone who really wants to figure out the words to our songs should probably read this essay, then go back and listen,’ Stipe told the interviewer. ‘It talks about how people misinterpret something that’s being said, and come up with a little phrase or word that actually defines the essence of what the original was better than the original did’…The essay Stipe refers to, Walker Percy’s ‘Metaphor as Mistake,’ was written in the mid-1950s…Percy examines the simple act of naming, a profound action we otherwise take for granted in everyday life. Some of the conclusions he comes to are surprising, and indeed shed light on Stipe’s abstruse approach to lyric writing.”

– J. Niimi, Murmur, from the 33 1/3 series.


  1. Matthew,

    Score! Who knew Stipe had it in him?

    Of course, this Athens, GA son is part – if ever so peripherally – of the Southern Tradition, so it was only natural that he should have Percy on his shelf…


  2. That’s a cool series, thanks for the tip!

  3. Ooh, I should have read this first. This ties into a memorable pop culture moment. I was at a REM concert in the mid 80’s and Michael Stipe got so steamed at the rowdy crowd that he literally stomped off the stage like a petulant toddler and one of the band members said he wouldn’t come back out until the crowd settled down. It was hysterical…poor baby.

    (BTW, I loved your book.)

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    Thanks awfully, Rachel.

    I think I attended that same tour – Green, was it? At one point, when the crowd got too rowdy, he stopped and said, “This isn’t Dokken.” Much better than a tantrum, but still.

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