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National Guitar

For years, Paul Simon’s line about the “Mississippi delta, shining like a national guitar” had me thinking about the idea of a guitar for the nation, represented somehow in the shining delta. I could picture the delta from the air, or from space, glinting in the sun. I couldn’t quite see the shape of a guitar in the shape of the delta, but never mind. Lyrics can be obscure, and that’s OK, I thought.

I didn’t know then that there actually was such a thing as a “National” guitar: a type of guitar called a National. I don’t know much. But I discovered it through the Pete Atkin song National Steel. They’re metal: shiny. They glint in the sunlight. Like a delta. The Mississippi delta shines like a National guitar. I think there may be one on the album cover of Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms (but be careful, you really shouldn’t trust me on that).

It happens a lot, and I don’t mind, that I discover that whole chunks of what I think are actually based on ignorance, misunderstanding, inattention, deafness or stupidity. It’s reassuring to see that it happens so much to me, because that means it isn’t so shocking when I see it happening with other people. They’re fools, but that’s OK: so am I.

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