Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt

A month or so ago, I tore through Denis Johnson’s new novel (originally serialized in Playboy), called Nobody Move. I enjoyed it a bunch, and don’t have much to add to David Means’s smart review in the NYRB:

If Tree of Smoke โ€” intricately plotted, embracing the entire Vietnam era and bringing it up alongside the war in Iraq โ€” was a huge piece of work, a Guernica of sorts, then Nobody Move is a Warhol soup can, a flinty, bright piece of pop art meant to be instantly understood and enjoyed.

Anyhow when I first saw the title,


I read it in an imperative, first-scene-of-Pulp-Fiction way: “Everybody be cool, this is a robbery!” e.g., Nobody move, and no one will get hurt!

I was mildly surprised (I feel like it should take one second to say what I’m trying to say here but it’s taking forever. Oh, language, you devil!! I just turned 74 this past autumn, happy birthday to me!) when the title appeared in the novel as a lyric in a reggae song, unattributed to Yellowman (or anyone), playing on a radio:


So: it’s not said in that imperative way, but rather as a Jamaican paraphrase of something like “As long as no one moves, no one will get hurt.”

What?? Wow!!!


[and: “Jamaican paraphrase”???? ๐Ÿ™ ]

I don’t know. I just think that the novel’s title will generally be read by people one way, the wrong way. And since it’s happening with the title ofย  a brand-new novel by a famous novelist, I thought it was worth mentioning. But it probably wasn’t. And whatever maybe DJ actually wants people to read it the wrong way at first, and then make a “grammatical shift.” Or maybe everyone knows this song and will immediately get the reference. But I don’t think so.


There should be a symbol that means everything I just said, so you can just type OPTION+SHIFT+6 and it’ll show up on your screen, and I wouldn’t “need” to torture-type out all these effing sentences. SIGHHH. The symbol would look something like this:


p.s. I remembered all this because my co-worker emailed me this song, which also contains the nobody move yellowman line