A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What I'm Reading

The desire for the actual, the unmediated experience drives Twain in his travels. He never achieves it, of course, always finding his experience forced through the sieve of reputation. When it comes to art and architecture and landscape, he sometimes resorts to irony and mockery to sweep away allegations of grandeur and greatness. He is thwarted in his accounts of traveling in the "Holy Land" by a reluctance to mock the pious, and yet we can usually sense his impatience with superstition in his sly treatment of the ubiquitous venerated relics, the duplicitous guides and guidebooks, and the rock-chipping avidity of souvenir hunters. Here he sums up his own awareness of the difficulty of writing the truth:

It is easy for book-makers to say "I thought so and so as I looked upon such and such a scene" -- when the truth is, they thought all those fine things afterwards. One's first thought is not likely to be strictly accurate, yet it is no crime to think it and none to write it down, subject to modification by later experience.

One pious cliché of travelers particularly draws his fire:

The commonest sagacity warns me that I ought to tell the customary pleasant lie, and say I tore myself reluctantly away from every noted place in Palestine. Every body tells that, but with as little ostentation as I may, I doubt the word of every he who tells it. ... It does not stand to reason that men are reluctant to leave places where the very life is almost badgered out of them by importunate swarms of beggars and peddlers who hang in strings to one's sleeves and coat-tails and shriek and shout in his ears and horrify his vision with the ghastly sores and malformations they exhibit. One is glad to get away. ... We do not think, in the holy places; we think in bed, afterwards, when the glare, and the noise, and the confusion are gone, and in fancy we revisit alone, the solemn monuments of the past, and summon the phantom pageants of an age that has passed away.

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