Friday, July 28, 2017
In both his compatriots and his destinations it is not the expected, but the unexpected which is so illuminating and invigorating. When stuck under quarantine outside Athens, they quietly slip ashore for a moonlit excursion up to Parthenon and through town. A journey across Sinai is at turns exhausting and a space for mental relaxation. Throughout, Twain's irony and humor shines. The Innocents, protestant Americans with seemingly no history, are alternately lost among, overwhelmed by, and totally incapable of grasping the significance and even occasional absurdity of civilizations tempered by time. The new world and old collide, revealing humor and transcendence in both.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Mailer's magnum opus (one of them, anyway) about Mark Gary Gilmore's life in detention, two murders in Provo, Utah, and choice to die at the hands of the United States government rather than extend his life in prison through indefinite appeal. Mailer's work is exhaustive to say the least. Years of interviews and research led him to write a 1,000-plus page 'true novel' which may provide the closest approximation of a person's complicated personality in a work of reportage. It is only one account, but the reader does feel that he or she knows the man that was Gary Gilmore. What is less certain, and left as a pressing question by Mailer, is how do we measure the effect of one person's life on those surrounding them. Through his acts of violence Gilmore enabled his reach to expand ever outwards, drawing an almost global network of people into his story. Mailer's gift for storytelling is, among his other strengths, that he allows Gilmore and those surrounding him to be complete, fallible, bewildering humans. Mailer's lack of moralizing throughout a distinctly morally-tinged story may itself be a type of moralizing on the violence of individuals and of the state. For drawing what appears to be a complete world, Mailer's work is a triumph.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Yet between his frustrations and dashed hopes Theroux still finds much to love. It is a traveler's love. When the mindset is right endless delays are simply a part of living. It is notable that Theroux does not perceive himself to have any itinerary - traveling is simply how he chooses to pass the time. The joys are a traveler's joys. Unexpected friendships revealed in power-outages. Frank discussions with prostitutes at a hotel restaurant. The continual puncturing of self-importance. Perhaps these could be found on the road anywhere - but here they take on a distinctly African flavor. For Theroux it is as though he has dropped onto a dark star: that unseen place of gravity that nevertheless pulls at each us. For Theroux, Africa will always be force and thus returning is always a type of home-coming.
*Published in 2002.