Archive for January 5, 2011


Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by dcairns

From Thomas Berger’s novel Nowhere ~

“I confess I find it curious that the clergy of all people would condone the exchanging of schools and churches for cinemas.”

The priest laughed merrily. “‘Condoned’ is too mild a word, my dear fellow! We were positively ecstatic to do so. For the first time in a century we have full houses!”

“And the movies are also a substitute for school?”

He frowned. “The choice of words is not appropriate. The movies are not substitutes! If anything, church and school were the substitutes. They were poor imitations of life. Now we can see the real thing.”

“Old American films are the real thing?”

“Yes, of course,” the priest said forcefully. “The virtuous are shown to succeed, the evildoers invariably come to grief, and the general philosophy that informs every picture is that there is a common good, which is recognized by everyone — including the wicked, who of course are opposed to it, but they know what it is. Believe it or not, before the Enlightenment, Sebastiani society had no such standards or beliefs. The church had utterly different aims from the schools, and the code one learned in each was utterly confounded by one’s experience of life. And the government received no respect from anyone, which of course is still true, but now the government is intentionally performed as a farce, and is quite effective.”

“Namely, it does nothing.”

His smaile became ever more radiant. “Exactly! And are you aware of what an achievement that is? Unprecedented throughout history! Not even the Austro-Hungarians were quite able to pull that off.”

A riff on the Utopian novel, and particularly Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (try in backwards), Nowhere is intermittently amusing, although the narrator’s tendency to talk like a Rudy Vallee character in a Preston Sturges film sometimes put me off. I read the whole thing before realizing that Berger is the author of Little Big Man, which made sense: Indian society in that film is another not-quite-utopia. Haven’t read it, but I like the Arthur Penn movie very much. Weird coincidence: I discovered Berger’s connection just as Fiona plunged into one of her regular fits of obsession, this time over Penn’s film of THE MIRACLE WORKER.