living the movie
September 23, 2008, 9:49 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , ,

(Edward Scissorshands, -, chevrolet)

Jonathan Raban is an English writer who lives in Seattle.  He wrote an article about another Englishman who committed a horrible crime on American soil, from which this paragraph is excerpted.  You can read the whole article here.

Although the story of the murder is scandalous and fascinating, the excerpt held my attention.  He describes a magical journey immigrants take from western Europe to the United States, from familiar two dimensions into hyperreal three.  Strangely, in his description, the three dimensional world many of us call home he calls disorienting, a no-man’s land, at odds with reality.  As though the media image of America is more real than actually living there.  Or as though in life we shift naturally and effortlessly between cognition and dream.

English people fresh to the United States are often shaken to find themselves in hyperreality. The landscape, so familiar in two dimensions from television, movies and print, suddenly, unsettlingly, takes on a third. From my own first visit, which happened to be to Massachusetts, in 1972, I remember the hallucinatory character of the experience: my first three-dimensional armed cop, my first American rental car, a boatlike Chevrolet (and this was the season of Don McLean singing ‘American Pie’), my first phone booth, my first cocktail in the bar of a three-dimensional Howard Johnson’s, my first freeway exit, my first white-shingled house with picket fence. Living the movie, I was in that peculiar no man’s land, half-fact, half-fiction, where I remained for weeks, and where I can occasionally still find myself after 18 years of permanent residence here. No other country in the world has quite this disorienting effect on the British visitor or immigrant, this capacity to induce a semi-permanent jet-lagged high in which the newcomer feels himself to be standing at a slight but constant tangent from reality.”

~Just Two Clicks, Jonathan Raban, London Review of Books

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