Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fiction, Reality Distinct: THIS JUST IN

In the hierarchy of shameful acts, watching British period costume drama falls somewhere between lying to your mother and inspecting your nose hair in the driver's side mirror. Nevertheless, I am halfway through the Forsyte Saga, an over-orchestrated bodice-ripper comprising all the necessary ingredients of the genre. That is to say: wigs, illicit sex, architecture.

I ruin it by thinking. One is not supposed to think. Thinking is not at all in the spirit of the enterprise. Rather, one is supposed to vibrate, like a tuning fork, amidst the conflicting currents of passion.

And passion there is. Characters conceive unholy passions for characters who do not suit them; pain ensues. Characters topple irretrievably and inappropriately into love, as into a muddy retention pond; pain ensues. Feelings are unconquerable. Love is unconquerable. The only way to still your beating heart is to get run over by a carriage.

It all makes for fraught DVD viewing, but I wonder sometimes why we go to such lengths (constructing bustles, inserting establishing shots of sheep) to convince ourselves that what we feel has permanence, or at least gravitas. I know very few living, breathing human beings -as opposed to the simulacrums who populate screen and page- who are able to maintain grand passion in the face of indifference, time, distance, or the act of inserting dog shit into little plastic baggies. Real people forget. They move on. They get distracted by leaves, sunlight, music, wine. Real passion is a dull ache, a stiffness of the joints when it rains.

Hang on a minute. I just want to have a look at that interesting rock.

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