Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

WALKING WITH LEE AND ECO


It’s a bad week when we lose both Umberto Eco and Harper Lee.  Maybe it’s because I’m English that I don’t have the affection To Kill a Mocking Bird  that I feel I’m supposed to have. 



A few honest Americans I’ve talked to aren’t sure whether they really like the book or not.  It was drummed into them at an early age that this was such a good book, and such an important book, and they had to like it because.  For many it seems to have been the first "serious" book they ever read. 





Of course most of us in the English speaking world had never heard of Umberto Eco until The Name of the Rose, which first appeared in English in 1983.  It was obviously a very good thing, but also really hard to read.  The movie made everything easier. 




I’m actually much fonder of the essays in Eco’s How to Travel With a Salmon – and elsewhere he did an analysis (and a take down) of James Bond plots that even as a fan of Ian Fleming I find just wonderful.

I can’t swear that either Lee or Eco was a great walker but Lee did write this:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”  That’s a little bit Hannibal Lector isn’t it?  If we have only understand people by climbing into their skin and walking around, we’re never going to understand many people at all. Which is of course a completely reasonable point of view.  Here's Harper Lee on the movie set.


Eco wrote a book titled Six Walks in the Fiction Wood which contains this passage: "There are two ways of walking through a wood. The first is to try one of several routes (so as to get out of the wood as fast as possible, say, or to reach the house of grandmother, Tom Thumb, or Hansel and Gretel); the second is to walk so as to discover what the wood is like and find out why some paths are accessible and others are not. Similarly, there are two ways of going through a narrative text."

That strikes me as just dumb – surely there an infinite number of ways to walk through a wood, and an infinite number of ways to go through a text.  But this is Fine.  This is the joy of literature, right?  We can love and admire writers, and in some metaphorical way walk with them, but we don’t have to agree with them about everything, or in fact anything.

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