Saturday, November 20, 2010

Being There

Everything has a deep significance to me now - allegorical insight. Probably because I've been reading Being There, a short little novel by, uh, Jerzy Kosinski on which the film was based (pretty closely). I always liked the movie, at least as long as I've seen it. And the book makes me write in short, expressive sentences.

And, before you ask, no! "Chauncey Gardiner" is not a genius. He's not anything at all, except a blank piece of paper. I have had to constantly remind myself of that - it's very enticing - and I have the luxury of dramatic irony. Others, I suppose, have to be careful not to read too into it - the book, I mean. But the book itself, to me, is... well, it's not a blank piece of paper - I check and keep on checking, just to be sure - but it is also not some big monstrous allegory who only shows its tip above the waterline. It is a fun, quirky little story with just about as much depth and meaning as a blank piece of paper.

I mean, sure, it was written by somebody, and that somebody had some idea of how he wanted things to go, what he thought of the tale as a whole. And I suppose some "meaning" does peak through. For example, I have placed the name "Chauncey Gardiner" in quotation marks, because that's just what some people call him, not his real name. His real name, according to the narrator, is Chancy - because, the narrator says, his whole existence, even birth, was a matter of chance. But something strikes me as allegorical about the name - I mean, he was struck by a limousine a few minutes after leaving his garden for the first time. He was taken in by a wealthy couple and widely lauded, and had "every man's fantasy" thrown at him (not bad for a swollen calf).

Yeah, yeah... it's all blind chance, but something still scares me about him. He gardened and watched TV, and later tapped into that, the only experiences he had, to figure a place for himself in his world. When EE wants to get frisky he'd rather watch TV (therefore he is not human).

And the "Old Man"... the nearly anonymous wealthy gentleman who raised "Chancy" from an early age... I kinda hate him too. Why did he create this monster, this scarily innocent, entirely dependent creature and then release it onto the world? Why, if I didn't know better, I'd call the Old Man the modern Frankenstein, and "Chance" the Post-modern Prometheus.

The book is very similar to the movie, at least in content, but where I was inclined to laugh at the movie, at the characters' over valuing of "Chauncey's" simple phrases and the Forrest Gump-like "being there" coincidences, somehow for me the book is much more somber. Maybe it is for the simple reason of past acquaintance - I already know the setup and the punch line. Maybe it's literary pretensions, or its sparse writing - maybe it's all the essays I know exist about it. At any rate, people have found an awful lot to believe in here, apparently - even high-end scholars who say they know what they're talking about.

Well, now, I never went too far in my schooling, and so far, have resisted as best I could the temptation to look too deeply, into life and this book. We humans probe everything - many of us have a tendency to over think things. Take, for example, my dachshund Tobey - my family and I have invented an entire mythology around his past life, and his current trials in preschool. We all sometimes speak in his voice - high squeaky, maybe innocent voice - in which "he" cusses and swears and details his homosexual relations with our other dog, a chow chow named Sparky. He's the only of our pets with a real, set in stone personality and voice, and we all have strong attachment to him. He means so much to us, yet he is just a dog! He has never done any of those things.

I leave you now with a picture of Sarah, a woman who, like Chancy, was once seriously considered as a candidate for Vice President. In this painting she has a stack of pancakes on her head.

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