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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Greene: Too Much Information


Like most middle aged people, I’ve kept busy in my life meeting people, learning things and generally bustling around. My head is full of names, dates, places, events, anniversaries and details.
Perhaps too full: it’s as if my memory occasionally goes through a trash compactor, and a kind of elision takes place. People and things with similar names sort of, well, smush together.

This can be very frustrating for all involved, especially when talking with my husband, whose eidetic memory seems to retain the name of every character actor who ever joined Equity and carried a spear. I’m lucky that my mental smush-ups amuse him more often than not. And for us, it was but a short step from my malapropisms to a conscious riff on what might be considered one of the many small indignities of advancing age.

For example, recently he came up with a cross between that great and dour German war movie, Das Boot, and the stunningly shallow American sitcom, from the 1970s, Love Boat.

The comic possibilities are many: Picture the tension building in the German sub as the crew works frantically to elude Allied detection and the sure destruction that will follow. When the suspense gets too great, cut to a rousing game of ping-pong in which characters meet and then traipse off to enjoy shipboard romances. Surely, our own lives are harassing enough without all that tension. Let Captain Stubing sort it out.

Similarly, when my spouse is groping for the name of a movie Sally Field played in, it’s not my fault if both “Lincoln” and “The Flying Nun” come to mind. I know full well that the latter was another TV sitcom, which aired in the late 60s into 1970. But it seems to me that Mary Todd Lincoln could have used some of Sister Bertrille’s lighthearted flying ability – made possible by the starched cornette that served as her wings. Field’s performance in Lincoln was a tour de force, but I’d think she’d get tired of all that hand wringing.

I admit that this exposes me as thoroughly middle brow - and maybe not even that lofty. But seen correctly, this could be a trope toward some sort of cultural balance. As a twenty something I would try to get my father to go see films by my then favorite director, Ingmar Bergman. Dad would put up a cheerful and usually successful fight to not go. They were too dour, too gray, too miserable! He’d much rather see a comedy – say, one with attractive actresses and witty banter – preferably by Noel Coward.)

I was shocked that he wouldn‘t want to see a great masterpiece of deep feeling. Then, I was young, hungry for all life had to offer. Now, however, I’m perhaps a little more discerning, and usually prefer laughter to having my nose artfully rubbed in Nordic alienation.

After all, dreary I can get for free.

Stephanie Greene is a free-lance writer now living with her husband and sons on the family farm in Windham County.
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