Archive for January, 2010
It's always with a certain degree of relief that I find myself coming back to Hemingway. I've usually read some impossibly metaphoric and muddied work beforehand - something that is always keen to tell you what to think, expositionally, and yet the clarity of such thought being far from adequate. The relief in Hemingway, at the beginning at least, comes from knowing that I won't be told to think a single thing - such is his discipline.
Adam Curtis does not shy away from controversial subject matters in his documentaries, nor does he hold back from taking a particular point of view, eschewing the idea of a neutral narrator. In his 2002, 4 part documentary series 'The Century of the Self' he explores the influence of public relations techniques developed by Edward Bernay's in the 1920's (which, in turn were influenced by his uncle Sigmund Freud) - in particular, their relationship to the evolving conception of the individual self in the twentieth century.
One can learn a great deal about a society by understanding its literature - especially its popular literature, and of the Victorian Era, one could argue that this book was perhaps one of the most popular. It was written at the height of empire - imperialism was not a dirty word, but was felt by all to be spreading modernity and civilisation across the globe. It was this sentiment that stood at the heart of the Victorian sensibility. King Solomon's Mines similarly has this sentiment at its core. Despite the fairly blatant imperialist actions of our leaders - it can hardly be said to be the spirit of our contemporary society. This is what makes reading this book so fascinating.