Saturday, March 28, 2015

Overread at the Counter: Stevenson Under the Palm Trees

Stevenson Under the Palm Trees

Alberto Manguel

It's a slim book and it seems to be mostly about an envisioned Stephenson slowly going mad in the South Pacific.  Starts off with his wife burning his manuscript and then there's a rape of some kind, and it's all very hallucinogenic and it reminds me of Borges but I really can't say why but it's pretty cool because it seems to confound the writer with his creation, you know, as if Stephenson were really the Jeckyll and the Hyde, but which one did what?   For me, I thought it'd be cool if Gaugin suddenly popped out from around the next tree but that would have just been silly now that I think about it.

For me, it all comes down to the discussion about whether we can truly translate ourselves from one culture to another, and whatever culture we are raised in, we keep.  It is a part of us.  While we can appreciate another culture, and even bathe or wallow around in it, our own will always be there under the surface, like its own Jeckyll/Hyde issue - not necessarily stating that one is good or evil or any sort of somesuch homilies, but more like the conflicting personality types of that most famous of Stevenson's tales.

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