Remoteby David Shields
In this brilliant, provocative book, the author/narrator--a representative, in extremis, of the American obsession with beauty, celebrity, transmitted image--finds himself suspended, fascinated, in the remoteness of our new wall-to-wall mediascape--a remoteness that both perplexes and enthralls him. 57 photos.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1st ed
- Product dimensions:
- 5.55(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.87(d)
Read an Excerpt
Why We Live at the Movies
That is why we, snatched from sudden freedom, are able to communicate only through this celluloid vehicle that has immortalized and given a definite shape to our formless gestures; we can live as though we had caught up with time and avoid the sickness of the present, a shapeless blur as meaningless as a carelessly exposed roll of film. There is hardness and density now, and our story takes on the clear, compact shape of the plot of a novel....
Whenever my then girlfriend and I would go to plays they would inevitably strike us as odd and antediluvian in their absence of a mechanical framing device. We would spend entire afternoons and evenings in cineplexes, sneaking from movie to movie, lugging vats of popcorn and soda. We would always stay until the absolute end of the credits--the studio logo. The appeal for her was the "sensory overload" of image, music, and speech. What I love the most is that it's almost the only time I cry. The worse the movie, the more I cry.
Someone somewhere says that a darkened movie theater reminds us of being in the womb and that the images we see evoke the worlds we dreamed before we were born. This seems to me to be simply true: by far my favorite moment in a movie theater comes when the final trailer is over, the last house lights dim off, and the otherwise dormant right side of my brain takes over completely.
During trailers, my girlfriend and I would compete to see who could whisper first into the other person's ear the name of the movie beingpreviewed. I would almost always win, because I read movie reviews the way other people eat candy; I read movie reviews the way I eat candy. We were members of video stores all over Seattle, and video clubs all across the country. On long weekends we'd choose a film that bore watching and watch it on an endless loop, until it felt physically painful to walk around outside the environment of the movie.
She was a genius at following and predicting plot developments; I was a great one for tracing themes and analyzing motive: she would explain to me what happened, and I would explain to her what it all meant. Together, we felt like Fellini. At first our worst arguments would occur when I would start analyzing the movie the moment we walked out of the theater. Then our worst arguments would occur when one of us was preternaturally attracted to one of the stars of the movie. Daniel Day-Lewis, for instance. Annabella Sciorra, for instance. Daniel Day-Lewis, for instance.
Whenever we had people over for dinner, invariably we talked about movies all during dinner, then watched movies afterward. If people came over and somehow we managed not to watch a movie and our guests left before ten, sometimes she or I would race out to the video store and return with our fix. What was this jolt we came to crave so deeply? I'd read a book, then she'd read it, and we'd talk about it. Or, out on a drive, one of us would read a story aloud to the other. Or we'd read different books together in bed. It was nice, but it wasn't the same.
The glory of watching a movie with someone else is the illusion that the same experience is being simultaneously imprinted upon both participants' brains. It's very romantic, like simultaneous orgasm or double suicide. You (who are so different from me and who just saw what I saw) thought and felt what I thought and felt, didn't you? The crime you saw (your understanding of the crime you saw) didn't differ from the crime I saw (my understanding of the crime I saw), did it? She would always check to see if I had been crying.
The crucial moment in Hemingway's The Garden of Eden occurs when David and Catherine come to understand that everything they've been doing has been an attempt to keep alive, or perhaps to resurrect, the feelings they first had when they fell in love with each other. Movies, of course, are the synthetic injection: the whole world comes into focus and seems interesting and dangerous; our lives, which are not lived on the grand scale, are lived on the grand scale. Give me the heated-up myth, each of us practically prays to the screen: make life seem coherent and big and free of my qualifying consciousness.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book will be of interest to those who notice the little things in life, the things that are hard to miss but always get looked over. Saying what people want to say but may be too afraid to, Shields' book is bold and truthful about the world. The minute detail that instances of his own past and the cultural past of America that are investigated in this book are thought-provoking. A book that anyone could relate to, 'Remote' points out the absurdity of everyday life. The everyday things that we all notice but don't quite register are here in this American critique. A book for anyone who has a family, is American, is a subject of humanity will relate to and revel in this insightful quest for resolution, and feel comfort in the fact that we are not alone.