AMERICAN INTERJECTION”

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Kauno “Versmės” vidurinės mokyklos referatas: “AMERICAN INTERJECTION”

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12B klasės mokinė

Violeta Vasilevičiūtė

1999

Kaunas

1. The New York scene reveals many traces of . unrest. Insecurity reigs. Almost everyone hates his job. Psychiatrists of all schools are as common as monks in the Thebaid. “Who is your analyst?” will disarm any interviewer; books on how to be happy, how to attain peace of mind, how to win friends and influence people, how to breath, how to achiece a cheap sentimental humanism at other people’s expense, hhow to become a Chinaman like Lin Yutang and make a lot of money, how to be a Baba’i or breed chickens all sell in millions. Religios houses of retreas merge imperceptibly into disintoxication clinics and private mental homes for the victims of traffic light and nervous break-down. ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’ slink like house detectives around the literary cocktail parties. A most interesting phenomenon is the state of mind apparent in Time, Life, The New York, and similar magazines. Thus Life, wwith its enormous circulation, comes out with excellentry written leading articles on the death of tragedy in American literature or the meaning of suffering, and a closer acquaintance reveals them to be staffed by some of the most interesting and ssensitive minds in that insensitivecity.

2. It is easy to make fun of these three papers, but in fact they are not funny. Although they have very large circulations indeed, they only just miss being completely honourable and serious journals, in fact ‘highbrow’. The American organism is not quite healthy. It indicates how very nearly New York has achieved the ideal of a humanist society, where the best of which an artist is capable is desired by the greatest number. Thurber’s drawings, Hersey’s Hiroshima, the essays of Edmund Wilson or Mary McCarthy, Time’s anonymous reviews, show that occasionally the gap is closed; when it is closed permanenty the dreams of Santayana will be near fulfilment.

3. But these anxiety-forming predicaments (Time-stomach is a common ttrouble) are for those who live in New York and have to earn they living. To the visiting non-competitive European all is unending delight. The shops, the bars, the women, the faces in the street, the excellent and innumerable restaurants, the glitter of Twenty-one, the old-world letharly of the Lafayette, the hazy view of the East River or Central Park over tea in some apartment at the magic hour when the concrete iceberg suddenly flare up; the impressionist pictures in oone house, the exotic trees or bamboo furniture in another, the chick of ‘old-fashioneds’ with their little glass pestles. If Paris is the setting for a romance, New York is the perfect city in which to get over one, to get over anything. Here the lost douceur de vivre is forgotten and the intoxication of living takes its place.

4. What is this intoxication? Firtly, health. The American diet is energy- producing. Health is not just the absence of disease, but a positive physical sensation. The European, his voice dropping a tone every day, finds himself growing stouter, balder, more extroverted and aggressive, conscious of a place in what is still, despite lip-service, a noisily masculine society. Then there is the sensation of belonging to a great nation in its present prosperous period of triumph. But, in addition to ‘feeling good,’ the Americans are actively generous and kind and it is this profusion of civilities which ravishes the visitor.

5. What are the alternatives? We may stay on and coarsen–many English writers do-into shapely executives or Park Avenue brandy philosophrers; we can fight like Auden for privacy and isolation, or grow bitter and fitzrovian in the ‘Village atmosphere’-or we can try elsewhere. Cape CCod or Connecticut have their devotees, but these havens are the rewards of success, not its incubator. Boston, last stronghold of a leisured class, offers a select enlighternment of which a contemporary Englishman is just downright unworthy. Washington has immense charm, the streets of Georgetown with their ilexes and magnolias and little white box-house are like corners of Chelsea or Exeter, but a political nexus offers few resoyrces to the artist who is outside the administration, and the lovely surrounding, are not places in which he can hope to earn a living.

6. Let us try California. The night place circles round La Guardia, leaves behind the icy water of the Sound and that sinister Stonehenge of economic man, the Rockefeller Center, to disappear over the Middle West. Vast rectangles of light occasionally indicate Chicago or some other well-planned city, till at six in the morning we ground in the snow of Omaha. As it grows light the snow-fields over the whole agricultural region of the Middle West grow more intricate, the Great Plais give way to the Bad Lands, poison ivy to poison oak, the sinuosities of the Platte rivers to the Hight Plais, the mountains of Wyoming, the Continental Divide.

7. San FFrancisco is a city of charming people and hideous buildings, mostly erected after the earthquake in the style of 1910, with a large Chinatown in which everything is fake-except the the Chinese-with a tricky humid climate (though sunny in winter), and a maddening indecision in the vegetation-which can never decide if it belongs to the North or South and achieves a Bournemouth compromise. The site is fantastically beautiful, the orange bridge, the seven hills, the white houses, the waterside suburbs across the Golden Gate give it a lovely strangeness, the sunset view from the ‘Top of the Mark’ is unique-but the buildings lack all dignity and flavour. Yet San Francisco and its surroudings, Marin Country, Berkeley, Sauselito with its three climates, San Mateo where lemon and birch tree grow together, probably represent the most attractive all-the-year-round alternative to Europe which the worl can provide. There is some fog in winter, but generally it is sunny. The sea is there, the mountains and a bathing pool in the redwood forest.

8. Hollywood and Los Angeles are well described by Isherwood. On the whole those who have loved the Mediterranean will not be reconciled here and those who care deeply for books can

never settle down to the impermanent world of cinema. Those who do not love the cinema have no business to come.

9. Well, maybe it does, perhaps Americans have destroyed their romantic wilderness on a grander scale than our own rodent attrition at the beauties of our countryside.

Literature:

M. Schorer, P. Durham, E. L. Jones “Harbrace college reader” Harcourt, Brace  World, Inc. New York / Burdingame

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