Re: El jardin de los senderos que se bifurcan
and Jeremy Thorpe losing his head and getting into all that hot water. That was the Seventies. - Mary Jackson
I was waiting for that.
Yes, Jeremy Thorpe's end may have come in the 1970s, but his political heyday was the late 1960s. There was still mail delivery twice a day when I lived off the Trumpington Road and the newspapers often made mention of Jeremy Thorpe. Encounter was still being published by Lasky and Spender; Paul Johnson was still a Socialist and had replaced Kingsley Martin, a true believer, as the editor of The New Statesman, no rock stars had yet moved in to Virginia Water or broken crockery and beds at The Dorchester, God was in his English heaven, and all was right with the world.
You know perfectly well that some of those people I listed flourished (as in “floruit”) over more than one decade. Betty Boop -- late 1920s but also the early 1930s. Or the Kray brothers, sounding a different note. Had I mentioned Joan Greenwood and her inimitable voice, which "decade" would I put her in? And even if a particular film can easily be assigned a year and hence a decade -- Laburnum Grove or The Man in the White Suit, or The Bells of St. Trinian's or Kind Hearts and Coronets or Wee Geordie -- what decade would be the one in which to place Alec Guinness or Alistair Sims, or for that matter Carol Reed or Alfred Hitchcock, or even Ealing Studios, or J. Arthur Rank, with that giant gong as unforgettable anacrusis, in order to be quite fair?
Whether you think the year in which Jeremy Thorpe left politics should define his decade (was Churchill to be identified most with the 1940s, or 1950s? Surely the 1940s) or not, those rapid-fire paragraphs, pencil-sketching alternative decades and countries, made a point: one can create a plurality of plausible pasts as of plausible presents or futures (which accounts for the appropriation of the well-known Borges title). The reader to whom I first replied assumed I had grown up in the United States in the 1950s. But assumptions about another person based on what that person lets drop, with mystification aforethought, on the Internet or, for that matter, in life, can be shaky indeed.
Posted on 11/26/2006 10:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald