Diversionary Readings: “Popcorn is OK. Popcorn is Good.”

Movie theater

“Before, I wandered as a diversion. Now I wander seriously and sit and read as a diversion.”

― Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

An excerpt from “Other People,” by Phillip Maughan, writing for Litro:

“We had taken to our red leather seats in the polished auditorium and were waiting for the screen to boot up when one of my companions took out a bag of crunchy popcorn. Horror of horrors. Relax, I thought. This is an indie comedy starring mumblecore sensation Mark Duplass and Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza: popcorn is OK. Popcorn is good.

And it was. A large part of what makes going to the cinema memorable is the added awareness that comes with sharing your experience with others. Being squashed into a room alongside ten, fifty, one-hundred strangers, is part of the process. There is no such thing as silence when you watch a film like that. In the absence of noise, there lingers the airborne buzz of expectation, the deep breaths of catharsis. With comedy, the pleasure of laughing is partly down to recognising that the lives of others must in some sense resemble your own. People choose their favourite characters, tense up to varying degrees and ooze compassion to the point that the air feels thick before the final credits. I took a handful of popcorn.”


Incidental discovery: while searching for the Walker Percy quotation, came across this colorful course syllabus from William Nericcio‘s (San Diego State University) English 525 course: LIT OF THE US 1960-PRESENT {Surveillance, Sexuality, & “Sinema” in the Americas, Post-1960; students reading Percy’s The Moviegoer are advised by Nericcio:

Don’t be deceived by the “slow” pace of this psychological novel; rather, allow your mind to mesh with the decidedly particular and peculiar resonances to be found in the mind of Binx Bolling.

His students also peruse another Gimlet Reader favorite, A Confederacy of Dunces. (Add it to your must-reads, now!) According to Wikipedia, William Anthony Nericcio, aka Memo, is a Chicano literary theorist, cultural critic, American Literature scholar, and Professorof English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University. Nericcio is also a graphic designer, creating book covers, film posters, and websites, most notably for SDSU Press and Hyperbole Books, where he oversees the production of cultural studies tomes. You can see the graphic designer in his syllabus – what a change from the over-photocopied list of required reading previous generations received! Here’s his blog.

Speaking of syllabi, you may be familiar with David Foster Wallace‘s much-published, rather OCD teaching materials. They’re housed at the estimable Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, and worth a peep. Of course, where there’s attention, there’s also dissent.  Airship Daily does some forensics on DFW’s syllabus, and cries “foul!”  (If you’re given to fudging, don’t let the appropriately-named Mikael Awake review your resume, ever.)



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