Last month, as part of his long-running "Ten of the Best: Highlights From the World of Literature" series in The Guardian, John Mullan gave us "Ten of the Best Visits to the Cinema in Literature." The movie-going characters in these scenes come to life in novels by Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Kazuo Ishiguro, to name just three. Also on the list is the 2004 Man Booker Prize-winner The Line of Beauty by British novelist Alan Hollinghurst, one of my own personal favorites.
So what makes these scenes so great? And why couldn't one of our own movie-going protagonists make it onto a list like this someday?
When you read through Mullan's ten-of-the-best list below you'll notice that the scenes have more in common than just the fact that they're set inside a movie theater. The characters in these scenes act in unique and unpredictable ways, surprising the reader with their thoughts and reactions to what they see on the screen. The characters discover things about themselves or society based on the films they see or the audience reactions to them. The writing styles vary widely but in every passage the language sings in its own way, some crisp and others lush, but most rich in specificity and sensual detail. Following are John Mullan's "ten of the best" and his description of each:
John Mullan: "Ten of the Best Visits to the Cinema in Literature" guardian.co.uk, May 15, 2010