What I See, part 3, by Karen Joy Fowler
Just I suspected, the world without Chalmers Johnson is a much colder place. I’m now home from two weeks in icy London where it snowed on our final day—big soft flakes that made me remember my childhood winters in Indiana, how silently the snow would come and how complete the transformation would be. I had a bit of adventure on my way out of town, slipping over the sidewalks in my laughably inappropriate California shoes, but then a reasonably easy ride to Heathrow, speeding along through underground tunnels. Public transportation! I miss it already.
I did not on this trip see foxes in the streets nor parakeets in the commons, two highlights from my last visit. In the absence of real wildlife, my husband and I went to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit at the Natural History Museum. It was awesomely fabulous. Hugh liked the underwater photographs best, but I was all about the birds. Not that I don’t like fish. But flying is the super-power on my Christmas list this year.
I was forced by circumstances off the internet for about a week, which was bracing and medicinal. Still I spent much of the trip reading Bill Bryson’s book Notes from a Small Island. This means that I spent much of my time too engrossed in reading about vacationing in Britain to notice that I was actually there, doing that. Which is exactly the thing I meant to work on in this blog—the actually being places part.
But the people I met in restaurants and subways were not so colorful as the ones Bryson was meeting, and I missed his witty company whenever I was forced to do without. John Crowley, on a trip to read at UC Santa Cruz, mentioned this exact thing to me—the syndrome of being more moved and engaged by the representation of the thing than by the thing itself.
As conditions go, this one sounds pretty harmless. And then I read recently, (somewhere on the internet so it must be true) that people prefer the reality of reality tv to actual reality, which I think must be partly a preference for plot, for a clear narrative. And also explains why so many prefer Fox news to actual news. Look what I just did—from harmless to poisonous in one quick paragraph.
I hear that it’s still snowing in London. I hear the winter wonderland enchantment is already wearing thin.