Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Twenty Years from Fargo

I have been reading ‘Innocents Abroad’.
It is an unabashed celebration of a type of human that has been insufficiently celebrated in fiction. It is about that kind of boorish American who calls every foreign guide 'Ferguson' and every Arab village 'Jacksonville', compares every body of water unfavourably to Lake Tahoe, who sneaks ashore in contravention of quarantine regulation, tries to break into the Acropolis after hours, climbs into people’s gardens to steal grapes, and makes jokes at the expense of the quaint foreigners whenever possible. We have lost the ability to celebrate that sort of behaviour. We just deplore it now. And indeed, it is very irresponsible and naughty.
But gosh, it does sound like a dreadful lot of fun. I only have vague memories of reading ‘Innocents Abroad’ before, but it was two of Mark Twain’s other books about Americans stranded among quaint foreigners, ‘A Tramp Abroad’ and ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Courtthat taught me how I ought to behave when abroad. And I think, though maybe we didn’t quite measure up to Mark Twain’s standard, that we three representatives of the brash New World didn’t do such a bad job on our lark through the Northern Hemisphere twenty years ago.
We didn't compare Lake Como to Lake Tahoe, no sir, but as I recall we did scramble over a six-foot wall into somebody's garden there.

I wanted to segue from this unpromising beginning to some theological observations based on another passage in 'Innocents Abroad', but to do so I needed to link to an article by celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach that I can't find any more. Oh well. I expect it will turn up.

1 comment:

Marco said...

That's funny - I have the photo here of innocents climbing walls, but I wasn't there :(