The other night (in the middle of the night, as is usually the case) I was watching one of my favorite movies, Midnight in Paris. If you haven’t seen it, Owen Wilson plays a wealthy screenwriter who’s been selling out his entire career scribing schlocky, yet incredibly lucrative scripts. But all he really wants to be is a novelist.
A man conflicted between commerce and art, he tries to make sense of things by taking long walks through the streets of Paris. Then a magical thing happens. Every night at midnight, at a set location, a car comes and picks him up, and takes him back in time, to hang out with F. Scott Fitzgerald (and Zelda) and Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. It’s an amazing, soul-affirming experience for the character, who even manages to get some eye-opening literary criticism about his book (and his life) along the way.
Every time I watch this movie I think, wouldn’t that be awesome? And of course I know exactly whom I’d like to hang out with–Voltaire. Lewis Carroll. Dorothy Parker. The list is far too long for a blog. But great minds. Great wits. And living in cultures that revered their art. Or, perhaps more like it, could appreciate art for art’s sake–not just as commerce. (“Hey Dante, great concept, with this Inferno to Paradiso trilogy you got going on. But what’s your platform?”)
So then I start to wonder where where a “conflicted traveler” from 90, 100, 200 years from now might try and find just that in our world. Who are our shining stars? (Because Kim Kardashian has quite a “platform!”)
Have we become so obsessed pandering to our present that we’re losing sight of the concepts of “timeless” and “classic”?
What do you think people will still be reading in a hundred years? Is there anything we’re doing in the here and now that anyone will care about any more?
Tina Fey. Jon Stewart. Maybe Stephen King? I’d love to know what you think.