[lit-ideas] Re: Bum literature

  • From: Teemu Pyyluoma <teme17@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 18 May 2004 09:16:12 -0700 (PDT)

Chaplin's films fit perfectly. As director Aki
Kaurismäki put it: "Movies are very simple. You're
cold, you're hungry and lonely. Then you meet someone,
find a warm place and something to eat." I don't
remember if he was speaking of his own films or those
of Chaplin, but the basic tension is right there.

The problem is just that few authors can make anything
out of such a simple story and end up in complicated
discussion of how one became a bum in a first place,
or lenghty reflections on then and now, such as the
relative pains of poverty as opposed to chains of
civilization (perhaps with a reference to deep-rooted
bourgeois belief that drunken, lazy, and sexually
uninhibited poor in fact do have more fun.)

Thus the bum is not redeemed, because being a bum in
the first place is the tension that drives the story.
But then there is Celine's Journey to the End of the
Night, where the main character drifts from WWI
battlefields to Ford Factories in Detroit, and onward
to French colony in Africa. Nothing is redeemed, but
the bum isn't any worse than the others, maybe just
more honest.

Helsinki, Finland

--- andy amago <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> I was driving along the other day listening to
> oldies.  The song was King of the Road by Roger
> Miller about the drifter.  While neither demonizing
> nor glorifying the difter, the song nevertheless
> ascribed no redeeming qualities to him at all.  In
> the many "traveling songs" or road literature such
> Kerouac (sp?) one gets the sense that these are
> young, ultimately upwardly mobile people going
> through a phase or searching for the perfect wave,
> etc..  Likewise in Don Quixote the protagonist is on
> a mission.   Roger Miller, however, is singing about
> an out and out bum.  I wondered at that point about
> other bum literature.  Not the Joe Hill-type high
> minded working class but unredeemed bums.   The only
> character I can think of is the Ratzo Rizzo
> character from Midnight Cowboy.  Possibly
> Huckleberry Finn and Jim, who drift fairly
> aimlessly.  Is there, in fact, a literature around
> the dregs of society?  Trainspotting perhaps (the
> movie)?
> Andy
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