July 24th, 2008

Snobism, Again

On Tuesday when Brent and I went to see The Dark Knight (not as good as I had hoped it would be, but I am not going to go into that right now) at the IMAX theater in Dublin, we got stuck in the shopping center. We did eventually meander our way out through the chain stores and chain restaurants to a large main road and discovered that we were across the street from a housing development that looked very much like the shopping center itself. The colors of the buildings, the plants in the landscaping, the grouping of the structures echoed each other across the thoroughfare. It was a little like stumbling across a real life example of two documents created from the same Word template.

And I discovered, not for the first time, that I am a snob. Worse, I am the kind that judges lives based on their appearance.

I don’t live in a housing development. The whole idea of home owners’ associations gives me hives, although those might bring property values down, so I’d have to suppress them before attending meetings. I have always been willing to live down the street from a garishly purple house because that is much better than living in the third of five identical houses, none of which can display any variation outside the carefully prescribed range of “normal.” I assume, wrongly, that the lives lived out inside these careful exteriors must be boring and repetitive as well.

In the Chronicle today, there is an article about making the inside of cookie-cutter homes interesting. (I have a whole different issue with interior designers, which I will save for another time…) I was rebuked. Not by the pictures of the interior, which looked entirely too well-dressed to me, but by the reminder that it’s the inside of the cookie that’s important, as Peter, Paul, and Mary would say. Or, in other words, from an interview with William Trevor, that I copied into my commonplace book some time before I started dating things I put in there, “I was listening to a critic on the wireless yesterday being very rude about David Storey’s new play, and he was saying that he couldn’t believe that the central character was meant to be an artist, because there was no creativity coming out of him. I thought that really was rubbish. There’s no need for the man to show his creativity. There’s nothing to show. A very staid, ordinary, flannel-suited man can be just as good an artist. Well, at least that’s my view—a worthless one, but that’s what I think.”

I will simply say: may all the lives lived out in those houses as alike as the cells of honeycomb turn out to be as full of sweetness. And may I learn to have a little more sweetness in my own disposition.