Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sweet Home

While recuperating from the flu over Christmas I was stuck in the house. Not having anything else to do my wife and I doped up on cough syrup and walked down to the video store and purchased a bunch of old , older and not so old movies. All in all, sitting on a recliner, drinking Chinese medicinal tea and watching movies is not a bad way to spend a Christmas vacation, even if you are sick.

One of the movies we saw was The Big Fish which is a Tim Burtom film about a man who returns to Alabama for his fathers' death and funeral. The man's father was someone who enjoyed telling telling tall tales and overand over and over again. Over the years the fathers stories had alienated the son who grew tired of his fathers' embellishments. The father reminded me of my grandfather who had so many wild tales that he told over and over again until we all knew them as well he did. Unlike the son in the movie I never grew tired of the tall tales. What made the movie special was that at the funeral many of the people who the son thought were fictional creations actually came to pay their last respects at the funeral. There were the giant, the dwaven ringmaster - werewolf, the siamese twin Chinese singer and many people from the town of "Spectre." The son realized that perhaps his father's life was a little more eventful than he had come to believe.

Strange for a Tim Burton film, this one made me cry. I was lonely for the voice of my grandfather. I was homesick for Alabama.

It made me think. Is there any other State in the US that that can provoke such evocative images in literature as Alabama? It is a small and fairly insignificant place. Yet when you look at the literature that takes place in or is written by authors from Alabama it is a giant.

I did a search of the library of Congress and found just a huge list of things using Alabama as a Subject. I'm sure that other larger states have similar amounts but I was surprised by this number of entries.

What is truly interesting is how so much of the literature set in Alabama has the good and evil set so close together. Atticus Finch against the unjust court system in To Kill A Mockingbird. The happy little girl who gets polio in My Last Days as Roy Rogers, are two that come to mind. Forest Gump is another one that comes to mind. Helen Keller was from Alabama as was Bull O'Conner. I think that is how it is in our real lives. We all, each of us live double lives. We all have to deal with our predudice and yet are all concerned and wishing for the best for our fellows.

I think that one of the reasons that these images strike me so directly is that I see how close they come to mirroring my family experience. It is really strange. People who are not from Alabama have a negative image of the place. But, it is my experience that the image is false. Maybe it is just jealousy. Maybe ignorance. I don't know. All I really know is that the movie Big Fish made me want to move back to Alabama. But, my Chinese wife would rise up in armed revolt if I tried to move there.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The blogger who sometimes wishes he were in Alabama rather than Hong Kong

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