Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The End of Land's End

To a very few the name Land's End means more than a clothing brand or mail order catalogue. It is a place. A real place that while maybe not as important in its reality as it is in the fictional place it inspired. This week demolition crews began demolition of a literary monument. The Land's End mansion, an old home once visited by stars and the well-to-do during the height of the 20s. For those who aren't familiar with this old house, perhaps you are more familiar with what it inspired. Among the Hollywood crowd that would visit this place was a young man named F. Scott Fitzgerald and many would say, that the old mansion was the inspiration for his famous novel The Great Gatsby.
Ironically enough the day I found out about this, the day in which I am writing this, I was also wearing one of my beloved novel cover tees. Strangely enough today just happened to be a Gatsby day. Now when I read about the destruction of this mansion, I did what I am sure many readers did, I thought..."So what?" The destruction of an old place making room for new obscenely obtrusive million dollar homes. Nothing could be further from effecting my day to day life. However, beyond that first thought came a flood of others. "Why can we not venerate a fictional place as much as we do any other historical one?"
There is no denying that The Great Gatsby is an incredible work of literary fiction. Still just as enthralling and moving today, as it was at its 1925 debut. Now this isn't some cry to save every place that has any historical significance. I am not even protesting the destruction of this building to be honest. But it gave me pause to think about what we choose to venerate. If we even do that anymore. I mean the great writings of the early 20th century isn't exactly going to draw ratings away from the flood of reality tv shows. So in our current days of fast food and cheap entertainment. Why care at all?
In these cynical times its hard to find reason to. I hate to think it, and I know it will still be a far time off, but the literary world is dying. The great writers and poets were replaced by movie stars and tv personalities. Today we have rock idols and viral video superstars. Literacy in western society has seen a severe downturn. Whether we are choosing idiocy over knowledge is besides the point. This isn't about whether the new choices make for a dumber world. But it is about the fear of losing touch with the magic of literature. No longer do writers have the superstar status they once had. Authors disappear and works exist without the head that created them. Fetishistic objects without a maker. And soon enough they lose meaning, disappearing from whence they came. New writers come and go, taking part in Warhol's ever popular 15-minutes.
Will we remember the Land's End mansion beyond next month, or even next year? No, quite obviously we will not. I just hope that in the centuries to come we are not so easily persuaded to give up the creations these places and persons gave us.

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