Summary: 'Marrying Absurd'
Geoff Dyer travels to Cambodia, Emily Malone to Brazil, and Joan Didion to Las Vegas, Nevada. They all share a common experience - they are travellers, and authors, they come bearing a western perspective and they deal with the reality and effect of violence. When an author from a privileged background, defined in this instance as a background free from governmental or militarized violence, travels to a country or place affected by violence, do they have a responsibility to portray the effect that violence has had on that place? All three texts - “Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it,” “Marrying Absurd” and “Mr. Tingler” share one aspect; all three essays acknowledge the reality of …show more content…
Each author is, first and foremost, is detailing how they, personally, experienced travelling in a foreign place. This is called cultural relativism - the idea that an individual explains things to others within the frame of the culture of that individual. Basically, tying foreign things to the familiar in an attempt to de-foreignize them. The genre requires a certain degree of self-awareness and a perspective unique to each author. If they choose to acknowledge their privilege within their writing, it serves to demonstrate their integrity. It means that the author realizes the differences between themselves and their background and the place that they are discovering.
Three authors explore the unfamiliar, but one stays close to home. “Marrying Absurd” by Joan Didion explores themes of marriage and violence. Ironic, and at times scathing, “Marrying Absurd” explores love and desperation through Las Vegas - a city known for its exploitation of love. Love, or more specifically, the act of marriage has been turned into an industry by Las Vegas, and they turn a large profit with this promise of expedited (and, of course, romantic) wedding services. Didion is an observer of this culture of excess and commercialization at the time of the draft for the Vietnam …show more content…
Violence it is a prevailing thread, interweaving in and out of the themes of privilege throughout each piece. Privilege, and its subsequent benefits demonstrate the importance of awareness for authors who come to such a background and attempt to portray it truthfully.
“Marrying Absurd” is set in Las Vegas during the Vietnam war, as men are confusing terror for love. Emily travels to “Brazil 's most violent major city” (Lonely Planet), Geoff Dyer to Cambodia, which was home to one of the most violent genocides in modern history. Each author details the influence of violence on a place through foreign eyes and a westernized perspective - one that is usually built on a lifetime of growing up with little exposure to militarized violence; there is an inherent violence in the telling of people’s lived violent histories by people who have not experienced these histories.
One could argue, for example, that this type of portrayal, if not done correctly, can be detrimental both to the country and to the author, who risks appearing as if the violence experienced in these places is the most important or unique aspect of a country (such as Cambodia) with a rich and prevailing culture. Ignoring the very real facts of violence can, however, make the author seem as if they are indifferent or don’t care about the reality of violence, as of they are living in a