Joanne Jacobs links to a bizarre story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about "designer kidnapping", in which people pay to be mock-kidnapped. (The permalink may not work: the title is 'Thrills' and it's the third item from the top in yesterday's posts.)
In Jacobs' comment section, Roger Sweeny writes:
In college in the late '60s I remember seeing a double bill of "underground films" "Greetings" and "Hi, Mom." Starring, as I remember, a very young Robert DeNiro. I think it was "Hi, Mom" that involved a group of people getting kidnapped. Fairly far along in the movie, the kidnappers reveal to the group that the "play" is over and we hear one of the victims say, "Clive Barnes [or whoever the NYT theater critic was then] was right. This is an exceptional evening of theater."
There is a very similar idea, though not restricted to kidnapping, even earlier in G. K. Chesterton's collection of short stories, The Club of Queer Trades (1905). It is Chapter 1, "The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown", and is available on the web here.
Here is a slice to give the flavor. Mr. Northover, the organizer, is explaining the game to Major Brown, who has been involved by mistake, confused with the actual target, a Mr. Gurney-Brown -- Rupert Grant is a detective:
"Major," said he, "did you ever, as you walked along the empty street upon some idle afternoon, feel the utter hunger for something to happen--something, in the splendid words of Walt Whitman: `Something pernicious and dread; something far removed from a puny and pious life; something unproved; something in a trance; something loosed from its anchorage, and driving free.' Did you ever feel that?"
"Certainly not," said the Major shortly.
"Then I must explain with more elaboration," said Mr Northover, with a sigh. "The Adventure and Romance Agency has been started to meet a great modern desire. On every side, in conversation and in literature, we hear of the desire for a larger theatre of events for something to waylay us and lead us splendidly astray. Now the man who feels this desire for a varied life pays a yearly or a quarterly sum to the Adventure and Romance Agency; in return, the Adventure and Romance Agency undertakes to surround him with startling and weird events. As a man is leaving his front door, an excited sweep approaches him and assures him of a plot against his life; he gets into a cab, and is driven to an opium den; he receives a mysterious telegram or a dramatic visit, and is immediately in a vortex of incidents. A very picturesque and moving story is first written by one of the staff of distinguished novelists who are at present hard at work in the adjoining room. Yours, Major Brown (designed by our Mr Grigsby), I consider peculiarly forcible and pointed; it is almost a pity you did not see the end of it. I need scarcely explain further the monstrous mistake. Your predecessor in your present house, Mr Gurney-Brown, was a subscriber to our agency, and our foolish clerks, ignoring alike the dignity of the hyphen and the glory of military rank, positively imagined that Major Brown and Mr Gurney-Brown were the same person. Thus you were suddenly hurled into the middle of another man's story."
"How on earth does the thing work?" asked Rupert Grant, with bright and fascinated eyes.
"We believe that we are doing a noble work," said Northover warmly. "It has continually struck us that there is no element in modern life that is more lamentable than the fact that the modern man has to seek all artistic existence in a sedentary state. If he wishes to float into fairyland, he reads a book; if he wishes to dash into the thick of battle, he reads a book; if he wishes to soar into heaven, he reads a book; if he wishes to slide down the banisters, he reads a book. We give him these visions, but we give him exercise at the same time, the necessity of leaping from wall to wall, of fighting strange gentlemen, of running down long streets from pursuers--all healthy and pleasant exercises. We give him a glimpse of that great morning world of Robin Hood or the Knights Errant, when one great game was played under the splendid sky. We give him back his childhood, that godlike time when we can act stories, be our own heroes, and at the same instant dance and dream."
Now go read the whole thing. (I also thought of titling this post 'Nothing New Under The Sun'.)Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 17, 2002 09:46 PM