travels in hyperreality


'Some of the curiosities in the Ripley's Museums are unique; others, displayed in several museums at once, are said to be authentic duplicates. Still others are copies. The Iron Maiden of Nuremberg, for example, can be found in six or eight different locations, even though there is only one original; the rest are copies. What counts, hover, is not the authenticity of a piece, but the amazing information it conveys. A Wunderkammer par excellence, the Ripley's Museum has in common with the medieval and baroque collections of marvels the uncritical accumulation and every curious find; the difference lies in the more casual attitude toward the problem of authenticity. The authenticity the Ripley's Museums advertise is not historical, but visual. Everything looks real, and therefore it is real; in any case the fact that it seems real is real, and the thing is real even if, like Alice in Wonderland, it never existed.
For that matter, when the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft present the reconstructed laboratory of a medieval with, with dusty cabinets containing countless drawers and cupboards from which toads and poisonous herbs emerge, and jars containing odd roots, and amulets, alembics, vials with sinister liquids, dolls pierced with needles, skeletal hands, flowers with mysterious names, eagles' beaks, infants' bones: As you confront this visual achievement that would make Louise Nevelson envious, and in the background you hear the piercing screams of young witches dragged to the stake and from the end of the dark corridor you see the flames of the auto-da-fé flicker, your chief impression is theatrical; for the cultivated visitor, the skilfulness of the reconstruction; for the ingenuous visitor, the violence of the information – there is something for everybody, so why complain? The fact is that the historical information is sensationalistic, truth is mixed with legend, Eusapia Palladino appears (in wax) after Roger Bacon and Dr. Faustus, and the end result is absolutely oneiric.'


Travels in Hyperreality
Sub-chapter: Satan's Crèches
(Page 15-16)




Non-fiction and i don't have much of a relationship.
Not because of content but due to the stilted, droning language academics insist on using.
Something in my brain just switches off as soon as all the magic of language is ripped away and facts are all that remain.
Wonderful, interesting facts but because of their loveless presentation, i struggle to muster any desire to wade through chapters of stuffy language to attain them.
This is probably a failing on my part.
A laziness i can't excuse but why, oh, why must academia be so dreary? 
Shouldn't the aim of delivering information be to do it in a manner in which the reader will be desperate to know more?
Not to bore them to dry, desperate tears?
Surely?
I know this isn't true for all people.
Some love nothing more than burying themselves in a thicket of longwinded facts.
Just like i love nothing more than escaping reality in a fantastical adventure stuffed full of poetic language.
Each to their own and all.
The previous just does nothing for me.
But i have come across academic books in the past that have left me in raptures:




But aside from these?
I've been bored rigid.
Usually close to falling asleep before i've even read a chapter.
It's exactly the same when i've been confronted with a depressingly dull lecturer and not been able to focus or in fact stay awake.
(most of university)
So, i fully appreciate it when someone like Umberto Eco comes along and utilises his skills as both a writer of fiction and professor of semiotics and applies them to the conveying of facts.
Like Bill Bryson and Ken Robinson, he doesn't treat the reader as some spongelike automaton but as a living, breathing human being who soaks up information far more willingly and with greater effect by having a conversation.
He opens up a line of communication and somehow, the reader becomes part of the subject matter and no longer merely an observer.

In a sense it's akin to the remembrance of my favourite teachers throughout school.
Of which there are few.
They were never the stern, sadistic dictators who made my life a misery though.
Instead they were the ones that would sit in class and talk to me as if i wasn't a lesser mortal only there to torment them.
Not an itch they had to scratch away into a self-loathing oblivion but engage with.
Talk through the subjects we were trying to understand and find the parts that didn't force but inspired  my brain to pick up its lazy ass and think!

There should be more teachers like that.
And more academic books written by novelists.
I'd be so much more interested.
...
There's something really sad about that.

I worry about my intelligence almost constantly.
I worry that because of my intolerance to academic literature i'm missing out on something important.
I'd rather be hurtling down some unknown fictitious alleyway than cramming a few hundred facts into my head.
Fiction broadens my vocabulary and my imagination but what about my knowledge?
It's frightening how little i know.
Embarrassing at times.
But i just can't bring myself to inflict, what i see as, writing that is an affront to the english language upon my brain.
That alone is probably a failing in my intelligence but just how far can you be forced into learning?
Especially at the hands of your own motivation?
In my case, not far at all.