A friend of mine at the Observer, unaware of the fact that my normal prose style is blithe foolishness, asked me to write something about escapism and national tragedy, in response to the Newtown massacre. Comedy is more my beat than tragedy, but escapism I understand.
It did not take long for me to turn off Twitter, to shut down Facebook, to ignore NYTimes.com. The Internet can be marvelous—for real-time presidential debate snark or instant updates on the latest Lindsay Lohan trainwreck—but for tragedy, it is entirely too small. I could not bear to watch the reported death toll rise, to see the hand-wringing that came when the press realized it had misidentified the shooter, or to wade through the now-predictable howls for stricter gun control. So I did the natural thing. I turned off my computer, and started watching movies.
I watched Harper, a middling Paul Newman P.I. flick, the ever-delightful Shop Around The Corner and, at my girlfriend’s stern insistence, Love Actually. During the intermissions, I glanced at Twitter for news of the impending R.A. Dickey trade, taking pains to avoid reading about anything of actual importance. For seven or eight hours, Paul Newman chewed gum, Jimmy Stewart sold music boxes, Hugh Grant made puppy dog eyes. And the outside world stayed far outside.
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