Escape From New York by Zadie Smith, 2015
The magic trick:
Finding comedy somewhere among 9/11
The list of post-9/11 art is not short. It’s fair to say that day fundamentally changed the way our society operates, so it’s not surprising then that it features prominently in our society’s art.
However, it is rare to find a piece of post-9/11 art that successfully pulls off comedy. “Escape From New York” is among that unlikely bunch.
Hold on, though. It gets even more unlikely as we keep discussing it. The story details a fictional (maybe?) exodus from Manhattan via car following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade towers.
Who is in the car? you ask.
Let’s see. How about Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson.
And that’s quite a trick on Smith’s part.
“Bullshit!” Marlon said. “You think Weinstein’s not on a plane right now? You think Eisner’s not on a plane?”
“Marlon, in case you’ve forgotten,” Elizabeth said, “I am also a Jew. Am I on a plane, Marlon? Am I on a plane?”
Marlon groaned. “Oh, for Chrissake. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Well, how the hell did you mean it?”
Michael bit his lip. The truth was, these two dear friends of his were both closer friends to him than they were to each other, and there were often these awkward moments when he had to remind them of the love thread that connected all three, which, to Michael, was so obvious; it was woven from a shared suffering, a unique form of suffering, that few people on this earth have ever known or will ever have the chance to experience, but which all of them—Michael, Liz, and Marlon—happened to have undergone to the highest degree possible. As Marlon sometimes said, “The only other guy who knew what this feels like got nailed to a couple of planks of wood!” Sometimes, if Elizabeth wasn’t around, he would add, “By the Jews,” but Michael tried not to linger on these aspects of Marlon, preferring to remember the love thread, for that was all that really mattered, in the end.
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