curate to create



When Teller was in high school, he had a strange and pivotal teacher named D. G. Rosenbaum, an actor and magician who looked diabolical, with a black goatee and pince-nez. Rosey, as the kids called him, smoked black cigarettes and liked to crack raw eggs into his milk shakes. One snowbound afternoon, when his classroom was nearly empty, Rosey read a short story to those few students before him, including an enraptured Teller: “Enoch Soames,” by Max Beerbohm, written in 1916.

In the story, Beerbohm relates the tragic tale of Soames, a dim, hopeless writer with delusions of future grandeur. In the 1890s, Beerbohm recounts, Soames made a deal with the devil: In exchange for his soul, Soames would be magically transported one hundred years into the future — to precisely 2:10 P.M. on June 3, 1997 — into the Round Reading Room at the British Museum. There, he could look at the shelves and through the catalogs and marvel at his inevitable success. When Soames makes his trip, however, he learns that time has almost erased him before the devil has had the chance. He is listed only as a fictional character in a short story by Max Beerbohm.

Thirty-four-and-a-half years after that snowy reading by his satanic-looking teacher, and accepting the large risk that he might be the only person in the world who cared about an old short story called “Enoch Soames,” Teller flew to England ahead of June 3, 1997.

As it turned out, there were about a dozen people in the Round Reading Room that afternoon — a dozen people who had been so struck by that short story at some point in their lives, they too had decided to make the trip to London. There was a woman from Malibu named Sally; there was a short, stocky Spanish man; there was a slender woman wearing pale green. And at ten past two, they gasped when they saw a man appear mysteriously out of the stacks, looking confused as he scanned empty catalogs and asked

unhelpful librarians about his absence from the files. The man looked just like the Soames of Teller’s teenage imagination, “a stooping, shambling person, rather tall, very pale, with longish and brownish hair,” and he was dressed in precise costume, a soft black hat and a gray waterproof cape. The man did everything Enoch Soames did in Max Beerbohm’s short story, floating around the pin-drop-quiet room before he once again disappeared into the shelves.

“For some reason,” Sally from Malibu said, “I’m having to fight tears.”

And all the while, Teller watched with a small smile on his face. He didn’t tell anyone that he might have looked through hundreds of pages in casting books before he had found the perfect actor. He didn’t tell anyone that he might have visited Angels & Bermans, where he had found just the right soft black hat and gone through countless gray waterproof capes. He didn’t tell anyone that he might have had an inside friend who helped him stash the actor and his costume behind a hidden door in the stacks. Even when Teller later wrote about that magical afternoon for The Atlantic, he didn’t confess his role. He never has.

Read more:

An amazing article about magic.

Stories, memory, and pilgrimage matter. Always.

09-21-12 168   via → laughingacademy   source: summerjames
#magic and beauty and the painful wonder of being human #those brief moments where one person #a stranger or friend #changes your life with the power of imagination and curiosity #this is unbelievable to me #extraordinary #this is like halloween and disneyland and santa and the muppets and the transformative nature of fiction #and the promise of adulthood from youth and the nostalgia of youth from adulthood #and seeing pictures of people you love when they were little #and the incredible power of imagination rolled up into one #i feel like the little girl in the disney world commercial #when she meets mickey #and she says #'i've been waiting my whole life to meet you' #humans are sometimes the best
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