The Empty Chair Speaks

The consequences of being in over one's head are hilariously illustrated in the noir classic The Third Man (1949, directed by Carol Reed -- not, as some believe, Orson Welles.) Pulp-western writer Holly Martins, arriving in post-WWII Vienna to take up a job his childhood buddy Harry Lime had promised him, is left to his own devices after Lime dies under mysterious circumstances.  Needing cash and a plane ticket home, Martins agrees to deliver a lecture on the modern novel to a local cultural association.  A writer who considers Zane Grey his literary hero cannot be expected to know much about James Joyce and stream-of-consciousness techniques.  Though clueless, Martins nevertheless gives it his best shot, hemming and hawing until the snobbish audience gets bored and leaves -- except for a couple of thugs in trench coats. Now, imagine that Martins had shared the stage with a literary critic -- e.g., Joyce expert Harry Levin, taking turns to answer questions from the...(Read Full Article)

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