Thursday

The Short Goodbye to The Constant Viewer: Excerpts from an Imaginary Cinema Diary, 1876-Present


I started this project in 2006, and eventually posted well over 600 entries from the Diary. To be honest, the cliché "labor of love" always seemed inadequate to express my commitment to the Diary. But now that love's labors are to be lost, I realize how deeply I loved editing it. From that first moment in the camera obscura on the grounds of the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial to the almost-melancholy image of the Constant Viewer peering into an iPhone, I knew I was doing something that may have been far from necessary but was nonetheless important to me.

--And yes, to a reader here and there. I can't fully express my gratitude for those who've visited, maybe even read, and even, believe or not, commented on the entries. For those encouraging visits I am both thankful and humbled--not the least of which for that moment years ago when the late great Roger Ebert mentioned The Constant Viewer on his blog. Thanks, Roger; save me an aisle seat.

Before I sign off, let me direct you to a neglected project I started in 2013, The New Constant Viewer, which presents just one entry for each year of the Diary, beginning in 1895. I've made it to 1912, and I'll try to revive this project over the summer.

I'll close with some words from the Foreword, which I think still capture my abiding passion for the Constant Viewer and the never-ending story he refuses to remain un-viewed. Again, thanks for being Constant (or Intermittent) Viewers. I'll keep you posted on further stuff on my Facebook page (link on the right).

My relationship to this Diary is a lifelong, intimate one. In 1964 or so (I was about seven years old) I saw The Fly at a matinee, and I lay awake that night certain that, like Emily Dickinson, “I heard a Fly buzz,” and that Something was in the room with me. That something may well be this Diary, at once mysterious and exciting, a record of what may in the end be trivial--the act of moviegoing--but I’ve never let it go, I’ve kept it with me like a spare pair of eyeglasses you never really need but are happy to have--you know, in case you need to see something.

The Diary seems straightforward enough: The diarist goes to the movies, comes home, jots down impressions and associations and so on; but I find it difficult to describe exactly what he’s up to. Is he writing reviews? Reminiscences? Do the entries form a personal record, or, as with so many other diarists, is there a not-so-secret wish for it to be published as a public document? Well, as for the last, here I am publishing it; but what “it” is remains elusive. Maybe it’s simply a journal of seeing; the diarist is a moviegoer, and he writes to remember what he’s viewed. In doing so, he re-views it, so to speak, by lamplight and screenglow for a long time, and for a long time to come.

--Paul J. Marasa