February 10, 2014 [The Grand Budapest Hotel]

My favorite kind of nostalgia is for a time I didn't live through. I read a book or see a movie (and another and another and another) or even listen to an old man talk about his childhood and there I am—not really, not at all, but comfortable in the feeling of unearned loss and yearning.

Well, maybe partially earned. After all, when Jane Eyre hides in her window-seat from those horrible step-siblings, the dark heavy curtain on one side, the winter outside the glass on the other, a book in her hand (or for a brief time her own thoughts in her head), I knew I had been there, done that. Or some version of it, maybe under my grandparents' dining-room table or alone in the yard—or simply alone in my room. Book or no book, I know what Jane wants and "remember" how to be there and do that.

The stories-within-stories of The Grand Budapest Hotel drop us like exploring children down the dumbwaiter of a hotel not in ruins—no, hiding beneath the ruins: the hotel under the hotel, like Rome. Freud compares our minds to that city: We wander around on the surface of the city we own, while downstairs the other Romes pile like hollow bricks, the miles-deep foundation for the one whose sidewalks we wear down—until a new one grows above us, after us. And the old ones, Freud insists, whisper in dreams to our city, speaking in tongues until we think we've learned a new language—but it's the mystery-talk, the-I-don't-know then the Now (and all the languages in between), explaining the rules of the Society of the Crossed Keys, turning me over in my sleep like a snoring Lobby Boy, sweets crammed in my mouth, heroes shot like dogs outside the train that refuses to stay, that denies the chance to make that imaginary past real, as real as Gustave H managed it, bullshit fake memory and all, golden and venerable.


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