Culture

'But in the Movie it Said if You Rub the Lamp a Genie Comes Out...'

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Editor’s Note: Since March, PJ Lifestyle has been highlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island, featuring interviews and story excerpts. Click here to see our collection of 27 so far. To learn more check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” Also see Bellow’s cover story at National Review: “Let Your Right Brain Run Free.” 

1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?

My tastes are old-fashioned.  Some of my favorite authors are Cervantes, Swift, Boccaccio, Pope, Doyle, Poe, and Orwell.  Some of my favorite books (as one might expect from the preceding list) include Don QuixoteGulliver’s TravelsThe Decameron, and 1984.  And some of my favorite films are The SearchersCasablancaVertigoBringing Up BabySingin’ in the RainIt’s a Wonderful Life, and a number of Buster Keaton comedies.

2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?

Conservative.

3. Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?

Aristophanes, Machiavelli, Jonathan Swift, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, The Federalist, Alexis de Tocqueville, Russell Kirk, Thomas Sowell, and Antonin Scalia, among others.

4.  What are your writing goals?

To persuade my contemporaries, and if I cannot persuade them, then to leave a record so that future generations perhaps may be persuaded.

5. Where can people find/follow you online?

Nowhere, yet.

6. What’s your craziest hobby/pastime/interest?

All of them seem sane to me.

Check Out Joseph Magrisso’s “The Liberal Genie” at Liberty Island:

Many, many generations ago there existed a happy, colorful land named San Francisco. In a tranquil corner of this land–adjacent to a coffeehouse specializing in hashish confections–was an old secondhand bookshop. It was unassuming, yet beguiling, with its euphonious chimes that greeted the patrons at the door, its atmosphere of sweet incense, and its soft couches, which offered many coffeehouse patrons a comfortable place to slumber as they dreamed of revolution. It was a charming shop–quite literally, since The Proprietress had decorated it with charms and artifacts collected from peoples among whom she had traveled to witness firsthand the evils of cultural imperialism.

Ah, The Proprietress! She was a pleasant lady. Though she was getting on in years, she was still as free a spirit as she had been in her youth, allowing her long, long hair, liberated and unrestrained, to fall to her waist, just like her breasts. It was on one summer evening in 1968, when she was raising her consciousness, that she had first conjured the vision of her bookshop. It was to be a pansophic oasis–a home of all learning and wisdom, where those who craved Enlightenment could congregate, and, together, imbibe knowledge and herbal beverages.

And so it turned out to be. In her quest to collect all of the world’s knowledge, The Proprietress had traveled far and wide, experiencing all that was to be experienced, and collecting as many books as she could, as well as the artifacts with which she decorated her shop. In the interests of free inquiry, this admirable bibliophile had made sure to assemble works that ran the philosophical gamut, from Adorno to Zizek. This veritable Solomon’s House gave the inquisitive mind access to all those thinkers who were worth reading, including Brecht, Dewey, Heidegger, and Althusser; and Marx, Foucault, Fanon, and Marcuse. And Lenin and Benjamin; Mead and Said; Bhabha and Derrida; Sartre and Barthes; and Gramsci, Trotsky, and Chomsky. And let’s not forget the ladies: Luxemburg, Beauvoir, Friedan, Sontag, Franken. This was all that the truly educated individual ever needed. For decades, the bookshop fulfilled its purpose of fostering Enlightenment, and all was well in this quiet corner of San Fran.

Yet, gradually, things changed. As the years rolled by, fewer and fewer people patronized the humble shop. Eventually, even The Students–who had once been its most loyal patrons–stopped coming. What had happened? Scholars have reached the consensus that the patrons, all of whom were specimens of the political animal known as The Liberal, had evolved beyond their fellow human beings, and, indeed, had grown so superior–had reached such an advanced stage of Enlightenment–that one could, without exaggeration, declare them to be practically perfect in every way, like Mary Poppins. As the fully Enlightened, they no longer needed to read. After all, why read when you already know everything?

This development left our poor Proprietress in a terrible mess. She was heavily in debt, and she had no income, so–sad but stoical–she determined that she would sell her beloved shop. Alas, because the demand for books had disappeared, no one wanted to buy a bookshop. In fact, the only potential buyer was a bizarre middle-aged Dutchman who wanted to put up a novelty shop, for which there was plenty of demand. And so the bookshop was sold. Because The Proprietress had no space in her home to store all of the books and artifacts, she decided that, in the last weeks of her shop’s existence, she would sell them; and, if no one wanted to buy her treasures, so be it–she would just give them away.

There were few takers. But just a few days before the poor shop’s liquidation, a man and his daughter sauntered inside–which had grave implications for the future of the human race.

As the man stood at the checkout counter, paying for a Michael Moore romance novel, he asked his daughter–a cute little cherub who had just turned four–if she would like to have any of the exotic, mysterious objects that the kind old lady was selling. He picked up his daughter and sat her on the counter, so that she could more closely examine those on the shelf, and choose the one she wanted. The Little Girl scanned the collection for only a few seconds when her eyes encountered an object that she had recently seen in a cartoon that she came to hold in very high esteem. She pointed at it and exclaimed, “Genie!”

The Proprietress and her customer laughed heartily.

“No, no, sweetie,” said The Proprietress, “that’s just an old oil lamp. There’s no genie inside.”

“But in the movie it said if you rub the lamp a genie comes out,” protested the child.

“Oh, but that was just a movie,” The Proprietress replied with a chuckle. “It wasn’t real. We can’t have such superstitions, not in the modern world we can’t. We must be rational.”

“Ma’am,” interjected the equally amused father, “you mean to tell me that you’ve never even tried to rub it yourself–I mean, just for kicks?”

“Oh, goodness, no!”

“Not even once, just to get it off your chest? You must’ve thought about it.”

“Certainly not!”

“Not even just to clean it?”

“No, I’ve never, ever rubbed it!”

“Well, then we’ll just have to find out for ourselves, won’t we pumpkin?”

The man then bought the lamp, and handed it to his overjoyed daughter, who feverishly rubbed it until her diminutive palm grew red and began to sting. Nothing emanated from the dingy old lamp–nothing at all, not even a puff of smoke.

“I guess that’s that,” The Proprietress said.

For the father and daughter, the rest of the afternoon was entirely unexceptional. They went back home, where the parents had a nice laugh about the episode with the lamp–“The genie might just be very shy, hon,” the mother posited–but The Little Girl was not the slightest bit amused. She was sullen even during dinner, when she barely touched Daddy’s signature tofu sushi. She even volunteered to go to bed early that night, so upset was she about how the day had unfolded.

As she lay on her bed, cozily wrapped in her Inconvenient Truth sheets, and on the verge of a most peaceful and refreshing slumber, The Little Girl heard a strange whistling sound, and–more out of curiosity than of fear–she sat up and looked around her room, searching for the source of the strange sound. Her head turned toward her nightstand, and there she saw a man–a somewhat skinny and awkward bronze-complexioned man, crowned with a snow-flecked buzz cut, and wearing a long-sleeved shirt, his collar unbuttoned and his sleeves rolled up–just quietly standing there, with his hands in his pockets and his head tilted up toward the ceiling, as if contemplating the mysteries of the universe.

“Are you a genie?” asked The Little Girl.

The man, startled out of his reverie, looked down upon the child, smiled benevolently, and said, “Even better. I am The Liberal Genie.”

The Little Girl was slightly confused, so, for a moment, she just sat in her bed and stared at the genie, until she finally said, “Why didn’t you come when I rubbed the lamp?”

“Ah, good question. The reason is that I must be alone with my beneficiary in order to appear to him or her. No one else but you can see me, until your three wishes are used and you pass me on to my next beneficiary. Oh yeah, I forget to go into that other stuff.” The genie cleared his throat and furrowed his brow. “Let me be perfectly clear: you have three, and only three wishes. I promise to grant you whatever you desire, for I have great power, and nothing is beyond my reach. There is but one caveat: choose your wishes wisely, for once you have used all three, this opportunity will never arise again. Now, what do you desire?”

“Candy,” The Little Girl immediately answered.

“Candy?!” exclaimed the flabbergasted genie. “Candy?! Don’t you know what that stuff will do to you? Why, it’ll give you cavities, and make you overweight, and later in life you’ll get all sorts of terrible diseases, like hypertension and diabetes. You’ll become a burden on society, as the wonderful, compassionate government will have to foot the bill for treatment of these totally preventable diseases. I can’t just let you, y’know, slake your selfish whims and passions at the expense of The Community! Come on, I know you can make selfless wishes; why, you’re a child, and The Children are pure–society hasn’t corrupted them yet–and they’re natural Liberals. So you want to change your wish, don’t you?”

“No.”

“What is wrong with you? Didn’t your parents tell you that you shouldn’t eat candy?”

Read the Rest at Liberty Island

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image illustration via shutterstock / chrisbrignell