Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Getting started

I've been on a bit of a Titanic kick recently. 

Of course this is the 100th anniversary year of the disaster, so it's probably been on the minds of other people, too.  Goodreads has a list of 60 books about the Titanic, all published in 2011-12 "in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster."

The 1997 Titanic movie directed by James Cameron was re-released this year, in 3D.
 There was even a Titanic memorial cruise, following the ship's fateful journey, and stopping at the disaster site on April 17, 2012.

And me?  Well, I knew about the Titanic.  Doesn't everyone?  But I'd never seen the movie, never read any books until this year. 

I have excuses, as in "I had a newborn and a 2-year-old when that movie came out--I wasn't going to watch it."  Or "I read other kinds of books, not pop bestsellers."

Really, the reason I never got into the Titanic before is this: the story terrified me. I didn't want to read it because I knew what it was about:  a frightening, fateful, heartbreaking story of the loss of thousands of souls.  I was afraid I would be drawn into the story, unable to hold it at a nice, safe distance, and find my heart broken by the tales of those who lived and those who died.

But, starting with a small 100th anniversary exhibit here in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I was drawn into the story of the Titanic this year, and I've become fascinated as well as heartbroken.  And I want to know more about the Titanic--not just the ship and the historical disaster, but about why it has held such a grip on the psyches of people. 

Why do we remember it above all other disasters?  Why do we want to hear the tales told over and over, even when they are terrifying and harrowing?  Why does it fascinate us so?

In  this blog, I'll share with you my reflections on the Titanic story in American culture: the books, the exhibits, the images, the maps.  Maybe I'll talk with others about their reaction to the Titanic.  Maybe you'll share your thoughts with me!  And maybe we'll figure it out together:

What does the Titanic mean?

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