Georges Perec's Things: A Story Of The Sixties

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Things: A Story of the Sixties by Georges Perec (1965) explores consumerism through the lives of a young couple, Sylvie and Jerome. The novel looks at their growth, from college students to part-time surveyors to faceless employees, always looking for fulfillment via the newest trend. Whether it is an abundance of vases, or living in Tunisia, Perec shows how influential the language of advertising truly is. To feel like their life has meaning, Sylvie and Jerome spend money and energy on intrinsically useless items. They work towards goals that society has given weight to solely so they can achieve an illusion of worth. In the Society of the Spectacle (1967), Guy Debord discusses the complex concept of the spectacle--a distraction that has consumed…show more content…
The film is introduced as one “they had waited so long for, as they had thumbed almost feverishly through the new issues of the Entertainment Guide every Wednesday, films they had been told by almost everyone were magnificent, sometimes did finally turn out to be showing somewhere” (Perec). Each clause builds off one another to create anticipation. The stand-out word "feverish", preceded by the word "almost" juxtaposes the goal just out of reach. The “almost” modifies the phrase into a reluctant one--you do not want to be over-excited, so you hold back, but you cannot quite help it. You have been taken in by the spectacle, and what it promises. This time, the supposed reward is in the form of a film that has been described as “magnificent”. Although the text is translated, “magnificent” or magnifique, comes from the Latin magnificus, or "noble, distinguished," literally "doing great deeds". Describing a film in this dramatic way practically alerts the reader that it will not be what Sylvie and Jerome hope for, as it is merely spectacle. Debord addresses the idea of pseudo-necessities, or items or concepts we feel we need, but actually just desire dearly. He says, “to the extent that necessity is socially dreamed, the dream becomes necessary” (Debord 21). The higher class feeds meaning into certain ideas, and in turn, the rest of society feel they need it. There is a cyclical…show more content…
It is revealed that their disappointment stems from the fact the film was not “the film they would have liked to make. Or more secretly, no doubt, the film they would have liked to live” (Perec). The American comedy was taking over cinema during the 60s. Comedies contain low-stakes and happy endings. While they may entertain, they may not hit emotional points to the point of resolution. The idea of creating their own film is the first creative desire assigned to Sylvie and Jerome thus far in the novel. Every other part of their identity had been about accumulating medals to receive extrinsic praise for their lavish lifestyle. Creating art, specifically to their own tastes, however, is completely indulgent. Expression is a sentimentally valuable act, separate from the minutia of materialistic living. Minimalism as an art form rose to prominence during the 50s—its focus was to eliminate the boundaries between art and object. Anything could be art, down to the space in which the pieces were displayed. This idea progressed into the sixties with “happenings”, where living became performance. Art was no longer about exhibition; it was a way of life. Debord referenced the idea of happenings by addressing the “modern movement of decomposition of all art, its formal annihilation” (Debord 187). Art was dead, no longer was what it had been historically, no longer about museums and showings; it was
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