WALL-E, Robinson Crusoe, Abraham Lincoln, Najeh Davenport
Robinson Crusoe describes his loneliness and self-reliance so
painstakingly that his name is a metaphor for those twin traits. What Shylock
is to greed, what Sisyphus is to effort, what Samantha
is to sluts, is what Crusoe is to loneliness/self-reliance. Los Angeles Times movie critic Kenneth Turan deftly
employed a Crusoe metaphor in his analysis
of the title character in WALL-E.
Other critics have likened WALL-E to movie bots like R2-D2 and
5, but Turan knows better. For unlike R2-D2 and Johnny 5, WALL-E is
subsistent and solitary. Moreover, WALL-E is an anachronism in his own film, a
22nd century creature in a 29th century setting. WALL-E is, in fact, earth’s
last standing biped. In the context of the movie, this simple fact gives WALL-E
the charming aura of an outdated but functional relic of technology. He’s a
forgotten phonograph, an abandoned Atari,
a bygone boom box. And he’s all alone on planet earth, just as Crusoe was alone
on his island.
What’s more, WALL-E has the soul of an old machine. After
all, he dates back to the 22nd century, when humans still inhabited the planet.
He’s so old-school, so indisputably man-made, that he even has a religion: Each
night – after another day of dystopian labor – he gains spiritual nourishment
from a VHS tape of the musical Hello, Dolly! This is where Turan’s Crusoe metaphor is a
homerun. For WALL-E uses Hello, Dolly!
just like Crusoe uses the bible: It’s his opiate. It cheers him up and restores
his faith that his isolation won’t last forever. Here’s how Turan describes it:
“What really entrances WALL-E about Hello, Dolly! is the spectacle of people expressing emotion and
connection by holding hands. Not a word is spoken, but we understand that this
lonely Robinson Crusoe, like so many movie creatures before him, would like
nothing better than to hold hands with another entity.”
Abraham Lincoln turns 200 next year, and you can bet America will
hunger for fresh stories about him. To that end, I’ve been researching the 16th
president. Incredibly, historians differ as to whether or not Lincoln ever read Robinson
"He made one unsuccessful attempt at Ivanhoe, but he had no other acquaintance with the great British and American novelists" (p.47). --David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (1995)
"And he enjoyed reading, too, losing himself in the adventures of Robinson Crusoe or the selected fables of Dilworth's Spelling-Book" (p.11). --Stephen B. Oates, With Malice Toward None (1977)
"While Lincoln did not read many books, since few were to be had, those that he read he devoured. Among these, besides Weem's Washington were Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress, Aesop's Fables, Grimshaw's History of the United States, and The Kentucky Preceptor" (p.15). --Benjamin P. Thomas, Abraham Lincoln -- A Biography (1952)
read Crusoe, he certainly identified
with the title character. When Lincoln
was 21, he left his father’s household via boat and did not return to his
hometown for 14 years. Crusoe, of course, left his parents’ household via boat
when he was 19. He did not return to England for 35 years, by which time
his parents were dead.
Emptying the desk drawer of the sports mind (to borrow a
phrase from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan):
- NBA second-round
draft picks I love, not including Joey Dorsey (33) and Chris
Douglas-Roberts (40), both of whom cracked the top 20 rookies list in my June blog:
Patrick Ewing Jr. (43) can hit the NBA three and defend both forward
spots; Sasha Kaun (56) and Darnell Jackson (52) possess the size and
smarts to have five-year careers as backups; Kyle Weaver (38) is a Brian
Shaw clone; Mike Taylor (55) will learn under Baron Davis; and Maarty
Leunen (54) is the next Pat Garrity.
Pittsburgh Steelers released running back Najeh
Davenport not long ago. If I were the Detroit Lions or Chicago Bears
or Seattle Seahawks or Houston Texans, I would sign him. In his six-year
career, he’s averaged 4.7 yards per carry. He’s also a polished receiver. In
Week 16 last season, he had 167 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. His
future employment will affect the fantasy football landscape.
of fantasy football: Stay tuned for my KFFL
profiles of wide receivers Roydell Williams, Amani Toomer, Patrick
Crayton, Derrick Mason, Vincent Jackson, Deion
Branch, Isaac Bruce, Ted Ginn Jr., Donte'
Stallworth, Drew Bennett, Ronald Curry, and Michael Jenkins. And on newsstands, look out for Rotoman’s annual
Fantasy Football Guide, to which I contributed profiles of the Cincinnati
Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Texans. Rotoman is,
of course, the nom de plume of fantasy sportswriter Peter Kreutzer.
Ilan Mochari is a novelist and journalist living in the Boston area. His fiction has been honored by Glimmer Train. He is a former staff writer for Inc magazine, and he has also written for Fortune Small Business and CFO magazine. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.