Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Running of the bulls(hit)
Some things are so obviously stupid their stupidity hardly needs to be remarked upon. But when news broke that a promoter is planning to bring a watered down faux version of the running of the bulls from the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain to Stickney, Illinois next July, at Hawthorne Race Track of all places, I feel obligated to roll my eyes, take a deep breath and shout the obvious.
And not for the expected cruelty-to-animals complaint—if you think running bulls along a brief course is cruel—and it isn't— remember where they are running to, in the real festival: from the corral to the bullring to be stuck with lances and, ultimately, run through with a sword and killed. Some people like to watch that, and far be it for me to question their enjoyment. I'd probably watch too, given the chance. Nature is cruel too.
None of that bull-killing stuff in Stickney next July, just 1,000 goofs—who have signed up so far, I'm sure there will be more—clutching at something beyond their reach, in this case the cool and excitement of the characters in Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises, which brought what would have otherwise been an obscure Spanish religious festival to worldwide fame. They will tie sashes around their waists, no doubt, drink the cool, crisp wine, wait for the rockets to signal the start of the faux run, ripped out of its context, shorn of its reason, and transported across the globe.
Not that I'm against fakery as such. There can be good fakery: think Disney World. And then there is fakery that is just inexplicable and commercial. Perhaps because flying to Spain to risk your life running with the bulls is questionable enough. Every year somebody gets gored, and what a dumb way to buy the farm. How much worse to get trampled by a bull in Stickney.
What those running at Hawthorne will have forgotten, if they ever knew it in the first place, is this: none of the characters in Hemingway's book, Jake, Lady Brett, etc., actually runs with the bulls. They sit and watch and drink and bicker. And have a lousy time. In that one regard, I'm sure next year's event will be a faithful reproduction of the original.