“Nomadland” is Everybody’s Land

I had anticipated a downer. Wrong. These are “unstuffy” people.

Nomadland’s Frances McDormand at 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Photo Wikimedia Commons

Admire these “unstuffed” lives

Lately, so much is made of stuff, the way Americans accumulate things for the sake of accumulating and get bogged down in life. I had to scratch my head when a Marie Kondo came along and made a killing telling Americans how to unstuff their lives. And again recently, when a famous writer, Ann Patchett, publishes a ponderous 7,000-word story about getting rid of stuff she wasn’t using. Way back in 1981, George Carlin made us laugh, riffing on stuff:

When nomads were hobos

Coincidentally, not long before watching “Nomadland” I had seen “Sullivan’s Travels,” a 1941 film I love to watch over and over. It’s a comedy but there is some poignant overlap with Zhao’s film, with the lead character, Sullivan, a successful Hollywood director played by Joel McCrea. It takes place during the Great Depression. Sullivan decides to take to the road and mingle with so-called hobos. He sheds his wealth trappings and becomes “a vagrant drifter to gain life experience for his forthcoming film, a serious exploration of the plight of the downtrodden, based on the novel O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (Interesting trivia: The Coen Brothers took that name for their 2000 crime-comedy from “Sullivans Travels”).

A spot just offroad in Death Valley Photo: C. Cusumano

Author(ity) in/on San Francisco. Novel, essay, memoir. Teaches tango. Travel, outdoors, culture. Former editor at VIA Mag.

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