Didion's "Mock Reader" in "In Bogota"
Sarah Petrides, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002
In his essay, "Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers" (
Until the Spaniards heard the story and came to find El Dorado for themselves. 'One thing you must understand,' a young Colombian said to me at dinner that night. We were at Eduardo's out in the Chico district and the piano player was playing 'Love is Blue' and we were drinking an indifferent bottle of Chateau Leoville-Poyferre which cost $20 American. 'Spain sent all its highest aristocracy to South America.' In fact I had heard variations on this hallucination before, on the coast: when Colombians spoke about the past I often had the sense of being in a place where history tended to sink, even as it happened, into the traceless solitude of autosuggestion. The princess was drinking pink champagne. High in the mountains the men were made of gold. Spain sent its highest aristocracy to South America. They were all stories a child might invent. (189)
Exactly what attitude is Didion asking her "mock reader" to assume here? An attitude of elitism? After all, Didion's white, educated, American speaker is asking her mock reader to believe she is able to recognize the "childishness" of certain stories of Colombian national identity (while drinking a bottle of wine that she can simultaneously note is only "indifferent"). How readily do we step into this role that Didion has prepared for us? Is she a writer we readers must caution ourselves against, in that she asks us to position ourselves as elites? In this particular case, one might argue that this essay ends by exposing the great damage done to Colombia by its colonial past, but how redeeming is this, really? Is Didion's work a success or a failure in Gibson's analysis?
Last updated 3 December 2006