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'Truman' Theme Timely but Not New

June 13, 1998

As David Chute's article "Is 'Secret' 'Truman's' Precursor?" (June 8) reflects, "The Truman Show" blends elements that have appeared in other works concerned with a life observed ("The Secret Cinema" and MTV's "The Real World") or constructed and manipulated (a "Twilight Zone" episode and "The Prisoner"). To Chute's list could be added the PBS documentary series "An American Family," "The Conversation" and "Total Recall," among others.

As timely as "Truman's" themes may be, the idea that our lives are actually a figment of someone's imagination appears in literature as early as 1871. In "Through the Looking-Glass," the sequel to "Alice in Wonderland," Lewis Carroll's heroine stumbles upon the Red King asleep in the forest. Tweedledum and Tweedledee explain to Alice that the sleeping chess piece is at that moment dreaming--about her! "And if he left off dreaming about you," they tell her, "you'd go out--bang!--just like a candle!"

JONATHAN HANDEL

Los Angeles

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Chute refers to MTV's reality show as "Real Life." This show in fact is called "The Real World."

Interestingly enough, referring to a project called "Real Life" would have been appropriate, provided Chute was talking about the brilliant debut feature film from Albert Brooks (made in 1979).

"Real Life" satirized reality documentaries (most specifically, the PBS series "An American Family"), as well as the people who make these documentaries. As with "The Truman Show," "Real Life" exposed the flawed logic of empirical objective observation, but did so in a much more wicked and funny way.

The precursors just keep on coming.

J. KEITH VAN STRAATEN

Los Angeles

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Much has been made about how "The Truman Show" is an allegory about the fishbowl of celebrityhood or the effect of television on our lives. But to me it's yet another illustration of why today's movies fail to deliver the rush and tingle I got 39 years ago when I read its precursor, Philip K. Dick's novel "Time Out of Joint."

Unlike Truman, I receive too much information. Thanks to the ubiquitous echo chamber of Hollywood hype generated by today's radio, TV, magazines and newspapers, I always seem to get the premise and the punch line ahead of time, whether I want to or not. Today's world has many surprises, but none of them occur at the movies.

JIM DAWSON

Hollywood

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All this verbose, protracted fuss over the "originality" of "The Truman Show" was reduced to one crisp sentence by the French aphorist Alphonse Karr:

On n'invente qu'avec le souvenir. We create only with memory.

DAVID CHASMAN

Beverly Hills

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