Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mythologies

     Our culture is ever more in love with mythologies: Star Wars, Harry Potter, superheroes.  The more that are invented and the more available they are, the deeper we go.  They're so much fun, it's easy to get lost in them, like we might lose track of the forest for how closely we're studying the trees.
     The forest -- the larger world the trees inhabit -- is important, though, because that's where we live.  We need to judge mythologies based on what they say about the world, on their metaphors and lessons, not just on what they say about themselves.  Relating them to our lives draws us outward and helps us engage with the world.  If we go down the rabbit hole of their invented histories exclusively, then the stories draw us ever inward, away from the world.  The best mythologies have always been about something bigger than themselves.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Must Writers Be Moral or Just Profitable?

     The New York Times recently ran an op-ed piece titled "Must Writers Be Moral?" focusing on the recent trend of publishers adding a morality clause into their writers' contracts.  This stipulates that, should a writer become the target of a scandal that could damage their sales or readership numbers, publishers are released from the contract and no longer have to publish the work as agreed.
     There are plenty of heady issues to address here and the piece engages with some of them.  One that it doesn't touch on is this: publishing companies don't care if writers are moral or not, they only care if writers endanger the profit margin.  This clause isn't saying writers mustn't act immorally, only that if they get caught for doing something (or get blamed for doing something they didn't actually do, or even traffic in ideas that are too controversial for the company), then they suffer the contractual consequences.   
    In a capitalist society, money is how we enforce morality, which seems dangerous for many reasons, not the least of which is that it allows profit to trump the the free exchange of ideas.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Most Important Graphic Novel of the Year

     New Kid is a graphic novel about a boy of color entering a predominantly White private school.  It's handled with sensitivity, intelligence, insight and humor and told with great accessibility.  I spoke with Jerry Craft, the writer and artist of the book.  You can have a look at the interview here.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Struggle for the Human Spirit

     Checking back in with the Internet as I do from time to time, I found this much more recent review of Those That Wake, gratifyingly headlined by the epic (and timely) title above.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

     Well, there's still plenty of turmoil in the world, but it's embracing the things we value that helps us get through it.  Hopefully, you have a few big things to be thankful for (for me, it's always about the people in my life).  As in years past, here's a list of some small things that I'm enjoying and that are helping me explore some of my favorite art forms more deeply.

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton - The world's first conspiracy thriller?  Published in 1908, it's about a poet recruited by Scotland Yard to infiltrate a group of anarchists (the terrorists of the time) and finds himself on their Council of Days, where he comes up against the terrifying man who is Sunday.  It's sinister and hilarious by turns, but flat out nutso from beginning to end.  Centered on dueling philosophies (sometimes literally dueling) and obsessed with disguises (the kind that hide, but also the kind that reveal), the esteemed British author Kingsley Amis called it "the most thrilling book I have ever read."

Mazeworld by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson - The story of convicted murderer Adam Cadman who is hanged for his crime, only to awaken in the fantasy realm of Mazeworld, where he's forced into battle with dark forces, including the ones he harbors inside himself.  Back on Earth, though, his not-quite-dead body is being carefully studied by dark forces of yet another kind.  The story is epic yet moves at breakneck speed, but it's Ranson's jaw-dropping visuals - gritty, grainy photorealism deepened with tactile surfaces and atmospheric lighting -- that elevates this work.

Room 207 Press - Howard David Ingham's website is a deep analytical dive into many of cinema's greatest cult movies (among other things).  Some of his pieces are trenchant and humorous, like the one on An American Werewolf in London; others are deeply personal and meaningful like the one on Possession.  All of them touch on what lies beneath the stories we see and know, and make an old favorite seem like a new experience

     And, of course, don't leave without your free turkey joke.