Svetlana Mintcheva, writing for Salon, manages to tackle the Great Lionel Shriver Internet Meltdown without herself melting down, articulating a nuanced but still socially responsible take on the responsibilities of fiction writers:
Whether they succeed in communicating empathy and in creating a character that is complex and true, depends on the capacity of the writer as a writer and his or her creative integrity, not on the person’s skin color, sexuality or cultural background.
Do you follow Rabih Alameddine (author of one of my favorite-ever female fictional characters) on Twitter yet? The New Yorker wrote an interesting piece about his process.
Not technically a pop culture related piece, but by one of our favorite novelists: Michael Chabon wrote a devastatingly beautiful piece about his teenage son’s love for fashion, for GQ.
In case you missed it, the New York Times published an exquisitely mean review of a new Jane Jacobs biography, including jabs like this:
It often seems to be muttered as much as written, like one of those garbled subway announcements you cannot understand but suspect might matter.
And by the T-word I mean totalitarianism, of course.
Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations. The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda—before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world—lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world. The only signs which the real world still offers to the understanding of the unintegrated and disintegrating masses— whom every new stroke of ill luck makes more gullible—are, so to speak, its lacunae, the questions it does not care to discuss publicly, or the rumors it does not dare to contradict because they hit, although in an exaggerated and deformed way, some sore spot.
–Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
If you have not read this book, this is an excellent time to read it. It has important insights not only on the workings of terror and totalitarianism–as above–but on the horrors of the plight of refugees in the modern world.
“Turn, you stern merchants of forgetfulness,
you mincing forgetters of consequence, turn!
Tend to your sad taxonomy, your numb ontology,
your proud happenstance of secular wheels!”
—The Mirror Thief
Martin Seay’s big, intricate debut novel, The Mirror Thief, came out earlier this year to much anticipation (at least in the insular world of people who read Publishers Weekly). Continue reading →
Joss Whedon got basically his whole stable of actors to film an irreverent PSA on exercising your civic rights to vote. (This should hardly need saying, but don’t read the comments.)
“Do we want to just be the white male anti-hero network? We need to try to broaden out.”
–an FX exec, on turning down Breaking Bad
At Hitfix, Alan Sepinwall writes about the ascendancy of FX, which is apparently due in large part to the creative direction of the network head, John Landgraf. (via Longform.org)
AV Club wrote a great review of This Is Us, but it paled in comparison to this delightful Gilmore Girls-related exchange in the comments:
Elliott Holt writes on the return of omniscient narrators in contemporary fiction, comparing them not to God, but to a smartphone (via the NYTimes)
If there’s one drawback to the fact that this is the golden age of TV, it might be the fact that it can spark discontent with regular old network TV shows, where the pilot introduces you to the whole cast of characters in broad, archetype-inspired strokes and people express their feelings by stating exactly what they are feeling.
Designated Survivor is one such show. In the beginning, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman is lounging in jeans and a sweatshirt to watch the State of the Union from afar. One minute he’s a meek, minor Cabinet member about to be fired from his job; the next, the Capitol explodes and he is sworn in as President. The first ten minutes, in between explosions, serves as a series of not-so-gentle reminders that you are not watching Jack Bauer. He is meek! He wears spectacles! He cooks breakfast for his kids! At one point, he even defers to the President’s opinion! Basically he is everything Jack Bauer is not! But when he is thrust into a situation that requires strength and leadership, will he be able to rise to the role? WHO CAN TELL?! (My guess is yes. Otherwise this show would be on HBO.)
Continue reading →
I was very sad to learn today that Curtis Hanson had died. He is known for LA Confidential and 8 Mile much better than this little-known gem, which grossed $33 million at the box office (with a budget of $55 million… ouch).
In Wonder Boys, Michael Douglas plays Grady Tripp, a writing professor with a never-ending novel manuscript, a pregnant mistress, and a suspicious editor. It’s in that category of intellectual indie-style movies that don’t seem to have a plot and yet are chock-full of events (this one has a murder and a car chase, among others, that have very little to do with the actual meat of the story). And it’s based on a novel—Michael Chabon’s of the same name, also extremely good—which means that it was always inherently in danger of plotlessness.
Am I not making it sound great? Trust me, it is. Yeah, it’s quirky; yeah, it’s got Tobey Maguire in it and he’s kind of annoying sometimes; yeah, a lot of us are kind of over that quirky-indie-movie-that-goes-nowhere genre. But—especially if you’re a writer, but even if you’re not—you should Totally. Watch. This.
Here are eight reasons why.
Jonathan Coulton appears in person to sing the last previouslies of the season, sitting outside Gustav’s apartment: Ella died, Red recovered, Luke’s protesting, Laurel’s staying, and the threesome are scheming.
Inside the brownstone, Laurel is telling Rochelle and Gustav that the key is the thirty-eight-day countdown, not the war or the internment camps, which were just a distraction. (Technically, the internment camps weren’t a distraction, they were something Laurel made up because she saw some blueprints for hothouses.) After Gustav bangs on his window to shush the troubadour outside, Laurel says that it’s all about the hothouses, because the bugs need cherry blossoms to spawn. Gustav says they need the full blueprints, so Laurel agrees to get them from Gareth, and says that Luke is working on stopping the budget. Before she leaves, Gustav calls her back. They put their hands together and say they’re in this together. “It’s us against the world,” says Rochelle. Yay!
Continue reading →