Some Recent Impressions (or God, I Watch a Lot of Shit)

End of the Tour (2015)

endofthetour

“I’ll take the misanthrope salad with a side of psuedo-intellectual fries.”

I love movies about writers. I’ve read very little David Foster Wallace but still appreciated this movie as a character study. The film explores Wallace’s neuroses and growing disillusionment with fame and the literary world. Its highlights are the fantastic performances by Jesse Eisenberg (playing to type, as ever) and Jason Segel (who reveals some surprisingly solid dramatic chops).

 

Snowden (2016)

snowden

A solid primer on the most famous whistleblower in US history and a serviceable examination of Edward Snowden the man. Oliver Stone has constructed a tense, visually engaging techno-thriller that is held together by the always exemplary Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Levitt’s Snowden is wracked with turmoil as he struggles to reconcile his humanistic worldview with his increasing complicity in the US government’s infringement on civil rights.

I liked this a lot, but it also had issues. Nicholas Cage and Shailene ‘wooden’ Woodley give jarring performances as Snowden’s respective mentor and love interest, and the film was clearly hamstrung by Stone’s reverence for his subject. In this portrayal, Snowden is deified – a savant with few faults. Where’s a trace of ego? Why is Snowden so tiresomely secure in himself and his abilities? Why does he never waiver in his resolve to Do the Right Thing? Without adequately deconstructing this complex figure the movie devolves into politically self-serving wank.

Snowden is superficially entertaining, but I wish Stone had taken a more nuanced approach.

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In Defence of Popular Fiction (Or Why I Hate Intellectual Snobbery)

Intellectual snobbery pisses me off. I’ve been thinking about it lately – specifically, the literature police and their blanket disapproval of popular fiction. Runaway successes like 50 Shades of Grey, The Da Vinci Code, The Hunger Games and Twilight, in particular, attract some of the ferocious critics around.

(You’ll notice I haven’t included the Harry Potter series. This is because, by and large, readers and critics hold the series in high esteem. Harry Potter is unusual in that it occupies the curious middle ground where integrity and commercial success coexist.)

I’m not here to defend the literary merits of any from the above list – I’ve only read the first Twilight and Hunger Games books and did not care for either. I am, however, here to defend both their right to exist and the ‘cretins’’ right to enjoy them. Even if these books are fundamentally flawed, people have still found enjoyment in them, have connected and shared spirited discussion over them. To me, that’s a wonderful thing. You might argue that these readers’ time would be better spent with X Author or Underground Classic Y, but that’s not how things have panned out. Popular success is popular success. There’s no formula.

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Writers vs Literary Journals: a Lesson in Respect and Etiquette

As David Attenborough once said (in a dream I’m pretending to have had), ‘A curious relationship exists between the writer and the staff of a literary journal.’

Today I wanted to talk about the different ways writers and literary journal staff regard each other. A couple of days ago, my buddies at [untitled] wrote a blog that really resonated with me. The blog touched on some of the hidden etiquettes to consider when submitting fiction. If you’re someone who actively submits, or you’re thinking about submitting in the near future, I’d strongly advise that you check out this post.

(Fun, vaguely related fact: Not only do [untitled] publish short fiction of any genre, they also have an outrageously accommodating word limit. If you happen to write short fiction of any genre, make sure you check out their submission guidelines.)

I’ll assume you’ve had a gander at the link. Hopefully most will consider it common sense, but to those who haven’t sent their work out before, or to those who are just innately assholish to everyone they cross, it would pay to keep the suggestion of courtesy at the forefront of your minds.

I read a lot of writing articles (forget Spider Solitaire; this is procrastination, 2013 style), but what I particularly liked about this [untitled] one is that it sheds light on The Other Side. Publishers, that is – not the afterlife. I like that the insights come from someone who’s played both roles: the benevolent gatekeeper and the impoverished artist banging futilely against the iron gate. I also like that it reveals something about the people and processes who exist behind the label of Literary Journal. Continue reading