Showing posts from August, 2010

Laugh to Keep From Crying: Thoughts on Treme

For about as long as I've been writing about television, people have been urging, exhorting, and begging me to watch The Wire .  And those who weren't making personal appeals were shouting the demand from the mountain top, calling The Wire the best series in the history of television, a medium-transcending work of fiction, a masterpiece so excellent that it could cure leprosy, heal the lame and sick, restore sight to the blind, and do just about anything else except win an Emmy.  I've resisted these increasingly hysterical pleas for a variety of reasons.  At first, because a cop show, no matter how excellent, just didn't appeal to me.  Later, because the volume of available material had ballooned past the point where I could imagine easily catching up to the show.  At this point, with the show so thoroughly built up, I find the thought of watching it a little daunting.  Imagine being the only television reviewer to dislike The Wire , or think that it is just OK.  So I

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

The most interesting question raised by Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is why it left me feeling delighted rather than quivering with feminist rage. I bounced hard off the first volume in the film’s source material, a six - volume comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley which follows the titular twentyish slacker as he battles the seven evil exes of his beloved, Ramona Flowers, in order to be with her.  I couldn't get over the way Scott treated his teenage girlfriend Knives Chau, lying to her, neglecting her, and letting her fall deeper in love with him even though he’d already fallen for Ramona, all because he could’t face the onerous task of breaking off their relationship. Even the assurances of my friends, who are fanatic lovers of the comics and have been anticipating the film and the final volume in the series with bated breath, that O’Malley does eventually acknowledge the creepiness of Scott’s behavior, wasn’t enough to bring me back. Wright’s film, meanwh


Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print in 1887, and entered the public domain some time in the 20th century.  Long before he did so, however, he entered the public consciousness.  There are many more people who know who Holmes is, and can identify his defining qualities and tropes--his keen intelligence, his ability to deduce the most intimate details about a person from a brief observation of their appearance and behavior, his friendship with Doctor Watson--than have ever read a single one of Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes stories or novels, or even seen them adapted.  One of the most interesting recent indications of the depth to which Holmes has permeated Western culture is the fact that Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss's Sherlock , which concluded its three-episode 'season' this week, doesn't simply borrow Holmesian tropes from Conan Doyle's originals, but from intervening adaptations.  The jangling score seems to have been lifted from Guy Ritchie's 2009 fil

The Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning

Six and a half decades after its end, the second World War continues to be one of the most popular and fruitful foundations for works of fiction in Western culture.  This is in part due to its influence--there are probably very few people on the planet, even today, whose lives were not shaped to some extent by the war and its aftermath.  But it's also because there are so many stories to tell.  In my to be read stack right now you would find Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone , about German dissidents under the Nazi regime, and Israeli author Nir Baram's Good People , whose characters are forced to collaborate with the Nazi and Communist regimes in order to survive.  One of the most well-received books of this year, Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge , is a story of Jewish lovers on the run from the Nazis.  HBO's The Pacific spent ten hours telling the story of the Marine takeover of the Japanese-held Pacific islands, and came under fire for not telling the sto

Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King

My review of Stephen King's latest opus, Under the Dome , appears today in Strange Horizons .  It's a strange book--definitely not up to the standard of King's heyday, but suggesting so many new directions he might have gone in, and then failing to follow through, that I ended up finding it simultaneously invigorating and depressing.