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Reading Versus Watching: Why I Watch

Why do we like what we like? As with many things, what we like and what we don't like usually is a gut reaction, something we justify rationally after the fact. In television, movies, books and other narrative media, what we like often has no relation to any kind of aesthetic criteria; we have so-called "guilty pleasures," things we like despite our own better judgment. I've been thinking about the television shows I like and why I like them, to see whether there's any kind of connecting thread between them. Talking about this is also useful to you, the reader, to know what kind of litmus paper I'm using to judge things.

Reading Versus Watching Additional: The Genius of Dante

Perhaps in looking for plot and character development I've given the book short shrift. What Dante has created is not a litany of tortures but a landscape of them.

Reading Versus Watching: What's Wrong with Dante?

I think there is an under-analyzed read in which Dante is a transgressive writer; before Brett Easton Ellis, before Kathy Acker, before Sade and von Sacher-Masoch, there was Dante. (Though Dante couldn't claim to be the first transgressive writer; there's always Ovid, Seneca, Catullus and God knows how many others who've vanished beneath the waters of history.) Both Dante the author and Dante the character seem alarmingly unperturbed by the horror of what is being described. On the contrary, they seem to revel in it; Dante the author is practically joyous in his ever more fanciful descriptions of torture.

One Story: The Wet Asphalt Interview

One Story is the only literary magazine I currently subscribe to. It's format is perfect: a single story in a small booklet, published every three weeks, that I can put in my pocket and take on the subway with me. The quality of the stories is also very high. I sat down with the editor and publisher at a café in Manhattan to talk about literary magazines, publishing and the state of short fiction in America.

Reading Versus Watching: Science Fiction Picture Show

The problem is that the very things that appeal to the core of this subculture are the selfsame things that turn off those outside of it. Consider, for example, that staple of Sci Fi, Star Trek.

Im Riddim and the Reading of Poetry Silently

I've never studied verse formally. I've read a few books and a lot of essays, but never in any sort of systematic way. For a long time I've struggled with the various ideas about rhythm in English language poetry as much of what a lot of poets say about rhythm doesn't really make a lot of sense. Ultimately, I've been left with the definite suspicion that much of what poets believe about rhythm is largely unconnected to what they practice when they're writing. Most important, there is a flaw in the concept of poetic rhythm being regular in the same way that music is regular. Existing systems of scansion that attempt to regularize poetry rhythm are therefore flawed at root and make for a dull and difficult tool for the analysis of poetry. Far more systematic and interesting is, I think, the study of prosody from a linguistic point of view and there is a great deal of very good literature available on phonology and phonetics which is illuminating when applied to poetry...

Reading Versus Watching: Whither Superman?

What a joyless, uninspired, heavy-handed and dead thing this new movie turned out to be. What we wanted was something that returned the franchise to its solid foundations, both corollary and flip-side to the excellent Batman Begins. What we got instead was one scene after another lifted directly from the original movies in what seems intended to be an homage, but instead comes off wearyingly unoriginal. Scene after scene of Superman bearing things cross-like on his shoulders, overdubs of Marlon Brando from the first movie ("And so I gave my first born son..." et al), Superman getting stabbed in the side, falling through space in a crucified posture, dying and being reborn, the whole Jesus analogy so unsubtle it's almost surprising the movie isn't in Aramaic. Scene after scene of long, drawn-out shots of characters on the verge of tears. We get Superman as a creepy guy who loiters outside Lois Lane's house, spying on her and listening in on her conversations. We get a "mad genius" scheme from Lex Luthor that doesn't even pretend to make sense. We get at least a dozen tiny plot-holes. About half-way through I just wanted god-like Superman villain Darkseid to show up out of nowhere, laugh at this annoying pussy calling himself super and lay waste to the Earth.

Reading Versus Watching: Wuxia

My question is this: if Jin Yong is the most widely read contemporary Chinese author, not only in China but all over Asia, and thereby certainly one of the most widely read authors in the world, why is he so sparsely translated into English?

Reading Versus Watching: Fantastic Voyage

Kelly Link is an extraordinary fiction writer. She will take an old saw like the ghost story or the fairy tale or the girl with latent, supernatural powers, and completely reinvent it in a startling way; this always with a depth of character and emotional complexity that is lacking in so much genre fiction. Even people who are totally turned off by the fantastic and the supernatural should find themselves absorbed by her use of genre methods to get at what it means to be human.

Confessional Fiction

Confessional fiction and the cautionary tale of Richard Grayson. A review.