Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grant Morrison interview

There's an extensive and pretty substantial interview with Morrison at the IGN site. Though I think Morrison's intentions in his recent work hasn't entirely translated to the page I'm still going to re-read all this when it's complete just to be sure.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More Nobel

Couldn't resist responses from the Telegraph , the Guardian and Slate. All well said and most likely true but don't quite address the point that Engdahl is more or less right even if wrong more narrowly. U.S. publishers don't publish much translated literature, U.S. readers don't read much of it and U.S. publications don't cover much of it. Even the supportive articles don't really try to argue the point. (There's a great event Reading the World that promotes translations.) And who would ever seriously claim that Americans don't have an insular view of the world? But as these articles unintentionally point out that's not exactly a restriction to writers, a large number of whom are not insular and not oblivious to other literature.

I do think it's interesting that the articles focus almost exclusively on novelists. Wouldn't Ashbery or Mamet be as plausible as Oates or Roth?

Crime fiction around the world

It seems that mysteries, or at least detective stories, are so formula-driven that really the only elements that can be changed are the person of the detective, the physical setting and the time period. So even if you get, say, a book about a woman archaeologist detective in 19th century Egypt it's mostly the same as one about an ex-slave detective in the Roman Republic as some modern alcoholic sheriff in a Scandanavian country. (Once upon a time Peter Dickinson was playing with other elements--one book never resolved the question of whether a murder had occured at all--but that seems to happen now mostly in deliberately non-genre literary books such as Eco, Auster, etc.)

Now I'm pretty sure that this is the smug, reductive view - after all superhero comics look like just ridiculous power fantasies to outsiders (meaning most of the world) but attuned readers know that current Batman and Daredevil are very different things, even New Avengers and Mighty Avengers. (I'm not even talking about Grant Morrison's current "RIP" which is very different from rationality itself.)

But an article about "Crime fiction: Around the world in 80 sleuths" seems to support the reductive view. Whether Mongolia, South Wales or Brooklyn these come across as variations on a theme. Maybe that's because the title is mis-leading since these aren't just crime fiction but only detective fiction. In other words, The Sopranos wouldn't have qualified but CSI would have.

Still, there are a few writers that I will probably look up--Rafael Reig sounds particularly interesting--but what I really wanted was not books set in that location but books by writers from there. Not a British writer's novel about Mongolia but a Mongolian writer's novel about Mongolia (or even a Mongolian writer's novel about Britain). For all I know there aren't any Mongolian mysteries or maybe more likely none translated into English. But with movies it seems that there are three genres every country has - melodrama, low-brow comedy and crime stories. So I think it's a safe bet that if there are any Mongolian novels at all that at least a few of them are crime stories though perhaps not detective-oriented enough to have made this list.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Nobel?

The news that JMG Le Clézio was awarded the Nobel for literature has brought the usual mix of self congratulations from Europe and complaints from the U.S. about American writers being excluded. Thing is that since most Americans have based their feelings of exclusion on the fact that they haven't heard about this writer that doesn't mean that the Nobel committee picked anybody obscure. Just think if there was a Nobel for film that was awarded to, say, Philippe Garrel or Jean-Marie Straub or Im Kwon-Taek there would be similar complaints though these are very familiar names outside the U.S. and I know that they would be worthy choices. (About Le Clézio I haven't the foggiest idea but then that's the point: neither do most of the people disputing the choice.)

Ted Gioia made a list of what the Nobels might have been in an alternate universe and it's interesting though there's some saying about hindsight having a 20-gauge shotgun. From this distance Sienkiewicz and Perse seem almost inexplicable choices (& yes I've read both) while how many people can even identify Paul Heyse or Jacinto Benavente? So Gioia gets to chose writers who have lasted and implicitly make us wonder how the committee could ever have decided against Borges or Stevens or Nabokov or....

More Robert Johnson

Has a NYC guitar dealer discovered another unpublished photo of Robert Johnson? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm curious about the other people that also bid up to $2K - since the auction wasn't for a Johnson photo what did they think they were getting?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Why Frank Miller Shouldn't Direct The Spirit

The post says 12 Splash Pages to Convince You but considering the small size of the images you're not likely to be convinced unless you're already convinced. A Spirit movie seems like a really bad idea but then a new Eisner-less comic seemed like a bad idea as well but the current run as been a blast. The key was keeping some of the original's tone without trying to emulate it and DC hiring the right people; the trick with the movie is that by any reckoning Frank Miller is not the right people & has never displayed the open humanism and wide-eyed devotion to the form that Eisner and crew did.