I. Burial of the Dead
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarden,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out to sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)
Posted in books, Commonplace Book, nature, Poetry
Tagged Anglo-Catholic, books, catholic, catholicism, culture, fiction, Modernism, Nobel Prize, poetry, religion, TS Eliot, UK, UK fiction
Because I read a many books here at the Driftless Area Review, I can’t hope to give them all a thorough long-form review. Reviews in Brief are short-form reviews that offer a concentrated dose of information.
One doesn’t have to walk very far to see the impact of the shapeshifter on popular culture. As the last installment of the Twilight movie series lumbers through cinemas nationwide, it is important to take a step back from the marketing onslaught and Robert Pattison-induced hysterics. Werewolves and Other Shapeshifters in Popular Culture, by Kimberley McMahon-Coleman and Roslyn Weaver, approach the material through thematic analyses. The pair of Australian academics investigate how things like marriage, sexuality, disability, addiction, gender, and spirituality come to play within the novels and films.
The material covered is vast, including the Being Human TV series (UK and US versions), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series and comics), True Blood (books and TV series), Twilight (films and books), and the Vampire Diaries (TV series and books), among others. Included in the analyses are more obscure Australian novels like Jatta by Jenny Hale. For those oversaturated on the Twilight phenomenon, the “Works Cited” list offers some fascinating recommendations.
Werewolves proves its usefulness in its good timing. Coleman and Weaver investigate the numerous pop cultural pieces here, analyzing how specific treatments reflect attitudes of society at large. For those curious as to why Twilight is so huge with teens these days will find the thematic analyses illuminating. Make no mistake, not every TV series, film, or book covered here would fit into the Great Literature category, but it is a wonderful addition to the growing field of reader reception theory. (Similar reader reception studies have been done with romance novel readership.) The book is a handy resource for those interested in understanding pop cultural trends, but who have neither the time nor inclination to read through the primary source material.
The thematic analysis is an advantage but also a liability in Werewolves. The various rubrics (addiction, gender, etc.) put the primary source material through various lenses, all thought provoking. Conversely, the numerous lenses make the analyses thin and superficial. As a theoretical starting point in exploring shapeshifters in popular culture, the approach delivers. Unfortunately, the weakness shows itself most in the section on spirituality, itself a soft, mushy term acting as a catchall for ritual, religion, and cultic social behaviors. This is seen when McMahon-Coleman and Weaver apply Christian symbolism to the Twilight series. While spiritual and ethical issues like sacrifice, eternity, and morality get explored sufficiently, the analysis of spirituality in Twilight would have benefited immensely from a specific reading attuned to the uniqueness of the Mormon faith. The Mormon concept of blood atonement in a vampire novel series would have proved fascinating, along with the Mormon’s specific understanding of links between Native American and Jewish groups. In Mormon theology, Native Americans are descended from the ancient Jewish population. What does this mean in light of Twilight’s Native American shapeshifter characters, especially since those shapeshifters pass on their powers via hereditary transmission?
Werewolves is a great starting point for those interested in the significance of the shapeshifter in popular culture and how it reflects modern mores.
Posted in book reviews, books, film, Reviews in Brief, TV
Tagged book reviews, books, buffy, capitalism, culture, economics, fantasy, fiction, film, gay, hollywood, mormon, movie reviews, non-fiction, philosophy, politics, pop culture, religion, science fiction, series, sex, team edward, TV, twilight, UK, UK fiction, vampire, werewolf, whedonverse
This week in the CCLaP series “On Being Human,” I analyse Samuel Beckett’s groundbreaking “Trilogy,” where the famed avant-garde writer sought the essence of what it is to be human by stripping away the setting, plot, and characters of three small novels in a row.
After you’ve read the essay, check out this broadcast featuring Harold Pinter reading the final pages of the Unnamable.
Posted in book reviews, books, CCLAP Fridays, film, On Being Human, The Internet, theater, TV
Tagged Beckett, book reviews, books, chaos, culture, fantasy, fiction, film, Finnegans Wake, France, Ireland, Joyce, Malone Dies, Molloy, philosophy, poetry, politics, pop culture, science fiction, series, the internet, The Unnamable, Three Novels, TV, UK, UK fiction, Ulysses
This week’s installment of my essay series, On Being Human, examines the feminist science fiction novel Swastika Night, an alternate history predating Orwell’s 1984 that explores the darker regions of human behavior in a far future Europe ruled by medieval Nazi knights.
Posted in book reviews, books, CCLAP Fridays, On Being Human
Tagged alternate history, book reviews, books, culture, fantasy, feminism, feminist sci fi, fiction, GLBT, medieval, nazis, philosophy, politics, religion, science fiction, sex, UK, UK fiction
I continue my CCLaP essay series “On Being Human”, this week exploring the dark world of Warhammer 40K and the Space Marines.
Posted in CCLAP Fridays, The Horus Heresy, Warhammer 40K
Tagged books, culture, fantasy, fiction, games workshop, horus heresy, politics, pop culture, religion, RPG, science fiction, series, UK fiction, warhammer 40K
Check out my themed essay over at CCLaP. I write about the BBC series Being Human, the inspiration for my essay series entitled “On Being Human.”
My introductory essay to my themed essay series, “On Being Human” has been posted at CCLaP.
Posted in books, CCLAP Fridays, film, nature, The Horus Heresy, The Internet, TV, Warhammer 40K
Tagged books, capitalism, culture, economics, fantasy, fiction, film, horus heresy, philosophy, politics, pop culture, religion, RPG, science fiction, series, the internet, TV, UK, UK fiction, warhammer 40K
I’m proud to a new feature, CCLaP Fridays. I recently became involved as a writer for the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. Every other Friday I will post on their website, alternating between general book reviews and themed reviews.
The general reviews will focus on fiction and non-fiction books published in the last 24 months. My themed reviews focus on the question, “What does it mean to be human?” I will be looking at attempts to answer that question through books, TV shows, movies, and role-playing games. Everything from Warhammer 40K’s Space Marines, Iain Banks’s Culture, Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy, and a Jim Thompson hard-boiled novel will be analyzed. (This will dovetail nicely into my more in-depth analyses of Warhammer 40K and Battlestar Galactica/Caprica on Coffee is for Closers.)
It will be a unique privilege to write for CCLaP, since I’ve been an avid reader of their reviews and essays for years.
As always, I will post notifications on this blog to let you know when my reviews and essays appear.
Posted in book reviews, CCLAP Fridays, film, The Internet, TV, Warhammer 40K
Tagged book reviews, books, culture, fantasy, fiction, film, non-fiction, pop culture, RPG, science fiction, series, TV, UK, UK fiction, warhammer 40K
Phil Nicholas is a National Hunt jockey psychologically shaken after a bad fall.
The National Hunt is a popular series of steeplechase races, but Phil’s horse didn’t make it over one of the barriers, making the fall particularly nasty. He has had symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is seeking psychiatric help, but keeps it secret from his wife Julia, a horse trainer, and his fellow jockeys. Phil is afraid the therapy might make him appear weak.
To read the rest of the review, click here.
Posted in book reviews, books, Joe Bob Briggs, nature, The Internet, TV
Tagged book reviews, books, culture, fiction, horse racing, horses, national hunt, pop culture, the internet, thriller, TV, UK fiction