Thursday, November 20, 2008

Duke's Quick Hitz

Hey hey, here comes a relative stranger to these pages... all I can say, people, is it ain't for lack of tryin'. I'm constantly thinking of musings or ideas I'd like to share on this blog, but finding the time is a whole other ballgame. At any rate, I'm back to offer some thoughts on subjects various and sundry...
  • Mutt's upcoming 'Suicide Station' - This should be an interesting set of posts from Mutt. Serialized fiction has in recent years, of course, gone the way of the dodo, but I've heard more than one author speculate on how the internet and social media applications could provide a way to resurrect the practice. The Secret Thread is proud, then, to lead the way in this effort... and best of all, I can take some credit for that even though I am doing absolutely NONE of the real work!

    Seriously though, I hope everyone comes back and checks out Mutt's new story when he starts posting it. He did this (as mentioned in his post) way back in 2005 and I remember that being an interesting tale (go back and read it here)... it's a good way for Mutt to try out some new ideas and flex his fictional muscles, so to speak. Plus, he and I have been musing lately about genre fiction and horror tales in general, so I for one will be looking forward to checking out how these conversations might inform this latest effort of his. I know that doesn't help anyone else who comes here to read it, but hey, it filled up some column inches...

  • An ancient travelogue - As the left column indicates, I've been making my (very slow) way through Herodotus' Histories over the last several weeks, and I must say it is pretty fascinating stuff. It's like going back in time, finding an old and grizzled traveler who's been all over the ancient world, getting a camp fire going and just letting him regale you with tales of what he's seen. What's really interesting to me is the objective tone he tries to take throughout - he says a lot of "well, this tribe believes in this, and these people think this is the best method for building a temple... but that's not necessarily my opinion." It's like he made a conscious effort at "fair and balanced" reporting from his own experiences... Herodotus is known as "the father of history," but in some ways his work could be regarded as the original investigative journalism piece as well. Anyway, for anyone willing to put in the effort, this is about as close as you can get towards getting an idea of what people actually thought and believed a long, long time ago, centuries before the birth of Christ.

  • Welcome to the jungle - For some reason the concept of packing up and heading out into the untamed jungle to build a new utopia has been coming up a lot in what I've been reading, listening to and watching lately. I recently checked out a film from the 80's I've been meaning to catch up with for years, Peter Weir's fascinating adaptation of Paul Theroux's novel The Mosquito Coast (featuring a solid, under-appreciated performance by Harrison Ford in the prime of his acting career). Then Mutt shared with me a song from folk artist Kate Campbell about Henry Ford's wacky scheme to build a utopian village in South America where he could grow unlimited rubber trees to produce material for his tires... it didn't work out needless to say, but apparently the ruins of it are still there if anyone wants to go and find them. I've also been watching the first season of the TV show Lost, a rarity for me (I don't usually get into TV), which is obviously about starting over in the jungle, although in this case obviously unplanned. This latter show was more or less forced upon me by my work colleagues, but seeing as I value their opinions I thought I would give it a try... and so far it's been pretty gripping and well-done, especially for a TV show.

    It just got me thinking that the "starting over in the jungle" thing has become quite the literary/cinematic sub-genre unto itself... obviously the idea of Utopia has been around since More and was enhanced by Rousseau, but when you think about it there are all kinds of fascinating stories and films that take this idea and run with it... and I realize some of them are among the more interesting that I've read/seen. Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, Aguirre: The Wrath of God & Fitzcarraldo from the great Werner Herzog, and I know there are many others I can't think of right now. At any rate it seems a lot of people missed or don't remember The Mosquito Coast, which is a shame because it shows a different side of Ford we haven't seen much of before or (certainly) since. You may want to check it out.

  • "Read in order to live" - That great quote is from Flaubert, but I was reminded of it recently when I went back and listened to an interview that the esteemed young British novelist Zadie Smith did with Bookworm's Michael Silverblatt back in 2007. In it Smith offers some fascinating and insightful comments about the necessity to read "not just for entertainment, but in order to learn how to become human." She impressively took the concept all the way back to Aristotle, who spoke about ingesting art as "a training of the emotions" and described it as a different type of learning, one outside the realm of the logical, i.e. math or science. Her point, which I find profoundly important and relevant for out time, is that not only do se seem to have given up teaching our children the moral and even spiritual importance of reading, but we seem to have completely forgotten the entire point of the thing in the first place. Maybe Robert Jenson was right - maybe the world really has "lost its story."

    At any rate, Smith has all kinds of interesting things to say in this wide-ranging interview, including some provacative comments about "the search for identity" in fiction, and how she thinks that conept is just something for critics to talk about and not the concern of a writer who cares about his/her characters. It's a great conversation, and I highly recommend anyone interested in matters literary to check it out.

All for now... maybe I will check in with some more "quick hitz" in another post down the road.

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