Showing posts from 2022

Almost Everything: The Auctioneer by Joan Samson (1975)

If I were preparing to teach a course in fiction writing (something I haven’t done for a few years now), I would be tempted to assign Joan Samson’s 1975 novel The Auctioneer , because it is both not a bad book and also a book with some specific flaws that prevent it from being a great book. These are the most instructive texts. I started reading The Auctioneer with great hopes. For one thing, it is set in central New Hampshire, where I live, a place often ignored by fiction writers. (You might be surprised how few notable works of fiction are set in rural New Hampshire, a place that has attracted plenty of writers to visit or live, but fewer to write about.) It has the reputation of being a lost classic, a book that got good reviews in hardcover, sold about a million copies in paperback, got optioned by Hollywood, and then disappeared, probably because its writer died tragically young of brain cancer, and so a promising career became a single pretty good book. In recent years, it has

Michael Feingold (1945-2022)

Michael Feingold was a brutal genius of the theatre. For decades, he was the chief theatre critic at The Village Voice. His death at age 77 will launch various remembrances, and plenty of them will be filled with a mix of awe and terror at just how negative his negative reviews could be — for years, I kept a sun-faded cutting of his May 9, 1995 review of Hamlet (starring Ralph Fiennes) because its sheer bravado took my breath away when I read it at age 19, and revisiting it always brought at least a little bit of my young passion back. The review begins: The Ralph Fiennes production of Hamlet has unexpectedly altered my political views: I now totally support the death penalty for British actors, without trial. Apart from Fiennes himself — a blandly attractive, uncharismatic fellow with a loud, unvaried voice, good clear diction, and no sense of metrics — not a single person onstage is competent enough to be ranked as high as fourth-rate. It ends: If this disgraceful mess were anyth

The Horror of Belief

At the end of an interesting episode of the Hermitix podcast, Jesuit priest and professor of theology Ryan Duns says that he has been thinking about how to write his next book, one built partly from his course at Marquette University on “Evil, Horror, and Theology”, and that he has struggled with a focus for it as well as a title. His original idea for a title was The Dark Transcendent: The Metaphysics and Theology of Horror , but because that makes the topic so large, he is now inclined to call the book Horror: A Theology . I would eagerly read a book with that title, especially one written by someone with as deep an understanding of theology as Duns, because most of what I’ve read on the topic of how horror intersects with theology feels superficial or reductive. Yet horror is the mode of storytelling most reliant on systems of belief and unbelief, both as subject of its stories and as tool for its effects — thus horror is the mode most inclined to exploration of how belief matter

The Hunger: The Swords

Through a discussion of something else on a friend's Facebook page, I learned of a tv series I ought to have known about before: The Hunger , which played on Showtime in the US, the Sci Fi Channel in the UK, and The Movie Network in Canada from 1997 to 2000. It was a co-production between Ridley and Tony Scott's company Scott Free and others, and Tony Scott directed the first episodes of the two seasons. It's an anthology show, so has a "host" — in the first season Terrence Stamp, in the second David Bowie. The show can currently be seen on Freevee , Amazon's ad-supported channel. There are many reasons I should have known about this show, but I did not have a tv from 1994 to 2008, so most shows from those years are ones I am unfamiliar with if I did not catch up on them later or have friends who insisted I come over and watch them at the time (and that was basically just Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica ; understandably, friends obsessed with one became ob

You Won't Be Alone (2022)

Because Goran Stolevsky's astonishing debut feature, You Won't Be Alone , is about a kind of witch, and because there's plenty of blood and guts in the film, it is being marketed as a horror movie — but the expectations that the label horror places on the film do it some injustice. This is more like Terrence Malick's The Witch . The Malick homage is overt in the You Won't Be Alone's reliance on a super-hot-miked voiceover (beautifully recorded, creating a sense of the voice coming from within ourselves while also sounding somehow alien), in its seemingly random shots of nature, and even in its soundtrack, which includes Berlioz's Requiem (as did Malick in Tree of Life ) and a couple of pieces by one of the composers Malick uses most frequently, Arvo Pärt. Malick is not the only homage, though. There is a shot that basically recreates a famous one from Carl Theodor Dreyer's great witchhunt film Day of Wrath . I think it is to Stolevsky's credit tha

The Temptations of Jeffrey Dahmer

  "If Dahmer sought to get to Hollywood by writing and starring in his own movie, given the fictionalized treament of his actions, he more or less succeeded." —Richard Tithecott, Of Men and Monsters , 1997 "America's serial killer moment has been mined for ore, turned into relentless media, analyzed, obsessed over, given birth to countless podcasts, the sound of droning voices with blood in their throats." —Jarett Kobek, Motor Spirit , 2022 1. When the 10-episode series Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story arrived to Netflix in late September, it quickly became one of the streaming site's most popular offerings. By the end of the second week, it had become, according to Variety , Netflix's "ninth most popular English-language TV show of all time" with "at least 56 million households [having] consumed all 10 episodes (approximately 8.8 hours total) of the limited series thus far." As I write this now, a month after the show's