This month’s It’s Lit! dives into the world of graphic novels.
Obviously, I’m a fan of graphic novels. I think that the format provides an interesting and engaging storytelling method. Sometimes I think of graphic novels as a step between novels and movies (storyboards anyone?). Other times I think of them as a great way to pair down a story to its elements. And then there are the times when I don’t think too hard and just enjoy reading graphic novels.
I’ve previously written about how the snobbery of literature is especially pointed when it comes to graphic novels. And it always seems to come back to holding up a very certain kind of novel as “literature” and everything else as “unworthy”. Something I’ve come to call defending Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works.
Maybe if people just gave graphic novels a chance to entertain them…
In the past few decades, literature has expanded to not only mean the “novel” but “graphic novels” as well. Today we are gonna break down how the graphic novel went from the comic book store to the classroom. Hosted by Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes, It’s Lit! is a show about our favorite books, genres, and why we love to read. It’s Lit has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.
I’ve previously written about how some literary authors don’t really understand nor respect genre fiction. Of course, that doesn’t appear to give them pause before sitting down with their quill and parchment – literary authors exclusively use olde timey equipment: true fact – to knock out a genre novel. Their attempts at writing genre tend to reflect this disdain and ignorance of the form, and they end up doing a poor job of writing it.
Well, at least we know he’s treading on well-worn paths and reinventing all the tropes he’s painfully unaware of with his latest novel. But good on him for flying the ignorance flag so high so we don’t waste our time as readers.
It gets better. I received the monthly recommended review books from Penguin and saw McEwan’s new novel, Machines Like Me, on the list. This was the publisher’s blurb:
Our foremost storyteller returns with an audacious new novel, Machines Like Me.
Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.
Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control. Source.
Yes, it even has a love triangle. This is certainly not a bog-standard sci-fi novel at all. No sir. This explores big ideas… This is the cover art…
There are several potential explanations here:
McEwan is one of the arrogant literati who would never stoop to reading such crass material as genre fiction. Of course, when they write it, it is very important literature that you should absolutely buy and praise them for writing it.
McEwan is painfully ignorant to the point that someone really should have taken him aside during the (above quoted) interview and shown him the Wikipedia page for Science Fiction on the magical communication box they carry in their pocket.
McEwan is hoping that his comments will stir controversy that will help sell more copies of his books.
Now I am a bit late to the internet pile-on that inevitably results from modern faux pas as it is reactionary and lowers the quality of discourse. Definitely not because I got distracted on other things. Anyway, the reason why I have come back to this incident is that it ties into a thread I have been commenting on for several years now: Literary snobbery, or the Worthiness argument.
But the most interesting argument I have seen defining the difference between literature and genre fiction was around the class divide. The snobbery was literally built into the divide because genre stories were published in cheaper books for the workers and the more literary stories were published in fancier books for the new middle class.*
So it is quite possible that the reason why we have comments like McEwan’s is because they are tapping into 150 years of class snobbery that disallows them from reading or appreciating genre fiction. If they do read some, it will be classed as a guilty pleasure, because they can’t be seen actually acknowledging genre as having substance.
Or it could just be about attention seeking to sell some books.
* The argument doesn’t really discuss what rich people read. I assume that the rich people were too busy counting money to be bothered reading either genre or literature.
When I think of literature I think of an older guy sporting a greying moustache, sipping a sherry, wearing a smoking jacket, seated in a library of leather-bound books in front of a simmering log fire. The guy speaks with an aristocratic English accent and expounds on the greatness of some book that other older men dressed like him, sitting in similar log-fire warmed libraries, also like to read when not shagging the maid.
Now clearly not everyone who reads literature fits this image. Some probably can’t even afford a maid to shag. But it does appear to be an image that people aspire toward, an image that informs what they deem literature, and thus what they deem worthy of reading. Rather than judging any written work based upon its lasting artistic merit – although that definition is so subjective as to be useless and ideal for starting pointless arguments…. (cough) – people seem intent on creating boundaries before a work is allowed to be judged. They must defend Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works.
Normally I’d launch into a whinge about how speculative fiction is unfairly maligned, or how I’ve read crime fiction that has more artistic merit than most literary works. But instead, I’m going to talk about graphic novels. In an article on The Conversation, Catherine Beavis explained how the graphic novel Maus came to be part of the literature curriculum.
Despite this explanation, there was always going to be someone in the comments telling us how a graphic novel can’t be literature. I assume they wrote their comments whilst wearing a smoking jacket and taking a break from shagging the maid.
Well well……..so it’s art as literature.
Why not a more well-known comic (sorry graphic novel).
Not saying this isn’t a worthy addition to any curriculum, but more as social comment rather than literature.
Surely the novels of great Australian writers should be preferable – Winton, Malouf, Carey etc.
Let’s break these points apart one by one. As will be seen from further comments, the argument primarily revolves around the feelpinion that because graphic novels contain pictures they are art and thus not literature. A similar argument could be made for movies being TV shows and thus we could abolish the Oscars… actually, that isn’t a bad idea. Anyway, I guess we’d better break the news to the literature professors that Shakespeare’s plays need to be taken off of the curriculum.
The argument then moves to the “I haven’t heard of it, so it can’t be good” assertion. Maybe because they realise this isn’t a great argument, they immediately distance themselves from it. But we start to see the “worthy“ argument being formed. I’ve argued many times that “worthy“ is a great subjective argument put forward by people who think they are worthy.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a literary argument if someone didn’t cite some authors they deem worthy. For those unfamiliar with Winton, Malouf, and Carey, they are award-winning Aussie authors who write “interior histories” and about “people rebuilding their lives after catastrophe” and “people who experience death and will never be the same again”. None of those statements could be applied to a graphic novel about someone who survived the Holocaust… No sir.
Their list of worthy authors is as subjective as their comments about graphic novels and Maus. I could similarly ask why the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy isn’t on the curriculum. It has a lot to say about society and has entered the lexicon, which is more than can be said for any of the other authors mentioned nor the graphic novels being shunned. I could say the same again about Superman or Spiderman, which have implanted ideals and phrases of morality into society, regardless of whether people have read those graphic novels or not.
*Steps on soapbox*
I personally welcome any work into the class that will encourage kids to read, think and learn. And to anyone who derides graphic novels, they are clearly saying they don’t or haven’t read any.
*Steps down from soapbox*
The commenter responded to criticism of their subjective opinion:
That may be so, but my bigger point was that literature = words.
This is art with captions.
Not disputing that it may be hugely popular or good (even great)…
but literature it ain’t.
I think the appropriate response to this is a head shake. The problem is the black and white definition of what literature is, whilst ignoring the fact that the graphic novels fit the definition of literature. Pointing out the flaws in these opinions is as easy as saying that graphic novels, with very few exceptions, are composed of words. They also use graphics, but that is often a collaboration between the writer and the artists they work with. Thus, by the definition of “literature = words”, graphic novels are eligible to be classified as literature.
But anything to keep only the “worthy” books in contention as literature. Can’t have that kids stuff being called literary!
So I named three contemporary Australian writers – call me subjective.
I am not knocking the (art) form…just that it (to ME) is not literature.
Your opinion is obviously as valid as mine……don’t get huffy.
The last point here is one that irks me more than irksome irkers on an international irking junket. Opinions are not equally valid. That sort of subjectivism nonsense eats away at reality and suggests we “just don’t know, man”.
The commenter made a subjective list, so I put together some examples that were superior in quantifiable ways (impact on society, entering the lexicon, referenced by society) to show that the subjective claims were more worthless than a $9 note because clearly not much knowledge or thought was put into the claims.
There is also the idea of literary critique and argument, rather than stating feelpinions. I’ve stated an opinion and argued it, offering reasoning. The examples I countered with aren’t necessarily the best choices, but I have justified and quantified my argument, something you learn in high school literature class. Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer, so clearly, someone in the literati agrees. And surely a Pulitzer prize winner is worthy of being on the curriculum. But of course all opinions are equally valid and “I’m entitled to my opinion”, dammit!
Surely the whole point of literature is that the reader has to imagine the scene described, the way words are spoken, the implications of what is said and much more. It’s all in the mind, which develops through reading.
A graphic novel presents the words and pictures with almost no imagining required. The number of words is hugely reduced to give way to often wasted space. In the example above there are 21 words, which if in normal lowercase type could be written in 10% of the space.
Sorry I’m not convinced graphic novels have any merit for senior students.
Shakespeare’s plays give stage directions and poetry is often deliberately obscure. So how do those examples fit this exclusionary definition of literature? I’m sure some artists would object to the idea that they aren’t conjuring a scene that develops in people’s minds. And is the idea to only allow readers to imagine a scene? Isn’t it about conveying ideas and emotions too? Isn’t this some great mental gymnastics to try to maintain Fort Literature from invasion by the Lesser Works?
The second paragraph is also exemplary of someone who hasn’t read many, if any, graphic novels. So, of course, this commenter wouldn’t be convinced that graphic novels are of any merit. First, they’d have to know something. But that doesn’t hold them back from commenting.
While I’m in the mood for alienating folks, let me also say that this is a good example of dumbing down literature.
Give the kids a picture with limited words and maybe they’ll get the idea.
Don’t kids these days have the attention span to read a novel?
The last graphic novel I read was 480 pages long and took many hours to read. It covered sexual identity, morality, the greater good argument, do evil deeds make us evil, etc, as issues. The last “literature” novel I read was about a woman who manipulated people to get what she wanted. It was ~300 pages long and took many hours to read.*
This argument is typical of people who have a snobbish attitude to something based upon pure ignorance of the topic. Similar statements have been made throughout time, decrying the dumbing down or declining standards of today’s youth. Oddly enough it has been proven false again and again only to be spouted once more.
There is a similar article on The Spectator – a home for uninformed opinion – which argues that if we let graphic novels into literature we have to let in everything. They must defend Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works. Maybe I’ll address that one at some stage when I’m feeling masochistic, but I’m going to leave it there. The maid has arrived.
*This comparison was true at the time of my original comments on The Conversation. I’ve read many graphic novels since, but no further literature novels.
Update: Nerdwriter made a particularly good video discussing Maus and how it is constructed as a story and piece of art. Every frame, every image, the whole page, has meaning. Kid’s stuff indeed.
Update: A great video essay about how you can’t judge art objectively.
PBS Ideas Channel had an interesting take on this contentious topic. And as is always the case, it isn’t really that simple.
I’m near the front of the queue to criticise literature for being a dry and dreary form of art that sucks the life out of its audience. But of course, as Mike discusses in the video, literature isn’t as easily defined as my dismissive rhetoric would imply. What defines literature isn’t arbitrary, but it is often about who is defining or classifying a work as such. My criticisms of literature stem from who perform this classifying, as they will often be people like Jonathan Jones – who said Terry Pratchett sucked – who will criticise the literary merits of works they haven’t read. These arbiters of artistic merit (i.e. snobs) like certain things, thus those certain things are worthy. They create lists of these worthy things and tell us we need to read them at school, study them at university, and expound on how much better these works are… until they actually read one of the unworthy ones and have to eat humble pie.
So the literary and artistic merit we often operate under in society is more about what a certain group of people like. But as Mike points out, that isn’t a good definition, and literature, and “good” art in general, are harder to define. Essentially anything can be literature. And even then the status of a work being literary may be revoked, or instated, as tastes change. Thus referring to Dylan’s lyrics as literature is probably about making us all think about lyrics as an art-form, something that has social defamiliarization. Lyrics are, after all, a form of poetry that are no less artful. Maybe this award will help us acknowledge that art/literature is all around us.
Don’t worry Nickelback, your literary award is surely just lost in the mail.
What better way to celebrate one of my favourite weeks than with a quote from John Green about his book, The Fault In Our Stars, being banned:
I guess I am both happy and sad.
I am happy because apparently young people in Riverside, California will never witness or experience mortality since they won’t be reading my book, which is great for them.
But I am also sad because I was really hoping I would be able to introduce the idea that human beings die to the children of Riverside, California and thereby crush their dreams of immortality. (Source)
There are all sorts of weird reasons that books have been banned in the past and present. Last year I covered the topic at length with both the reasons and the recent favourites for the book banning trolls. As another year rolls round, nothing has really changed. Please, won’t somebody think of the children!!
There is a storm brewing. In the latest of the long line of insults by literary fiction against genre fiction, Isabel Allende has taken a pot shot at crime fiction. Now apparently she hates crime fiction because:
It’s too gruesome, too violent, too dark; there’s no redemption there. And the characters are just awful. Bad people.
But that didn’t stop her writing a crime mystery. It also didn’t stop her saying that the book was a joke and ironic. I think the word she was actually looking for was hypocrite.
I’ve never really understood the people who read or write stuff they don’t enjoy. Sure, I read some really boring science journal articles, but that’s because I enjoy knowing stuff. If I’m going to sit down and read a book, I want that 10-20 hours of entertainment to be, well, entertaining. If I’m writing, which is a much longer and more involved process, why would I invest that much time in something I’m not enjoying doing?
So to some extent, I understand why Isabel decided that her mystery had to be a joke and ironic. But that is also the crux of the problem, she doesn’t seem to understand that she is also insulting readers and fans of genre fiction. I think the book store in Houston, Murder by the Book, that had ordered 20 signed copies of her novel, did the right thing in sending them back.
Now you can write a satirical or ironic take on a particular genre or sub-genre of fiction. But when you do so it has to be because of your love of all those little things you’re taking the piss out of. If you do it out of hate then you can’t turn around and try to sell it to the audience you are taking a pot shot at. I think this stuff is stupid, you’re stupid for reading it, but I still want you to pay me for insulting you.
I get a little sick of snobbishness toward genre readers and writers. Do genre readers and writers take pot shots at literary authors for their lack of plots, characters who have to own a cat and be suffering, and writing that is there to fill pages with words and not actually tell a story? No. We’re too busy reading something exciting.
It would be great if people just enjoyed what they enjoyed and stopped criticising others for enjoying what they enjoy. Enjoy.
I’ll admit it: I did English Literature in high school. I wasn’t particularly good at it. I’ll exclude all my other excuses as to why I didn’t do well in Lit – like my general lack of motivation in school and desperate need to complete the final level of DOOM – and blame my poor grades on the above graphic.
Obviously not the graphic itself, that would be silly. I mean the message that the graphic is trying to relay, and not just that the curtains may be blue. In school and even now, I find that literature is often over-interpreted. I remember clearly one example of this when we were forced to study Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Studying a play by reading it already had me wanting to throw stuff at the teacher, as plays are meant to be watched, not read. But I remember the teacher being adamant that there was a very important juxtaposition and allegory in the comedic scene of the drunken porter.
If you can’t remember this scene in Macbeth, suffice to say it is one big joke about how being drunk makes you pee and ruins erections. Dick jokes never go out of fashion.
Apparently, there is a lot of deep and meaningful stuff going on….. Dick jokes can be deep and meaningful. I always thought that Macbeth chucked in that joke scene because the rest of the play was so dark, and it gave his actors a chance to change costumes before the next act. Essentially, I thought that it was just a necessity and the master playwright had made it fun for the audience. My teacher disagreed.
But that is the thing, unless Shakespeare wrote down his intentions, or there are some amazing insights recorded from his time, then it is just conjecture, or playing with themselves. Occam’s Razor would have us take the simplest answer that fits and not try to over-complicate things.
Now some authors and genres love to go overboard with the hidden meanings, or at least like to make it seem deep and meaningful (see Steve Hely’s satire on this). Some authors just do it accidentally as part of including various themes and ideas in their work. But literary analysis really does take that interpretation to another level.
Currently I’m doing a writing course, a real one, one that assigns homework! For my homework I was doing some research when I accidentally came across a webpage and general philosophy that I found interesting. By interesting I mean ‘rabidly sexist garbage that demeans both men and women.’
Now I have heard this stuff before, a lot of it stems from a lack of modern male identity in the post-feminism world. Whenever you have social change there will inevitably be a push-back and level of disenfranchisement of sectors who have no clear ‘voice’. They talk about being “alpha males” and swallowing the red pill, taking control of their lives and their women. This is, of course, just the excuse that bigots and morons need to write garbage like:
Paternity fraud is worse than rape
5 Reasons To Date A Girl With An Eating Disorder
Apple Should Have Never Hired A Female Handbag Executive
5 Reasons Women Should Come With HoFax Reports
This sort of shit really is pathetic. Take the first article as an example: in what world is child support worse than the second most heinous physical act? (NB: the worst is still murder, although combine the two and you have a new crime novel) Now if we were actually talking about misandry then there would be valid concerns and points to be made and opinions to be listened to. If we were talking about the role of men in society and how it has changed, again, legitimate concerns and points to be made. But how does the lot of men (and women) improve with this:
It should be noted that 30 something American women are not becoming traditionally minded or anything, but rather they are simply in a desperate rush to find the useful idiot who will put a roof over her head. Once an American man goes foreign, American females both in their age 20′s and 30′s are sloppy seconds and cannot compete with non-Western women…… It takes time but your chances of finding a quality girlfriend elsewhere are better, as opposed to in the States where men have to contend with the overweight, screwed up, tattooed, walking STD incubators that are pass for women today. TS: I kid you not, this is an actual quote from one of the articles.
You see, this is not a realistic view of the world. It isn’t even a snapshot of a small segment of society. These are the views of the next generation of sexists and bigots, the kind of people that will dish out emotional and physical abuse because they are ‘real men’. These are the views of the weak and insecure. These are the articles written by frauds of men.
I leave you with Steve Shives’ wonderful take on this topic.
Okay, just to be serious for a moment: Do you see a difference between these two cartoons?
Some of you may have seen the awesomeness displayed on The Oatmeal in response to people stealing his cartoons and taking his authorship off of the picture. Well, here is another example. The second cartoon was the one I was going to post, but I realised that it didn’t have the creator’s signature on it and it would be good to make sure that they were able to be tracked down. Ideally, I’d link to the original, but that isn’t always possible, especially when someone has decided to edit out the part that would help us all identify the author. It is clear that the author isn’t even asking for money, the cartoon is freely published on the web, yet someone has decided to remove the content creator as though they aren’t important.
Free content is great, so many people with great ideas are creating stuff to entertain others just because they enjoy it. I’m going to try and make sure the authors (content creators) are acknowledged when possible, I hope everyone else does too.
Sometimes I cringe, sometimes I laugh, because sometimes writers just haven’t done their homework. Speaking as an avid reader (check my Goodreads stats), it often disappoints me when I see mistakes in a book, TV show or movie. In a movie it isn’t really acceptable, they have consultants whose job it is to make sure they don’t mess up. A TV show might have a consultant who will get a call during their lunch break at their real job to confirm details, the consultant isn’t really listening because they know the scene has already been filmed and the writer has just been told to check to get them out of the director’s hair. In the book there is only the author to blame – editors could care less.
Lets not delve into those little facts and descriptions that always garner criticism, lets talk terminology. Is it too much to ask to have writers use the correct terminology for things? Unless your character is meant to be ignorant, a minute on Google (or one of the competitors) should be able to tell you that a passant is the strap on the shoulder of shirts or jackets that epaulettes are attached to and that a chevron is a ‘V’ shaped insignia that is often used to signify rank and may or may not be on the epaulette or the sleeve. This is just to cite one annoying example I have recently run across. Don’t get me started on CSI – the katana is only one of many swords made of folded steel!!
Anyway, I ran across an interesting list that shows how terminology is often misapplied just to cheer everyone up: mostly me.
1. A firefly is not a fly – it is a beetle
2. A prairie dog is not a dog – it is a rodent
3. India ink is not from India – it is from China and Egypt
4. A horned toad is not a toad – it is a lizard
5. A lead pencil does not contain lead – it contains graphite
6. A douglas fir is not a fir – it is a pine
7. A silkworm is not a worm – it is a caterpillar
8. A peanut is not a nut – it is a legume
9. A koala bear is not a bear – it is a marsupial
10. An English horn is not English and it isn’t a horn – it is a French alto oboe
11. A guinea pig is not from guinea and it is not a pig – it is a rodent from South America
12. Shortbread is not a bread – it is a thick cookie
13. Dresden China is not from Dresden – it is from Meissen
14. A shooting star is not a star – it is a meteorite
15. A funny bone is not a bone – it is the spot where the ulnar nerve touches the humerus
16. Chop suey is not a native Chinese dish – it was invented by Chinese immigrants in California
17. A bald eagle is not bald – it has flat white feathers on its head and neck when mature, and dark feathers when young
18. A banana tree is not a tree – it is a herb
19. A cucumber is not a vegetable – it is a fruit
20. A jackrabbit is not a rabbit – it is a hare
21. A piece of catgut is not from a cat – it is usually made from sheep intestines
22. A Mexican jumping bean is not a bean – it is a seed with a larva inside
23. A Turkish bath is not Turkish – it is Roman
24. A sweetbread is not a bread – it is the pancreas or thymus gland from a calf or lamb
There was something on the TV last night, I think it was a moth attracted to the bright screen. Fortunately the ‘moth’ flapping around didn’t distract me from someone talking about being your best. Best? There is always the question of ability and effort. No one would doubt that effort is involved in achieving something, but some people have to work really hard just to be average, just visit any shopping mall for confirmation. And what if you are lazy, are you aiming too high in your career? My inner science nerd sent me to Google Scholar to find out what various people can achieve.
Elementary school graduates (completed eighth grade) 90
Elementary school dropouts (completed 0–7 years of school) 80-85
Have 50/50 chance of reaching high school 75
Average IQ of various occupational groups:
Professional and technical 112
Managers and administrators 104
Clerical workers; sales workers; skilled workers, craftsmen, and foremen 101
Semi-skilled workers (operatives, service workers, including private household; farmers and farm managers) 92
Unskilled workers 87
Type of work that can be accomplished:
Adults can harvest vegetables, repair furniture 60
Adults can do domestic work, simple carpentry 50
Adults can mow lawns, do simple laundry 40
There is considerable variation within and overlap between these categories. People with high IQs are found at all levels of education and occupational categories. The biggest difference occurs for low IQs with only an occasional college graduate or professional scoring below 90.
So there you go, now you know just how hard you have to work. And just remember, in a democracy the vote of the highly educated is given the same value as those who think mowing a lawn is mentally challenging.
An article in The Guardian on Sunday suggested that garbage, which they defined as genre fiction, was the big seller on Kindles and e-readers. See article here.
Prepare for the irony.
Okay, irony aside, The Guardian has published a number of articles extolling the inferiority of e-readers and e-books. For example, they deride romance and erotica as genres, yet they have always sold well. They deride horror, yet Steven King has been a bestselling author for 40 years. Excuse my cherry picking, but I can’t be bothered digging out my stats sheets to bury this argument further.
For years the literary fiction and biography markets have been kept afloat by the gift and commuter sales. Commuters can’t be seen to be reading anything other than high art or an intriguing insight into some mundane public figure, whose only claim to fame was being able to stand in front of a camera at the right moments. Similarly the books people received as gifts were always some intellectual boorish bunk posing as entertainment.
Now commuters don’t have to have the cover of their book on display and are free to read what they actually enjoy reading. Gift givers are wising up and going to wishlists and giving download vouchers. This isn’t just the end of snobbery, it is the start of truly great works of fiction.
That’s right, E-readers were the gift of gifts this holidays. Now the Pew Institute have crunched the numbers to look at who was buying them and how this has changed over time. Report here.
The researchers performed phone interviews with 2,986 people and asked them, “Are you cool enough to own the greatest gadget since Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone?” With an error rate of 2.2%, the results were as follows:
E-readers and tablets were owned by 10% of people in December 2011.
This was 19% in January 2012.
The proportion of people owning at least one of these two increased from 18% to 29%.
Tablet owners are likely to be under 50 years old and have graduated college.
They are also likely to make enough money to buy lots of apps and books.
E-readers are more popular with women and the 30-49 age group.
E-readers are still pretty popular with anyone under 65.
College graduates and rich folks also love E-readers.
You should own an E-reader.
I have my E-reader, the new Kindle. I still love my pile of dead tree books, but I also love my Kindle.
Real men hide their feelings. Why? Because it’s none of your fuckin’ business! Men do not cry. Men do not pout. Men jack you in the fuckin’ jaw and say… Thanks for comin’ out.
Being a man is largely frowned upon in our society these days. Yet, in the movies, books, even some TV shows, real men are revered. Clint Eastwood made a career out of being a man. Lee Child created Jack Reacher, a man for men and women. Even Hollywood is catching on now and having their boyish stars grow some stubble to look more like men, although Ryan Reynolds can pull off the boyish look as long as he wants.
Things you won’t hear a real man say: Yes I would like to watch a romantic comedy. Twilight is a terrific film series based on some fantastic novels. I have no idea what this sport is about. I will stop and ask for directions. So we went back to her place and hugged.
I was viewing the new series of Sherlock, written by the fantastic Steven Moffat (Coupling, Dr Who, Jekyl), when a thought occurred to me; would the deli be open to sell me an ice cream at this hour? Sadly it wasn’t, which gave me plenty of time to think about how various countries differ in the way they do TV shows and movies.
I present my musings and gross generalities about TV shows around the world.
UK – Talkies.
The best Dr Who – Tom Baker a close second.
When I think of UK TV in general I think very little action but a lot of dialogue. Not much happens in any one episode of UK TV, but all the characters have a lot to say. The best shows – often written by the aforementioned Steven Moffat et al. – are also witty and intelligent.
A great example of this is Dr Who, the David Tennant version. The Doctor is stuck in a life or death situation – lets say its Darleks about to shoot him – and yet he talks his way out of it. Any other country would have him ducking for cover. Another example is the crime drama Luther. This is more an exploration of the main character and his strained relationships and his commitment to solving crimes.
Example: Sherlock, Luther. Outlier: The Bill (cookie cutter).
USA – Explosions and cookie cutter formats.
Cookie-Cutter was a term invented for this franchise.
The Americans are terrific at doing formulaic shows. Their crime shows follow the same patterns each episode, the dramas have a list of top topics – also used for identifying when they have jumped the shark – and all their comedies gradually morph into dramas. They also do gun fights and explosions. More bullets are fired in one episode of US TV than in the entire year of all TV shows from the UK and Australia (NB: made up statistic that is possibly true but I’d have no idea).
As a result they can attract audiences in large numbers to watch things go bang. The longer the show runs the less ideas are used in any one episode as the formulae takes over. In fairness, compared to UK TV, series in the US produce a lot more episodes, so writers would have a harder time coming up with fresh material.
Example: CSI whatever. Outlier: Justified, The Wire.
Australia – Soapies.
Neighbours, the long running steaming pile of dog droppings.
Aussies can’t produce a TV show that isn’t a soapie. We have tried many times, failing miserably to make the show not morph into a soapie. Sometimes we start off with a great premise and even a few episodes that show promise, but it doesn’t take long before we have just another soapie.
I don’t watch Aussie TV any more.
Example: We don’t do anything other than soapies. Outlier: The little watched Good Guys, Bad Guys.
Western Europe – Gritty and noir.
Unit One making you squirm.
Americans have recently started (re)making European shows with more explosions. They have realised that there are so many well written shows there that they just had to copy them. Since Americans can’t handle accents and subtitles they need to redo the lot. Of course the Americans are then surprised when there is something lacking in their version.
I don’t know why, but gritty seems like a default position in every drama produced in Europe (Inspector Rex doesn’t count). As a result shows can become very dark, but at the same time are generally more substantive.
Example: The Elephant, The Killing, Unit One. Outlier: All the same soaps and reality TV that they produce like every other country/region.
Canada – USA shows
We’re in Canada Scully; it’s a conspiracy!
If it is a US TV show, it is likely to be made in Vancouver. My theory for this phenomenon is that American actors and stuntmen on TV shows generally aren’t making enough money to afford decent health care. As a result they like to locate themselves in a country that has proper health care available. Just a theory.
One of the ways to spot an Canadian TV show versus an American TV show is how much shooting and explosions occur during any one episode. At one end you have American shows, at the other end you have Canadian shows, and right in the middle are the Canadian produced American shows.
Example: Stargate, Supernatural. Outlier: Any show that looks kinda American but hasn’t got people shooting someone every 2 minutes.
Eastern Europe, South America & Asia I’d like to know more as Australians don’t have many of them on our screens.
NB: I’ve tried to be as intentionally insulting to the various countries with my observations as possible. There is a lot of great TV out there, Australia makes virtually none of it, so I’m bitter, resentful and ultimately jealous.
It is the season to be jolly, apparently. The jolliest people are, of course, retailers, who are doing their impersonations of Scrooge McDuck swimming. The rest of us are just happy to have some time off work and an excuse to eat until our arteries congeal and drink until the tile floor looks comfy.
Don’t get me wrong, Xmas is a lovely time of year, but I have some issues with it.
1) It’s Xmas not Christmas. This celebration stopped being about Christ’s birthday when shops started advertising how many shopping days there were left before Xmas. I’m glad we have the holiday but lets stop pretending it is a religious holiday. To the 16% of Australian’s (check your country stats here) who actually attend church, feel free to ignore this point. And yes I’m aware of the irony here.
2) Xmas cards. I understand the idea of sending correspondence to family and friends and given the “holiday season” it only seems logical to catch up with people. But I’m under 40, so I have Facebook, Twitter, Email, Linkedin, mobile phones, and know how to use them. Sending cards feels like people the world over are taking a vow of technophobia in order to contract hand cramps and level a rain forest.
3) Xmas lights. I think the goal of Xmas lights, if I am understanding them correctly, is blind people in the space station orbiting Earth. In the day and age of climate change, when we really should be cutting down on energy usage, we decide to set up a whole lot of lights to blind people. It has become a competition between neighbours and streets to see who can have the most gaudy display of flashing eyesores. The winner is usually the person or street who wake up to the electricity bill in January realising they need a second job and to sell a kidney.
4) Caroling. Why is it that people only remember for the other eleven months of the year that they can’t sing? Which also brings me to:
5) Xmas songs. I’m not talking about the traditional carols here, I’m talking about the saccharine odes to love and presents that bombard the airwaves from every pop singer/group the world has to offer. These “artists” were barely tolerable in small doses as it was, but the competition to have the highest selling drink coaster means you can’t even go near a TV or radio for fear of diabetes and the desire to hug a puppy.
6) The celebrity biography. Speaking of stocking stuffers, every Xmas there must be more celebrity biographies bought for Dads the world over than any other time of year. In fact, it is safe to say that the book reading statistics are built on this Xmas tradition of buying a book no-one wants to read for people who don’t read in the first place. Is it really a surprise that so few people read when the only book they start each year is about the mundane life of somebody with decent hand-eye coordination or a backstabbing politician proposing to tell all, but really just relating the party political line of events. I’d prefer the socks.
With that said, Merry Xmas everyone!
Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket.
You know, there is nothing better than media speculators. Any possible change in an industry, government, or price of coffee and they suddenly start predicting the end of the world. Some changes, like any Apple product, are welcomed with open advertising arms, other changes, like e-books, are threatening jobs.
So how did the publishers fare this year? They lost major stores (Borders, REDGroup), had a decrease in stocking at big box stores, and had the market flooded with a slush pile. Turns out they did pretty well.
That’s right, e-books are more profitable and have generally replaced the paperback sales decline. Who’d have thought that people who enjoy reading wouldn’t suddenly stop reading? Did not see that one coming.
Yes, bookstores may be generally declining, or doing their impersonation of climate change deniers, but apparently it can be solved by playing dominoes.
I reckon it is worth visiting this store for two reasons. 1) They made this pretty cool ad. 2) This looks like a store that would have just about any book you are looking for. 3) Someone needs to beat up the hippie playing guitar cross-legged.