Friday, September 27, 2013

A Book with planes, trains and automobiles

There was once a time in a land and era far away when one could peek at the bookcase(s) and record and/or cd collections of the person they were dating. This has now changed with the world that is much more digital. Recently I have done some travel via plane, train(MN light-rail and D.C. Metro) and automobile. My research methods are not exhaustive or solid given the sample size but there is one reality that is hard to escape--we have our noses and fingers in our iphones, smartphones, tablets and whatever else they might be called.

Flying to Washington I picked a book out of my bag. The gentleman seated next to me said: "Huh, some people still do that?" I laughed. Then it made me sad. I don't make judgements in terms of what anyone reads. Read mystery. Read literary fiction. Read poems. Read. I really don't care. Yet, over and over on that trip, people were surprised by my presence with a book made from paper.

Reading, to me, is a vehicle to other lands and ways of thought. It enables someone to learn. It can be escapist or a jumping off point for discussion. It makes us belong to a tribe.

Two nights ago Edwidge Danticat quoted Toni Morrison. She said, "Who knew that he was writing for a black girl in Ohio?

I love to people-watch. I watch them read magazines and Gillian Flynn and eveything else that is sold in an airport-bookstore. The book is dying and it is rising like a phoenix.

Whenever someone looks at me with my paper book and seems astonished I try to smile and let them know that the book is a tool against tired thinking. It is a form of rebellion. I read to inform and enjoy the world in places unknown to me.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Anatomy of Violence(with apologies to Adrian Raine)

This is one of those posts when I don't know what I'm going to say until I say(type) it. I'm also not certain if there is a coherent point. But it's something that has been bouncing around in my head recently and I need an outlet for that.

Customers frequently ask for suggestions with some clarifications or exceptions--which is helpful and totally fair. Customer x might say, "I can't handle anything where bad things happen to animals." Variations of that can include: children, women, anything other than a zombie. I'm perfectly happy with those limits and abide by them. Another customer might say, "I need something without sadness." Again, perfectly fine. We all need escapes from time to time and there are moments when real life takes its toll. However, there is sadness in life. Not to get too heavy but without darkness there is no light. And there is violence in life. All too often all too much of it. And like any art form, writing must reflect what is real in this world. So, yes, violence.

Recently I've heard two things from customers: "Oh, I liked that book but it was quite violent." And, "It looks good. Is it violent?" Of course that's a hard question to answer. Emotional violence, shooting someone point-blank and the violence of war are only a few of possible situations. Then I started to think about other popular art forms. Television, in particular. The Wire, Breaking Bad, Dexter, CSI, Law and Order and Criminal Minds are just a few shows that come to mind. These are shows that are wildly popular in spite of, or partially due to(?), their explicit violent nature. Very rarely have I heard complaints about what they portray.

So is violence the problem? I'm not sure how to answer that. Is it possible that violence that is shown to us is not as real/bad/horrifying as what we read about and therefore must only imagine? Again, I have no answer. I do think that we've become quite tolerant of images via computer/tv/film. Be it violent or crude language. It's the norm. A professor I had long ago told me that one of the reasons the Vietnam War ended was that the American public was tired of seeing body-bags on the nightly news. We don't see that now, for the most part, with Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria soon to come it seems.

I'm not a proponent of violence without reason or meaning. I'm also not averse to it being there because it needs to be. In art, I mean.

What do you think?