Tag Archives: literature

The same old shit

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I won’t actually ask the question, because it’s been asked, but I’ll remind you of it: “Is it possible to separate an artist from her/his work?”

Sure. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. But it’s not always possible. When an artist is so much in their work—whether the presence is conscious or unconscious—it becomes difficult to ignore. It’s distracting.

Five minutes ago I finished reading Stephen King’s The Stand. And, to quote a friend, the “religiosity” became “hokey.” But more distracting than that was the subtle racism.

The Satan-esque villain known as “the black man.” The black soldiers being enormous and muscle-bound and barely human. The complete absence of “good” black characters with the exception of the religious, cornbread-baking prophet woman. The ending, with Africans carrying spears and falling dumbly down at Flagg’s feet (the book took place in the ‘90s). And don’t get me started on the female characters.

What else can I say besides the fact that it’s tiresome? I realize it was written in the 70’s. And that’s always the excuse of people who defend this and other writing. “Well that was then; there weren’t black main characters back then,” as if it was the Stone Age. As if this means it is exempt from criticism.

It’s not. Stephen King wasn’t employing these metaphors for literary effect. It’s casual. Included by way of his own subconscious notions. If this were purely a thing of the past and a pattern not present in 90% of popular fiction and film, maybe it would be easier to lay the old dog to rest.

But that dog is barking, and it only makes it worse to read this puffed-up book from the 70’s and see how little has changed.

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Zombies, Hope, and the Easy Way Out

My fascination with zombie culture isn’t a morbid one. Zombie film and literature is exciting for its undead mandibles chewing through civilization, but it’s not the gore that keeps me entranced by what I call the Zombie Movement. The Walking Dead is appealing for what must be award-winning zombie make-up but that’s not what makes me turn to AMC every Sunday. It’s something else; something existential.

What fascinates me about zombie culture is the hypothetical after. I never get tired of different artists’ suppositions on what this world will look like, what our humanity will become, when something rocks our foundations and leaves us irrevocably changed. Because something will change us, and I am eternally interested in what it will be and how we will react to whatever it is.

Maybe I am just a misanthrope, and my curiosity about the After is a gruesome excitement for the end of human reign and the taking up of the torch by another supremacy; perhaps of a kingdom I like better—the reign of the platypus, perhaps, or the lemur. Maybe I like nature too much, because the idea of the Empire State Building covered in moss and vines excites me beyond all reason.

But maybe it’s because underneath all my cynicism is hope. I dread the idea that it would take a zombie apocalypse to bring out the good in us, but somewhere in the zombie fascination is the idea that if we could just start over, press the reset button, begin again, we could get things right. The zombies might eat more than flesh—they might eat capitalism, world war, colonialism.

But that’s the easy way out, isn’t it? We’d rather the undead eat all our problems than solve them ourselves? Typical. But it’s great as social theory.

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