I know, most of America drives around in their own cars, but those city dwellers who find themselves in the back seat of a taxi or other hired conveyance may sympathize with the situation. Many people that drive for a living have the radio on: talk radio, music, endless news, NPR. I have to confess, I am a big advocate for silence, and feel there should be a bi-partisan movement for the right to not have to listen to stuff (on airplanes, in elevators, in malls, etc.).
Sure, I could get (and indeed have) earphones. But I don’t want to block out the world, I want to hear it, just not endless marketing jabber or musak or whatever. But I am particularly unhappy with having to listen to endless news or much of talk radio. There are a few talk radio stations whose goal is to be entertaining or informative. But most lure their listeners in with conflict, outrage, fear, danger, scary information, etc. like a fish with a dangler lure….
These kinds of shows—TV, radio, whatever—wind listener’s clocks, pull their chain, and give them some frisson of energy, hate, fear, anger, which seems to be far more addictive and universal (clearly part of one’s “lizard brain“) than a feeling of peace, happiness, learning or engagement. It exhausts me to listen to the streams of exhaust! And I don’t have adequate shields to effectively block out noise. Yes, I freely confess, I can’t pack with the TV on. It’s just too distracting.
Propaganda works if you hear information over and over again, it wears away at your critical faculty (if you have one). It’s convincing, even it it’s patently untrue and utterly ridiculous. If you see it, hear it, read it, talk about it it gets truthified through endless repetition. So I now not only ask the drivers to turn off the radio, but tell them to stop listening to this endless, depressing stream of fairly useless information. It isn’t good for their outlook on life.
It’s all a creepy, voluntary self-brainwashing.
I now feel much more charitable towards endless sports! But really, they should be reading romances….
Can we address the absurd queries about romance authors doing “research,” nudge, nudge, wink, wink? Does anyone ask mystery or horror writers how many people they had to disembowel before they could write their story? I don’t think so.
(And of course, there is the fact that if they answered, they’d have to kill you).
It’s also delightfully contradictory, as others often accuse romances as being utterly unrealistic stories–that also apparently must be based on personal experience. Hmmmm. You must choose one or the other, but you really can’t have both those complaints simultaneously.
There is a dictum: write what you know, but luckily, it’s not a requirement.
Write what you can imagine.
Write what you think about, care about, fantasize about, dream about.
Write to explore what you don’t fully understand.
Write to open minds, to touch hearts.
It’s called fiction because you make it up…
You know how myths and legends are actually early stage psychiatry?
They are stories that illustrate behaviors, offer life lessons and explore the dynamic between certain personalities. They demonstrate the impact of misunderstandings, the consequences of acting hastily and the importance of not dismissing people because they don’t meet your assessment of being a valuable player. They remind us of the need for courtesy to all (really, you just never know), and countless other helpful guideposts to better understand and survive in this complex world.
Jealous Hera, mischievous Loki, the old beggar woman asking for alms, the simple son, witches, goblins, vampires, werewolves, zombies….
Zombies! Yes, it sounds a bit ridiculous. Despite Haitan folklore, Vodou, Voodoo, or whatever spelling or incantation you choose—or even the possibility that the Undead do indeed walk—our present Zombie craze is highly stereotyped and stylized.
But you perhaps never thought of the Undead as a valuable life lesson—an accurate explanation of what life is actually like.
It all starts innocently enough, you’re living your life, hanging out with your classmates, co-workers, colleagues, spending days, months, often years together, cordial, close, connected. You chat, share meals, share stories, share your life, your dreams, your experiences.
You think you are surrounded by humans, but all it takes is a change to clarify who in your group are the living dead—surviving off flesh or brains—and who are actually human. You graduate, your kids go to different schools, you move, you change jobs, you retire. Suddenly, you no longer have a brain or flesh worth eating—you have nothing to offer.
In fairness, you can’t stay friends with everyone & the drifting apart is often mutual, but it’s still an odd feeling to achieve invisibility with people you may have seen every day for years.
Retirement may be the most challenging adjustment, as other changes often just trade one group of the Undead for another. Opting out of the workforce can often eliminate your usefulness to others quite dramatically. Suddenly, you have nothing worth eating….
Visiting the old workplace you realize you are a ghost in the machine—invisible to most. Though it can sometimes be quite surprising who you are visible to, and to whom you have disappeared.
Just like in a Zombie film the humans are often not the ones you would expect.
Judge something on its own merits/demerits: don’t blame the peacock for its tail or wish it were a chicken and provided eggs.
Clearly, Mr Lane has not gotten the excellent advice a friend gave me in college when I asked him (a little desperately): “What do you say when a friend asks you to read something they wrote and tell them what you think? What if you didn’t like it? Do you risk the truth? Or lie for the sake of the friendship?”
I’m not comfortable with a polite lie; it seems to denigrate the friendship. Yet very few really want to hear the unvarnished truth about something they have created, labored over and are taking the risk of sharing with you.
What do you say?
The advice, which I have internalized in assessing all creative work was: “Liking or not liking is not at issue. When you read something, think about what the creator was trying to accomplish. Did they achieve their goal?”
This opened a door to looking at any material and considering it in its own right. Not against my personal opinion, but against itself, and if I have the background, in its context.
I would always laugh (quietly) when people would comment on series romances and say: “Well, it’s hardly literature!” And I would think Why are you making this absurd comparison? Neither is The New York Times, but you probably read it every day. Assess something in its own right, or against its peers, in its own context.
Of course everyone is entitled to their personal taste: I like this, I don’t like that. I don’t even have to have a reason. But that doesn’t require any critical faculties or judgment, really. It’s just your feeling, your opinion.
True criticism, in my opinion, is to put aside your personal tastes, your possibly narrow and judgmental vision of what is ‘proper’ or ‘acceptable’ or ‘intellectually validated’ and open your mind and heart to what the work itself is trying to achieve, how it relates to the history of material trying to achieve similar goals, and how it may succeed, fail, or break new ground.
Mr Lane seems deeply respectful of the surreal, science fiction and absurdist vision of “The Lobster,” but childishly, rudely dismissive and disrespectful of an comic-book based action adventure film (which, full disclosure, I very much enjoyed).
I realize that many critics and their readers delight in creating a polarized world of Good and Bad, but it lacks humanity, offers little insight, and seems…well, small.
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