Posts Tagged ‘poetics’

Thoughts About EVIL

Posted: April 6, 2011 in Braak
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I have just finished reading The Name of the Wind and its sequel, Wise Man’s Fear. Much has been said about the former, and I have nothing to add. Much of what was said about the former can be accurately applied to the latter, and so I have little to add to this, except for one or two things. The first thing is that I hate teenagers, and sometimes this causes the book to be frustrating; it is correct, psychologically-speaking, for 16-year-olds in general and Kvothe in particular to sometimes behave the way they do, but that doesn’t mean I find it less annoying. The second thing is that this book is plainly the middle of something, and so it has all the faults that middle books have – the spark of introduction has worn off, but the resolution is still a long ways away.

I guess it was two things then. But there’s one more bit I want to write about, something that this book brought to mind, and which I shall now discuss at length: evil.

Some time ago, the Guardian, in celebration of something or other, asked a bunch of writers what their ten rules for writing were.  This inspired me to write my own.

Incidentally, one of Jonathan Franzen’s rules is “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”  So, fuck you very much, Jonathan Franzen.

These rules are better than his.


Moff (sometimes called “Josh Wimmer”, as is the custom of his people) a little while ago wrote a post questioning the value of criticism. I have been meaning to write something lengthy in response to it, as I think he makes some interesting points, and that it’s an interesting topic of conversation.

This isn’t going to be that, though. Instead, I want to look at just one idea, and how it relates to the theater, and how amazingly peculiar an artform the theater is.

Against Canon

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Threat Quality
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I’m a recent reader of TQ, and I’ve been extremely impressed by the consistent quality and clarity of both Mr. Braak’s and Mr. Holland’s writing. The piece “Against Purity” particularly spoke to me, and thought I’d write up a response of sorts.

– Elliott Harwell

Reading the opening lines of Chris Braak’s “Against Purity,” I felt pretty certain I knew where the piece was headed. If the tags “Batman” and “Dracula” weren’t enough, the mention of Kurt Busiek’s asinine comment on continuity clinched it: Braak was going to talk about Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, using it as an example of how non-canon, “alternate universe” stories held a special and important place in the pantheon of comic genres. That reality and my expectations did not perfectly jive shouldn’t be taken as a rebuke of Braak’s work — his post was an excellent, thoughtful read, engaging one of the defining and most vexing two-part questions of nerdom: how do we judge the purity of an interpretative work? And just what does purity give us?

The Drowning City and Fantasy Naming

Posted: October 26, 2009 in Braak
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When I was a kid, the teachers at my high school made bets about how many fantasy names I’d have in my head by the time I finished college.  The numbers were up there.  A thousand, maybe?  I read a lot of fantasy novels and, until recently, never had any trouble keeping track of names.

UNTIL RECENTLY, when I realized I’m fucking old.


On Reviewing

Posted: October 19, 2009 in Braak, poetics, reviews
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Over at the Black Gate Magazine website, a fellow named Bill Ward has put up an article about the difference between a book review, a book summary, and book criticism.  There are some interesting and important distinctions to be made there.  One of the things it’s done, though, is got me thinking about the nature of reviews and reviewers:  how reviews get propagated, who reviewers make their living, what kind of media can support effective reviews.

So, onward!


On Escapsim (Again)

Posted: October 7, 2009 in Braak, poetics
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A couple days ago, Charlie Jane Anders at io9 wrote an article positing that escapism was the highest form of art.  Since the spectre of escapism is inextricable from any serious or even casual study of entertainment-based artistry, and since my own thoughts on the subject were kind of disordered and all over the place, I want to revisit the issue in light of CJA’s article.


The Horror/Humor Problem

Posted: October 5, 2009 in Braak, Horror, poetics
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I’ve noticed this problem in the past and wanted to finally, officially, address it.

Have you ever noticed that, generally speaking, while people get a kick out of watching bad horror movies, no one ever really gets a kick out of watch bad melodramas?  Bad comedies?  Why is that?

When comedy fails to achieve its effect, it’s boring.  When drama fails to achieve its effect, it’s boring.  But when horror fails to achieve its effect, sometimes it’s funny.


On the Tyranny of Verisimilitude

Posted: August 31, 2009 in Braak, poetics
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As promised.

The theater of the late 19th and early 20th century is replete with stories of daring theater managers trying to outdo each other by creating vast technical marvels; impresarios were doing all kinds of outlandish things, like building giant treadmills onstage so that they could stage Ben-Hur’s chariot race, or whole butcher shops so that the audience could appreciate the smell of meat.

Part of this, I think, was the rise of the photograph:  every year, chemists and Kodak were coming closer and closer to a precise rendition of exactly what the eye could see.

And, naturally, this led to film.


Samuel Delany, Used Books, &c.

Posted: August 26, 2009 in Braak, poetics
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I realized the other day that, between the used bookstore, the regular bookstore, the guitar shop, comic shop, grocery store, fancy beer store two live theaters and one movie theater, I could move to a place around 22nd and Sansom in Philadelphia and never leave the three or four square blocks around it.  Seriously, what other things might I be looking for?  There’s even a place where I can buy nice pants.

The point I’m getting to is not how great that particular section of Philadelphia is (though it is pretty great), but about the used bookstore that I found there, which was also great.  And the point of that is not that I got a bunch of old 70s sci-fi paperbacks for fifteen bucks, but that I have finally picked up and read some books by Samuel R. Delany, now.