I’m starting to get my writing routine back, and hoping to finish a short story in the next couple days so I can return to the novel for the month of June. So! This might be the last joy-post for a while, because I sorely want to achieve my fiction goals. But, these have been helpful for the interim–both for the attitude adjustment, and the reflective practice.
TV Series: The Leftovers Season 3
Technically, the final episode of Season Three isn’t until next week, but this week’s penultimate episode crystallized the show’s overall thrust in a way that makes the ending clear without ruining the journey. This is quite an achievement for a show that could easily have taken the Lost route and heaped up so much ambiguity around its mystical elements that its core mythology would never recover. Instead, The Leftovers moves from its opening premise in Season One (of a world where 2% of the population vanishes without explanation), through its complicating premise in Season Two (of a town in Texas where further miracles seem to occur), to arrive at a Season Three end-of-days in which everyone is looking for their personal mythology to be affirmed on the seventh-year anniversary of the initial disappearance.
Most of the season has followed different characters desperately striving to see their personal mythologies affirmed in the world around them, and in this last episode we see our protagonist, Kevin, finally confront his lack of mythology: a lack, that is, of some guiding story to give him a sense of purpose. In the final episode, it’s clear that he will track down the woman he cast aside–a woman who has bought into a literally self-destructive mythology in the meantime–and commit himself to making a life rooted in the future, not the past. What do all the mystical elements of the show have to do with any of this? Why did 2% of the population vanish? It really doesn’t matter: The show has always been more about how any of us go forward in so precarious a world, when all the signs and symbols around us waver between the prophetic and the meaningless–and as such, Kevin’s journey has always hit very close to home.
I’m glad that his is ending well.
Fiction: Compass by Mathias Énard
Mathias Énard’s Compass was a welcome reminder that fiction can be unabashedly intellectual–in other parts of the world, at least. North American fiction often adheres to a body of stylistic choices that I sometimes find taxing, but in Compass, our Austrian musicologist spends one fever-ridden night negotiating the scholarly concept of Orientalism in relation to Middle Eastern and Western histories of music, literature, and philosophy–while also criss-crossing the terrain of his feelings for a brilliant female associate. The result is a book that advances a pointed argument–the idea that “Orientalism” as a field of study has done a disservice to the fluidity of cultural interchange between thriving bodies of art and artistry, and has in fact reified precisely the divide between civilizations that it sought to tear down–that is also reads with all linguistic play and intensity of a dream. This was a densely intelligent book that I swept through in a matter of hours, but will sit with for months to come.
Non-Fiction: Four Futures: Life after Capitalism by Peter Frase
This palate-cleanser was everything a dissertation should be in terms of writing style: short, straightforward, with an introduction that outlines clearly the function of each subsequent chapter, and body chapters that delight in the range of examples they bring to bear on a simple thesis. In Four Futures, Frase considers four possible paths for human progress in a post-industrial-capitalist society, as mitigated by the two most pressing variables on our horizon: a post-work economy and a post-eco-crisis economy. His futures include a communist society (in which scarcity has been surmounted and the lack of traditional work opens humanity to new endeavours), a rentist society (in which scarcity has been surmounted in principle, but the calcified remnants of traditional capitalism limit individual access), a socialist society (in which we have to do with less as a whole, but scarcity + egalitarianism makes for a hardy, eco-conscious culture), and an exterminist society (in which scarcity and rigid traditional capitalist limits lead to a warehousing and gradual elimination of whole segments of the population). Frase doesn’t offer solutions, or even intrinsically condemn one future over the others–but he does provide an excellent thought experiment through which readers are encouraged to assess their own priorities, and work towards the future they most prefer.
And… that’s it for now! This week: Writing goals! Wherever your own creative practices find you, I wish you much luck, and greater skill.