24 August 2010

Is Fiction Morally Impoverished?

It seems interesting to note that very few of the fiction novels that I can remember reading have focused, or are centered upon the poor or underprivileged except as an object of pity, sympathy or as a project for the  assuaging of the writers, readers or in worst case scenario, protagonists (see also first two cases) guilt.
The characters in The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel (an engrossing book) are mall PhD's or MA's working on world changing projects, and the next comparable novel that I have read, O.S. Card's Pastwatch are all highly educated moral persons who try to make the world a better place through their fortunate ability to spend leisure time devoted to community service. This is not a criticism beyond the simple fact that affluence affords "charity".
I'm just noticing that the audience for this particular tier of fiction is a particularly privileged, and thus educated one. It is a class of people educated and well read enough to be worldly and feel guilt. The only exception that comes to mind at the moment1 is J.M. Coetzee's The Life And Times of Michael K which to me is a novel profoundly laden with guilt, but devoid of self indulgence.

Sadly however, this is the failing of much of the fiction I have read in the last five years. It is incredibly (to my academically trained mind) well written, but profoundly privileged and self important. It focuses on the awareness of privilege and uses that privilege to seek a solution to a lack of privilege. It is progressive fiction. It sees the mistakes (prejudice, bigotry, patriarchy etc, etc) of the past, of its foreparents, and thinks that by noticing them, by talking about them and commenting on them, they are absolved. Tacked into a case like a dry butterfly to observe and lament. A narcissistic storytelling tradition focused on its ability to self-analyze without irony. Is the protagonist really the reader, the writer, who can feel good about themselves for feeling sympathy for the impoverished whom their fantasies have helped to assuage?2

At the moment it is remarkably exactly that. My looking at a thing and criticizing it for criticizing something else without tangibly addressing it. What can a novel do, it presupposes literacy and availability, and thus privilege by its very existence. So does my cursory analysis of novels and their thing that they do so well.

1. I realize this whole business is idiotic, but it's a writing exercise and exorcise. It is I believe important to analyze everything about a message, which includes fiction. My personal experience with fiction or even historical fiction in the last decade or two is somewhat sparse however.

2. Is this why District 9 is such a good fucking movie before it gets all video-gamey and robot happy? Think about it, a racist ass white dude is brutally forced to sympathize quite literally with the objects of his hate. Okay, there is a lot more to be analyzed there and I'm not sure it's such a good example anymore, but I do think that D9 had some serious implications in the opening 45 minutes which were largely betrayed by (entertaining but hollow) economic concerns.

08 August 2010

Dick N' Cynthia Shirts

It had been something like three years or so since we had changed the Kung Fu Grindhouse shirt design. The old Sho Kosugi design was a real workhorse and people loved it, but we needed something fresh. Phill and I each designed one of these, Richard Harrison and Cynthia Rothrock respectively, and viola, we had two new shirt designs.

Get your own for just $10 each, hand printed by me and shipped to your door.
Contact me at eatenbyworms(at)hotmail