Friday, April 28, 2017

A little Friday morning reading

I've enjoyed Neil Gaiman's writing for years, and I'm interested in trying to binge-watch the new series American Gods after it's gotten good and going. (I've tried several times to binge-watch shows--The Man in the High Castle, Penny Dreadful, Dark Matter--but I couldn't watch any past the first season; they always disappointed.) Anyhow, I really liked American Gods my first reading and intend to reread it before watching the shows as I don't remember many details (and the trailers remind me I've forgotten more than I'd thought), and I want to get in on this binge-watching thing that everyone, including my wife, has been doing.

I've been reading much about how several TV shows now are especially relevent as they give insights into Life Under Trumpism, and especially American Gods and The Handmaid's Tale. But for the Gaiman book, I read a very good interview in which he says the following:
I have this mad theory about American elections. There is a reality-TV quality to them, in that they tend to go to what people think would probably be the most interesting story. “Who’s more interesting? Who’s a better story? Bob Dole or Bill Clinton? Let’s go for Clinton, it’ll be more interesting!” And there is that point where you’re going, “Okay, so is it Hillary, who still feels kind of like a rerun? Or is it Trump?” Even articulating that as a theory means that people are going to mishear what I’ve said. It will turn into a clickbait headline and people will be going, “You said that Trump was a better story!” No. I think Trump is an out-of-his-depth idiot. Who is possibly criminal. And certainly incompetent. I think that, actually, having a sane and functional right wing is a good thing. Having what we’ve got right now is a bad thing.

When the novel was written, it was written about America as a country of immigrants, of people who either came here of their own free will, or escaped here, or were brought here against their will. And what that meant — talking about the religious traditions and talking about the cultural traditions and talking about what that became. And having a lead character who was racially — and in all other ways — a melting pot. That, when I wrote the novel, didn’t seem to me to be particularly problematic, difficult, or even praiseworthy! Things that I did not think were praiseworthy or sensible included writing about indentured servants and transportation. Writing about the slave trade. Writing about a gay, Muslim salesman encountering a genie who drives a cab in New York.

I wasn’t doing it for the credit. I was doing it because it all feels right if you’re talking about America. Suddenly, Trump came in and now I’m reading articles in Vanity Fair about, “This is the most political stuff you’ve ever seen.” Well, I guess that’s all true, but it’s not like we sat down and went, We are the opposition. We simply started telling our fucking story and then the world changed. It would be like telling a pro-Jewish story in Berlin in the 1930s, and suddenly you’re looking around going, “We’re apparently doing something big and important.”
 Oddly, this theory of his comforts me, as the idea that we love a good, juicy story is a lot more appealing than that we like chaos and incomepetence. It's certainly played out at times in American electoral history (although it's important to remember we never had Presidents Bryant or Long), and if it's true it suggests that, like all the other times, most of us will get through it. Of course, some of us won't. And it's for those the rest of us must act up.

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