Some people have trouble with fantasy as great drama. I've never understood why. Realism in art does not necessarily mean a kind of dutiful depiction of the mundane, the kitchen details of everyday life. It has always seemed to me that our most profound stories reach back to the mythic and ritualistic elements of early human communal life -- those deep, dark shared experiences of mystery, awe, divinity...
I recently wrote a piece on changes in the music industry brought on by the migration of virtually everything from creation, through promotion to distribution and consumption online. I used the rise of Gen Z phenom Billie Eilish, and the role played by social media in her ascent as an example of the powerful changes that are reshaping the industry. I left one set of observations to treat separately in a short follow-up piece. Although everyone under thirty is familiar with what I will call the web multiplier effect on the popular song, I would like to draw out [...]
Every once in a while this culture vulture finds talent and perhaps more than talent in places where I might never have looked even a few years ago. The ability to discern outcrops in the cultural landscape has been transformed by technology -- we can see so much farther and so much more clearly without ever leaving our computer cockpit. Since it is an article of faith with me that creativity at the highest levels is an inexplicable enigma and can crop up anywhere at any time, this extended vision is a wonderful thing. Thanks to the [...]
Learning from Young Muslims in Prison A Recommended Essay The essay is a truly admirable literary form. Great essayists tend to be writers who range widely through literature, ideas and social mores, and distill the essence of their observations into powerfully cogent and concise prose. Great essayists have never been common on the ground, (George Orwell died in 1948) and there aren’t many around today that I know of. Theodore Dalrymple is such a one. A well travelled, magnificently well-read physician who spent many years as a consulting psychiatrist in English prisons, his often [...]
I have a friend who writes poetry. I find this admirable. Poetry is not exactly the signature art form of this young millennium. There are reasons for this, of course — most of them reflecting rather large gaps in the modern cultural curriculum. Most of us did not attend a hoighty-toighty Ivy League prep school and have not had, in our formative years, the good fortune to come across a Peter Keating (the character played by the much lamented Robin Williams in Dead Poets’ Society). By the time we get to college, many of our literary habits [...]
If someone were to ask me where the most sophisticated, sustained and psychologically compelling explorations and evocations of the human condition (my definition of high art) are coming from here and now, I would say, wait for it, episodic television. This statement will require a good deal of defence. Most culturally sophisticated types would place television far below poetry, theatre, novels, music and even movies as expressions of profound artistic endeavour. I think they are wrong. The case for television can be made especially episodic television where characters develop and change -- the sort of things that [...]