March 10th, 2014
Mark Kermode – Hatchet Job
It’s obvious but still fair to say upfront that if you don’t care for Mark Kermode‘s criticism, you probably won’t enjoy this book either. The argument about the role of the professional critic in our contemporary, opinion-saturated landscape is a fine one but it could easily have been contained in a 3,000 word essay. The bulk of the book, then, comprises of anecdotes from Kermode’s life as a film reviewer. These are written in Kermode’s familiar register – you can practically taste the quiff while reading the story of his confrontation with an affronted director who wanted Kermode to repeat his criticisms to him in the flesh – and while they add a certain low-budget romance to his attempts to justify the existence of his profession, if you’re not overly fond of his vocal or follicle mannerisms then you’re unlikely to change your opinion of the man or his hairstyle.
I find Kermode to be amusingly argumentative company, the sort of reviewer I’d probably enjoy disagreeing with in the comfort of my own home, plus I’m still a sucker for stories about The Daft Romance of Writing despite myself, so this worked just fine for me.
Kermode is blessedly free of the sort of totalising mindset that leads many print-era critics to dismiss everything that’s ever been written on the internet as mere shitehouse barking, and his passages on web criticism are typically generous in spirit. This makes sense given Kermode’s enthusiastic adoption of the medium, but he even manages to say a few nice things about Amazon’s review system, which is curious given that I know that not everyone who’s selling stuff through that site has capital eye issues with this part of the bargain - Kermode flags some of the potential issues of this brave new world, but his overall take is more positive than you might expect.
That said, you’d think that a self-professed “old fashioned Trot” would have something to say about how this is part of the creeping growth of co-production as a consumer model in modern biocaptilism, but perhaps that’s an argument for another book on the same topic, one heavier on theory and lighter on quips. I’d like to read that book, but this desire for a bit more thinking was more of an afterthought than a concern that haunted my reading of the book itself
Like the question of whether online anonymity only serves to mask the great unwashed (hint: even if it was, as a member of said mob I can see the value in not always being identifiable by, for example, my employer, and it’s possible to “hide” behind a pseudonym while also providing a fixed point from which to stand by your opinions), this is the sort of objection you’d have with a friend over dinner and which would be a distant memory by the time you’d polished off your deserts.
Like I said, he’s that sort of critic.
EDITED TO ADD: At the behest of my lawyer, I would like to make it clear that I have no intention to kidnap Mr Kermode, and that the rumours that I have set up a dual purpose debate/dinner chamber in preparation of this act have been grossly exaggerated by my “friends” and neighbours.
December 18th, 2013
Special “Two years late and several thousand Bitcoins short” Edition!
People still do linkblogging, right? I mean not here, not recently, but elsewhere. Feels like a holdover from the “internet as big magazine” approach to broadcasting into the void, and given that I’m too scare to commit myself to any other model that suits me just fine!
EMBARRASSING ENTHUSIASM DEPT: You read it somewhere else first, but we’re in a celebratory mood in Mindless HQ anyway, so fuck it – STRAY BULLETS IS COMING BACK!
It’s too early in the day for me to get totally shameless on this, so you’ll have to go read that interview to find out about the massive collected edition of the first forty issues, the continuation of the old series, and the launch of a new one. Suffice it to say that Stray Bullets is the best, most unsettling crime comic out there, and that we’re glad all those kittens weren’t sacrificed in vain.
If you’ve not red the series before, issues #1-4 are apparently free to download right now, and Zom (or “Ad Mindless as he now likes to be called) wrote a piece about issue#1 that should set the scene just nicely:
A car speeding into the night, a lonely county road, as an establishing shot it’s hardly setting a precedent. But the first panel in SB #1 transcends its over familiarity by actually saying something meaningful about the book and all that follows it. This is a story that will make good on the panel’s familiar metaphorical properties. What we need to keep in mind here is that this road is black, to see anything we’re going to need a torch, and that things probably lurk in those woods. For that matter, things probably lurk in that car – what’s it doing out there in the dark, anyway? The world of Stray Bullets is a dangerous place, and the road travels on until you die.
We should also consider the notion that Lapham doesn’t want to simply transcend cliché, that he’s keen to set-up certain expectations in the reader. So later, when the tires on the car blow out and that familiar scene with the cop and the dead body in the trunk rears it’s head, we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of novelty on offer. What’s interesting about all these little genre ticks is that, by issue 2, you could be forgiven for forgetting you were reading a crime comic in the first place, and that’s a recurring pattern throughout the series. The effect being that just when you think you know where you are Lapham pulls something entirely unexpected out of the hat, and suddenly definitions like ‘crime fiction’ start to feel inadequate or in serious needs of revision. If I was hunting around for words to describe Stray Bullets #1 I’d eschew genre definitions and settle on adjectives like macabre and gothic.
MISSING PERSONS DEPT: Free Batman/set Batman free.
For serious though: this is the best(/most horrible) Batman comic I’ve read all year, the tactically deployed evil of Batman Incorporated notwithstanding. Twitter account here, if you’re interested.