Joy ed. Wiman (2017)

Joy, a collection of poems 100 poems about joy edited by Christian Wiman. I finished reading it a little over a week ago but I’m not really finished with it. It’s one of those books that lingers with you even after you’re done (kinda like Gilead or Stoner). I found myself returning to it, flipping to random pages or to pages I had marked, reading and rereading passages and poems. It has a pleasant and calming effect, and I know that can be found in reading in general but there was something about it that I can’t quite explain. 

The knowledge of the fallen world does not kill joy, which emanates in this world, always, constantly, as a bright sorrow. -Alexander Schmemann, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, qtd. by Wiman in “Joy” pg. 22

Modern and postmodern literature dismissed joy a long time ago and glorified nihilism and cynicism. Joy in its non-self-help form is portrayed as meaningless and frivolous. And that’s putting it nicely. Wiman is trying to reclaim the term in this collection and he quotes Derek Walcott “The Elegist”:

I once asked [Zagajewski] if he believed in happiness…and he said that he does not believe in Happiness, but he does believe in Joy. Happiness if for the Declaration of Independence, a political condition, and also for the ending of movies. Joy, by contrast, is an illumination, as in Blake and Wordsworth and Rilke, a benediction, a visitation. In the twentieth century, it required nothing less than a belief in angels.

What does such an epiphany, in a taxi in jerky traffic at mid-morning with the crowds on the pavement, and with the sense of impatience and rage that a busy city can convey–what does such a visitation of delight do but confirm the reality of the soul, the redemption of experience, the affection of hope, of gratitude to the light and to the unheard music that light contains, blessing the hectic avenue as well as a railway platform in unhappy Poland, but most of all confirming a calling, to be a poet, and to have the friendship of poetry by a writer in your own time, one who believes in archaism, with capital letters, such as Joy and Beauty? Why be a coward, like almost every critic?

-Derek Walcott qtd. in Joy ed. Wiman pg. 61, emphasis mine.

So being the anxious person that I am, I was hesitant about reading it at first. I was afraid it’ll be another one of those cheesy self-help pseudo-psychology books that talk about happiness and joy or “positive emotions.” Those books have turned happiness and joy into something of a commodity, a pathetic and insincere object that you can achieve if you try hard enough. But Wiman does something else in Joy. The poetry collected in the anthology captures that evasive essence of joy in a sincere and beautiful way. It acknowledges the complexity and simplicity of the feeling, the sorrow and bliss that accompany joy. It allows you to experience joy, the joy of reading, the joy of poetry.

The anthology left me speechless. It’s a joyful experience. I found myself smiling, chuckling, and sometimes getting all teary as I read it. I felt a sense of awe and bliss. And sometimes I felt nothing. It’s utterly beautiful.

Some of my favorites were: “Joy” by Lisel Mueller, “Meditation on a Grapefruit” by Craig Arnold, “Happiness” by Paisley Rekdal, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” Wendell Berry (which is one of my all time favorite poems even before reading the anthology), “Late Beethoven” by Adam Zagajewski, and “The Answer” by Sara Teasdale. But nearly all the poems in the collection are incredible.

What Wiman successfully does in this anthology, and he talks about it in the introduction, is show how some feelings like joy cannot be explained and theorized and the moment you do that you’re missing the whole point of it. If you try to nail it down, it’s no longer joy. And this is where poetry and literature comes in, poetry allows you to experience joy and even understand it in a way that language fails and it acknowledges how it is different for each person. There are some entries where the joy explored is that related to marriage, childbirth, food, religion, travel, pain, health, etc…. it reminds me of William James’ approach to religion in “Varieties of Religious Experiences,” it is a universal yet individualized experience and the individual experience is as valid as the universal one. If I tried to describe the book, or the poems, I would be selling it short and robbing you of the experience. I recommend picking it up and flipping to any poem and just read it, slowly. Don’t rush it or try to understand it, simply read it and savor the moment. I know this may sound like something out of gnosticism or a poster at Target, but trust me it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Rating: 5/5

‘I hear you are entering the ministry,’ the woman said down the long table, meaning no real harm. ‘ Was it your own idea or were you poorly advised?’ And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else’s. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching in the feet. It was a stirring in the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and could not even name the name for sure. Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you a high and driving peace. I will condemn you to death.

I pick the children up at the bottom of the mountain where the orange bus lets them off in the wind. They run for the car like leaves blowing. Not for keeps, to be sure, but at least for the time being, the world has given them back again, and whatever the world chooses to do later on, it can never so much as lay a hand on the having-beenness of this time. The past is inviolate. We are none of us safe, but everything that has happened is safe. In all the vast and empty reaches of the universe it can never be otherwise than that when the orange bus stopped with its red lights blinking, these two children were on it. Their noses were running. One of them dropped a sweater. I drove them home. -Fredrick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace, qtd. in Wiman pg. 32

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D S.4

Coulson: Where’s your power come from?
Robbie: I made a deal with the Devil.
Coulson: Right… okay… just… [walks over to Mack] Okay, ghosts, devils. You believe any of this stuff we’re dealing with?
Mack: I believe in God, so I gotta believe in the other thing.
Coulson: In my experience, gods usually turn out to be aliens.
Mack: Alien would definitely explain the things he can do.

The fourth season of Agents of Shield picks up a few months after season 3 finale with the search for Daisy Johnson, aka Skye aka Quake who has gone rogue and is chasing after a hate group called the Watchdogs who have been hunting Inhumans. Meanwhile, SHIELD has a new director, Jeffery Mace with a whole new set of rules, red tape, and bureaucracy; while Coulson is on Zephyr One with Mac searching for Daisy before the authorities (SHIELD and normal police) catch her.

Coulson: As a former director, I have a better sense than most about how precious your time is. How important it is to prioritize the critical from the trivial. Which makes me wonder why you’d waste half a day flying here on a wild goose chase.
Mace: It’s not a wild goose chase if there are geese. You deny they’re on board?
Coulson: Geese? I have zero geese. We are goose free.

Skye is falsely accused of being a terrorist thanks to the efforts of some senators who are secretly backing the Watchdogs and running a smear campaign against inhumans while also calling for Humans First (sounds familiar?)

That’s basically the premise, the season is then divided into three sections or I like to think of it as three miniseries with one overarching plot line or connecting thread. But like almost everything with Marvel, it is weirdly convoluted and hard to explain so you have to bear with me (or just skip the summary and go straight to the review below though I doubt if you haven’t seen this season that it’ll make any sense…) Anyway, first part is called Ghost Rider. And it is as the title indicates about the Marvel character: Ghost Rider. Now don’t think Nick Cage with the awkward facial expressions and bad CGI, no this is the real deal. Robbie Reyes is Ghost Rider and he’s “cleaning” the streets of Los Angeles by killing gang members. One of the gangs stole a strange device but it was intercepted and there’s a lot of weird stuff happening that I can’t explain but to give you a crude summary: “ghosts” steal this particle matter making device, taking to Momentum lab and conducting this experiment trying to play god. That’s one side of the story, then we have Radcliffe Holden (I think we met him last season, he’s the transhumanist scientists), Fitz’s old mentor who created AIDA, an AI that passed the Turing test. Then there’s the Darkhold, a mystical book with extraordinary powers that gives its reader a wealth of dangerous knowledge (think forbidden fruit but more dangerous, as in giving whoever plucks it, if I may, world annihilation-playing-god-opening-other-dimensions-powers and not just recognizing one’s own nakedness…).

Fitz [seeing the Darkhold] : I feel like a Dark Ages blacksmith looking at Tesla.

Anyway, the ghosts, who turn out to be old scientists want to use the Darkhold to bring themselves back to life and take over the world, typical villain plan. But they are thwarted by Ghost Rider and Shield.

Coulson: Without him [Ghost Rider], we wouldn’t know the Darkhold had resurfaced. But the fewer people who know about it, the better. Fury had no problem opening Pandora’s box from time to time, but even he was afraid of this thing. It’s powerful, it’s deadly, and now probably in the hands of a pissed off mad scientist ghost. So, thoughts, feelings? This is a safe space.

Oh an in the midst of all that hubbub, Shield needs to use the Darkhold (can’t tell you why because then it’ll spoil the fun and you might kill me…)but are afraid of its powers so what do they do? They let Aida, the AI who passed the Turing test, almost fooled Fitz, and was created by one of the smartest people on the planet, read the damn book, no big deal right? Nothing wrong can happen, right? I mean what’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like Ultron destroyed an entire city and almost defeated the Avengers and took over the world and all he had was Jarvis. So why not give the Darkhold to Aida?

Mack: First of all, that thing is not a she. It’s a damn robot. And second of all, what is the matter with you two chuckleheads? Have either one of you seen a movie in the last thirty years? The robots always attack.
Radcliffe: Well, technically speaking AIDA’s not a robot, she’s an android.
Fitz: That’s true.
Mack: Android, robot, it doesn’t matter what you call them, the end results always the same. They rise up against their human overlords and go kill-crazy!
Radcliffe: You make a fair, if intense, point.

SHIELD-LMD

This then starts the second part of the season, titled: LMD which stands for life model decoy. Now after achieving their mission, Fitz and the rest of the Shield team try to wipe Aida’s mind because she read the Darkhold. Well they do, but when have we ever met a mad scientist who wasn’t mad in the Marvel universe? So of course Radcliffe has a backup plan and another LMD. One LMD infiltrates Shield and replaces one of its members, Radcliffe wants the Darkhold back. And the team goes on for more than 4 episodes not realizing one of their own was replaced. But then things go out of control, or so it seems, and Aida goes all Terminator on them (I mean the first one not Judgement Day).

Mack: Radcliffe built a humanoid robot that’s about to attack the base.Yo-Yo: Why would he do that? Has he watched no American movies from the eighties? Robots always attack.
Mack: I’ve been saying that all day.
Yo-Yo: Smart people are stupid.
Mack: Alright, gear up. The robot apocalypse is finally here.

On the other hand we have Senator Nadeer, a pain in the neck who’s working with the Watchdogs and “The Superior” to bring Shield down and kill all the Inhumans. We have a a few scrimmages heres and there and plans that are foiled, t as much as I adore Coulson, he can be a trusting idiot sometimes. But that’s not the best part because by the end of this part. Seriously if you haven’t watched it, you can’t know what happens next without it being spoiled for you, even if I give you no details the whole plot line from hereinafter will spoil LMD for you. You can read it if you want if you’re a normal human being who doesn’t care about spoilers but I would personally lose my mind if I read spoilers. Your call.

*******SPOILER ALERT*******

Almost the whole team is replaced, you know save for a few who will have to save the day.

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This then gives way to the third part of the series: Agents of HYDRA. Of course Aida took advantage of the Darkhold, undermined Radcliffe, replaced the whole team with LMDs and plugged plugged them into the Framework: an alternative virtual reality created by Radcliffe. In that reality, Aida removes each member’s biggest regret and then we watch their lives unfold. From the title of this part, you should already assume Hydra won the war and took over the world. Coulson was never an agents, he becomes a history school teacher, May, Ward, and Skye are devout Hydra agents (well Ward is a double agents because, Ward), Simmons presumably died in an explosion, Inhumans are hunted and experimented on, Mac knows nothing, Mace is the leader of the resistance, and wait for it…Fitz is the head of Hydra. And you know who’s his love interest is? Madame Hydra. Who is Madam Hydra you ask? Aida.

Radcliffe: Yes, quantum cells, flaming skulls, androids – just another day at S.H.I.E.L.D., huh?

Yes, she becomes the head of Hydra and is trying to use this alternative reality to create an organic body for herself in the real world and use it to take over the world, as you do. Okay so who saves the day? I said Aida plugged the whole team in but I also said almost the whole team. We still have Skye, Simmons, and Yo-yo in real life. Skye and Simmons go into the alternative reality to try to find out where Aida is hiding their team members and unplug them. Well that’s going to be a piece of cake, right? No. Because nothing in Agents is ever a piece of cake and NOTHING EVER HAPPENS WITHOUT BREAKING YOUR FREAKING HEART. Needless to say, they face a lot of trouble and your heart shatters into a thousand pieces, no big deal.

MALLORY JANSEN, IAIN DE CAESTECKER

After a long ordeal and fight, the team succeeds and Aida is defeated with the help of Ghost Rider. But no rest for the wicked.

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Oh there’s also a Russian dude who hates Coulson and aids Aida (see what I did there). He sniffs onions after drinking vodka and lives in a submarine. He played a role in Aida’s plans but he wasn’t that big of a deal really. They played him up as the Superior and he does the dirty work but meh, he’s not a major villain.

Mace: You know what a hero is?
Coulson: Are we really going to do this?
Mace: Everybody loves Han Solo. Rebel, rule breaker, lone wolf. But to my old-fashioned sensibilities he’s not a hero, he’s just a guy who always puts himself first.
Coulson: I agree.
Mace: A real hero’s a team player, someone who acts selflessly.
Coulson: Not sure you heard the part where I agreed. Personally I always felt that Admiral Ackbar was the unsung hero. A strategic military man who led combat ops against the Empire.
Mace: Is that how you see it Phil? S.H.I.E.L.D. is the Empire and your ragtag group is the Rebels?

Phew. Now let’s talk criticism.

This could be so far the best season of Agents. They took all the faults in the last season and rectified them here. Instead of stretching out one story over the course of 23 episodes to the point where you need filler episodes and it loses its punch, they divided it up into three parts, exactly what I wanted to happen in the last season. This way each part or miniseries had a tight plot line and was done properly, no lame filler episodes or crime of the week stuff, just plain bigger narrative ride.

At first I was skeptical with the Ghost Rider series, I didn’t know where they were going with it and I was afraid they might make it too hokey (I know it’s sci-fi and hokey by nature but there was always a logic to their universe, so not hokey, you know what I mean?). Anyway, I was concerned with the Momentum Labs plot and it wasn’t that great but then they introduced the Darkhold and brought Robbie in with the team and it picked up heat. It was more meaningful that personal vendettas, the whole world was at stake again. As for LMD and Agents of Hydra, gosh those two were fantastic. It was realistic enough to happen in the Marvel Universe and in a way they make it feel almost that it could happen in the real world ( oculus rift and AI are already a thing). It was taking the old Robots kill humans trope but giving it a creative twist, which mainly came from the personal stakes. It wasn’t just humanity were you could be dismissive we’re tired of that when it comes to AI (i know I sound I’m contradicting my previous statement about ghost rider but it’ll make sense, wait). Vigilantes with a personal vendetta are overdone AIs with world domination plan are overdone, switch it around-vigilantes saving the world and AIs with personal vendettas and you get some juicy stuff there.

Radcliffe: I’m building an inter-dimensional gateway with an android I’ve created. If this works, I could die happy.
May: We’ve put our faith in a robot who says she hears ghosts. If it fails, you might die quickly.

The best thing about Agents is its characters. The Whedons have a knack for making you invested in the characters even if they are the worst. It’s impossible to not love the agents or hate the villains, of course a well written character couldn’t create that effect if it weren’t for a talented actor that brings it forth. You can’t help not feeling their pain, their loss, their anguish, desires and pleasures, the characters feel so real. It’s like Supernatural where you keep watching it even after 12 lousy season only because Sam and Dean are so damn good, except with Shield even the plot is riveting. For instance, in the Agents of Hydra storyline, although it is an alternative reality and everything is almost completely different, the changes to the characters are still in line with the characters developed so far, Coulson is a good guy who tries to stand up for the bullies even as a history teacher making his own soap, May is a devout soldier but with a strong sense of morality, underneath the mechanic macho person, Mac is just soft puppy who wants to save people and do good in the world, Ward will always be the double agents, and Fitz, well he’s an easily influenced weakling mad scientist but with a good heart. It brilliant how well the development is drawn out in such a believable way that also has some social commentary about the nature of humans and effects of society.

Mack: Just you and me now Tin Man. You don’t mess with my buddy and walk away from it.
LMD Radcliffe: If you shoot me now, it’ll be murder.
Mack: Nice try, wrong guy. You’re just a bunch of ones and zeroes, not flesh and blood.
LMD Radcliffe: Flesh and blood? That’s not life Mack, that’s just biology, and biology’s just… software, programming you to die.
Mack: Maybe, but I have something you will never have: a soul, that will continue long after I’m gone.
LMD Radcliffe: How can you be so sure I don’t have one? If a soul doesn’t come from your flesh and blood and my ones and zeroes, then it has to come from somewhere else, somewhere unrelated to our physical bodies. If you can have one, so can I.
Mack: My, you are a sly one, aren’t you?
LMD Radcliffe: If you don’t think I’m alive and don’t have a soul, then why did you feel the need to switch me on before killing me?
Mack[cocks his shotgun] I like to hear robots scream.

Speaking of that, this season was very political. There were direct, clear references to and critiques of the elections, the political system, the rise in toxic nationalism and patriotism, the mirroring of the hate rhetoric and alternative facts. Its staring right at you in the face, and in a Brechtian move, it makes it even more clear how monstrous humans have become and makes reality more scary. But it does it in a way that, although it on the nose it isn’t forceful in a way, it’s a paradox I know, but I think because there is sarcastic and almost dark comedy element in the show that it acknowledges the fact that tits making a political statement and then it doesn’t feel so forceful. eVerything now is saturated with politics and I know we’re all sick of it, but here its done in a subtle and delicate way that balances self-aware dark comedy with political commendatory that makes it rather palatable.

To go back to the characters, one of the show’s strengths is the dialogue. You don’t have that “You have failed this city,” “I believe in you, you’re our only hope” crap that you see in other superhero shows. If they ever do it here, there’s always sarcastic sense to it, and you can see the characters smirking, it makes light of the whole saving the world thing to the point that it almost mirrors the audiences feelings of being fed up with sequels and prequels (that being said, I will still watch every movie that comes out in the MCU…I’ll). Anyway, there’s a lot of breaking of the fourth wall in the show and pop culture references in rather serious moments that provide the perfect amount of comedic relief. I think I’ve said this in my review of Season 3, especially when it comes to Mac’s lines, they are hilarious and his delivery makes them even more so. He has that look of disbelief on his face whenever something weird happens and it’s PERFECT. Also, his rapport with Yo-yo is as what the kids these days say, goals.

Simmons: So, we fight our way through the trained military personnel, then the ultra-powerful android doubles of our friends, somehow make it to the Zephyr, which we can’t fly, to escape the base and try to plug our minds into an alternate reality.
Daisy: Okay, well, don’t say it out loud, because that made it sound way worse. Let’s just keep it one thing at a time, okay?

Now I know I said the show is funny and light, that’s not the entire truth…Yes it’s funny, but it is directed and written by a Whedon. Whedon has become a name I dread because its synonymous with heartbreak. I will tell you this here and now, it will break your heart. You thought Jemma being sucked into an alternative universe with the melting rock thingy from season 3 was bad? You thought losing Bobby and Hunter was bad? What about Skye’s face when she wasn’t connected with HIVE anymore? Or the look on their faces when Ward turned out to be a double agent? Or maybe Tripp’s death? Yeah all of that is bad and it doesn’t get any better in this season. Fitzsimmons don’t catch a break, Skye and Coulson each have their own loses, Mac will shatter your heart….there is no hope for your heart. But don’t let that deter you, it’s worth watching, every second of it, every plot twist that makes you yell obscenities and every event that makes you gasp out loud that your parents or family members look at you with a “what the hell is wrong with that kid” look on your face, it’s worth it.

Score: 4.5/5

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The Aeneid (2015)

By Vergil

Translated by David Hadbawnik

I stood frozen in shock.

Everything seized up in my mind and words caught up in my throat –

The Aeneid is the classic epic poem by Vergil about the fall of Troy as retold by one of the heroes, Aeneas, who goes on to become the founder of Italy. The poem was written centuries ago and well known so I’m assuming there’s no need for me to write a CliffNote for you about it.

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Antonio Zucchi Vergil Reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia

Hadbawnik takes an interesting approach to translating Vergil, rather than doing the Robert Fagles and translating it “faithfully” he takes some creative license. He still stays faithful to the text and story but instead of translating it into dactylic hexameter and using ornate language he makes it more…human I would say. You can feel Dido’s despair in Hadbawnik’s translation when he has her swearing aggressively at Aeneas  than when Fagles has her saying “curse you” for instance.

Batoni Pompeo Aeneas fleeing from Troy_—_1750

Batoni Pompeo Aeneas Fleeing from Troy (1750)

The translation is not a CliffNotes or a Aeneid for fools or some sort of dumbing down of the epic for the modern reader, no. And I for one am very old school and sadly elitist in the sense that I’m against modernized translations of classical texts but I was fully engrossed in this translation. At the same time I would argue that you can’t truly appreciate Hadbawnik’s translation unless you’ve read the original Latin or Fagles’ translation because he does things with the story or the translation to bring for the nature of the characters in a fascinating way. By stripping away the grandeur of the epic tradition he presents the characters in a raw, human way that was incredible.He is able to capture something of the epic that is lost in “classic” or “faithful” translations.

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Aeneas’ Flight from Troy Federico Barocci

It’s also a revival of an interesting Medieval and Early Modern tradition where the lines between translation, adaptation, and interpretation are blurred if not nonexistent. He plays with the form of the poem even in the way of positioning it on the page, at first look it seems like there are random short lines of poetry scattered on the page but looking closer you find that he is in fact playing with the negative spaces. I still haven’t fully cracked this  one yet but it’s an interesting feature of his book. Another way he plays with it is by having these beautiful grayscale illustrations throughout the book that reading it becomes almost like a multi-leveled puzzle, you’re working with the text, the textual images, the actual images, the negative space, the positions of the lines, all at once.

Go ahead and read it whether you’re a fan of Vergil or not, and evil if you’ve never read the Aeneid before, this will be a gateway drug to classical epics.

Score 5/5

*Full disclosure: I’m friends with Hadbawnik, however that did not affect my review of his translation.

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Preacher S.1

Jesse Custer: What’s your story, Cassidy?
Cassidy: No, it’s pretty typical, really. I’m a 119-year-old vampire from Dublin City. And I’m currently on the run from a group of vampire-hunting religious vigilantes who keep tracking me down somehow.
Jesse Custer: What else?
Cassidy: I’m a right-handed Sagittarius. I love Chinese food. I’ve never seen the Pacific Ocean. And I think that The Big Lebowski’s overrated.

Jesse Custer, reformed preacher in Annville, a small Texas town. Has a shady past as a criminal. Gains a strange god-like power from a thing called Genesis that was confined in a coffee can. Custer thinks he’s God, for a while at least.

Tulip O’Hare, Custer’s old partner. Comes to Texas to persuade him to go back to their old life. Capable of building a bazooka using kiddie crafts and junk found around the house. All round badass.

Cassidy, an Irish vampire living in Custer’s small church.

Fiore and DeBlanc, an angel and a demon, were in charge of guarding Genesis (their baby…?). Are chasing Custer now before the higher ups know that Genesis has been set loose.

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Tulip O’Hare: A woman needs to know how to be strong and stand on her own. Thanks for these, guys. Of course, boy or girl, if you’re lucky enough to fall in love, you have to be even stronger. Fight like a lion to keep it alive. So that… So that on the day your love is weak enough or selfish enough or frickin’ stupid enough to run away, you have the strength to track him down and eat him alive.
Kansas Girl: You’re funny.
Tulip O’Hare: I know. Anyway, this is how you make a bazooka.

Custer tries to be a “good person” and leave his life of villainy behind by being a preacher. Genesis gives him the power to control people, he thinks its god’s calling for him. Tries to get Odin and the rest of the townsfolk to come to church and believe, doesn’t work out that well and they end up shooting at each other. Figures out that preaching might not be his calling, after much persuasion on the part of Tulip. Using Fiore and DeBlanc, they contact heaven and Custer using Genesis forces the angels to put him on the line with god. Only to figure out he’s missing.

Okay so first off, if you’re a believer this is not for you. The thing is complete and total blasphemy. Heretical, blasphemous, sacrilege, irreverent, you name it. It is offensive in all sorts and forms. I felt queasy watching it even as a non-Christian, but I ended up watching the whole thing.

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Chris Schenck: Pray for me, preacher.
Jesse Custer: Anyone were listen’, I would. Believe me. I’d pray.

Now if you put aside the whole sacrilegious storyline, the show is fantastic. You know when you’re in your early 20s, just starting to grow up and become disillusioned with life? When pessimism, cynicism, and all the isms really set in and your icons and idols are all destroyed? Yeah well this is the time to watch this show because it’s basically about religious disillusionment. It has that hopeless feel where life loses all meaning, you know? Okay maybe I’m sounding a bit morbid, but it is somewhat like that.  Like a Kurt Vonnegut novel on steroids maybe. The fact that the show takes supernatural beings, whether they’re sacred or not, and makes them profane, I don’t mean that in an offensive sense but when you strip that divine or supernatural thing from all grandeur and enchantment and it becomes casual, that’s what the show does and there is something fascinating about that. They also don’t bat an eye when a vampire appears in the middle of Texas and chills at the church, or when people are butchered into pieces but then come back to life. Heck Tulip brings down a freaking helicopter using crafts and shit from a garage with the help of a bunch of kids. But it’s all chill. There’s something eerily funny about it. It’s strange but entertaining.

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Cassidy: All right. Well, go on, then. Ask me.
Tulip O’Hare: Fangs?
Cassidy: No.
Tulip O’Hare: Turn into a bat?
Cassidy: No.
Tulip O’Hare: Sleep in a coffin?
Cassidy: Not if I can help it.
Tulip O’Hare: Afraid of the cross?
Cassidy: It’s a 2,000-year-old symbol of hypocrisy, slavery, and oppression. But it won’t burn me face off.
Tulip O’Hare: You kill people?
Cassidy: Not if they don’t deserve it.
Tulip O’Hare: But you drink blood?
Cassidy: Yeah. Helps me heal. All things bein’ equal, I’d rather have single malt.

The actors are fantastic, Ruth Nigga is just brilliant, I mean she is AMAZING. She was Reina in Agents of Shield and if you saw her there and then saw her in Preacher you’d be mindblown at how fantastic her acting is. And her chemistry with Dominic Cooper is spot on, their character dynamic brings this whole show together. Then there’s Joseph Gilgun who plays Cassidy who is one of the weirdest vampires in the history of TV vampires but also probably the greatest vamp of all. For once, a vampire is not a mopey lovesick lusty  brooding idiot but a good old drunk who cracks jokes and then kills angels when they try to rob his friends. He has style.

DeBlanc: You left a telephone with a direct line to heaven’s throne under the bed?

Fiore: I thought it was clever. Who checks under a bed anymore?

The show is very violent, and I mean extremely violent in a way that you start to worry for the show’s creators, like are you okay buddy? Why all the bloodshed? Yes, we know human beings are despicable and capable of doing disgusting shit, we have history and the news, we got the point of the social commentary do you really need that much blood and dismemberment to prove your point?\ It’s almost as if the creators are trying to shock you with the amount of blood and gore to see how far you can stomach, like oh you thing Game of Thrones is bad wait until we butch each other in a motel room and disembowel one another and then come back to life and do it all over again and again until someone stops us. But the funny thing is the same excessive nature they’re trying to shock you with only evokes a “meh” response. It’s one of those more is less moments, where you know it’s exaggerated and ridiculous that it loses whatever power it had. Maybe the first scene in the airplane with Cassidy was freaky but after that it was absurd.

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But going back to the whole idea of disillusionment, one of my favorite things about the show is Custer’s attempt at being a good person. You can see his inner conflict, you see him vacillating between giving in to his id and trying to become a better person. That when he finally gives up, because there is no higher power to prove himself to, it hits you really hard because it’s something that you can empathize with something you can understand in a deep human gut level.

If you take everything beautiful about the novel Gilead and subvert it you would get Preacher.

So here’s my recommendation, not for the faint of heart or faith, if you can handle heresy and bloodshed, go for it, it’s a fascinating show. If you can’t avoid it by all means because it can really make you feel like shit.

Score: 4/5

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Iron Fist S.1

Claire Temple: Danny, you’re not the first friend of mine with special powers. They’re all dark, haunted people. You know, when I first met you in Colleen’s dojo, I couldn’t help but notice that you had this sweet innocence, but the more you continue to fight against something that happened fifteen years ago, a fight you can’t possibly win, the darker you become.

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Danny Rand (Finn Jones), billionaire kid who survived the plane crashed over the Himalayas which killed his parents, he is presumed dead as well. He’s found by some monks at K’un Lun and taken to their monastery where he was raised and trained eventually becoming the Iron Fist, sworn enemy to The Hand. His power is basically channeling his chi into his fist which starts glowing and then he can punch through solid brick and metal walls and also block bullets.

After 15 years in K’un Lun, he goes back to New York and tries to get in touch with his father’s friend, Harold Meachum, and his childhood friends, Ward and Joy Meachum. He goes through the trouble of convincing people he’s not dead and reintegrating into society.

Then it seems like the Hand has been using Rand corporation to smuggle synthetic heroin into NY, your run-of-mill political corruption. Danny finds out and fights them. He also enlists the help of Colleen Wing; she was the first person Danny met in NY and he crashed at her dojo several times. Wing owns a dojo and tries to get troubled kids off the street. There’s also some serious family drama between the Meachums and with Danny as well. The Hand also messes things up for them, and apparently there are several factions of the Hand. Then throw in Davos, Danny’s friend from K’un Lun, who comes to NY in order to drag Danny back to K’un Lun.

Claire Temple: You let me think that I was actually doing something to stop them.
Character unnamed to avoid spoilers: We were! There are different groups within the Hand, okay? I am part of one that is trying to help people.
Claire Temple: Then did you think about trying a different name for the group? Like, the Ear? Or the Arm?

As you could probably see from my summary, the show was terrible. It’s like one long, excruciating, cheesy, cringe. The plot resembles that of one of the old Spider-Man movies where there are three villains and no point to the whole movie. The plot was weak and lacked direction, heck there was no plot. Unless you consider ninja guy trying to take on other ninja dudes and sort through family drama. The whole premise was weak and hokey, it was pretty damn hard to suspend your disbelief.

Sometimes when the plot of the show or narrative arch sucks, the characters (their development, dynamic, conflicts, etc…) holds it up instead. But that doesn’t happen here. The characters were superficial, the dialogue was painful and lame, and the dynamic was ridiculous. You would have two characters fighting over one thing and in a split second become best buds, it doesn’t give you a chance to savor the conflict and appreciate the resolution. It’s like the Martha moment in BvS, ridiculous and superficial.

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My favorite part of the show was Claire Temple, as you could probably tell. My oh my, how I adore Claire Temple…Rosario Dawson is fantastic. I can go on and on about her. She brings the show to life and it was the only reason I watched it. Her witty comments, her sarcasm and cynicism, her eye-rolls and “so done with you” attitude, man she’s a national treasure. Hands down, the best supporting character in the Marvel EU, I would place here right up there with Phil Coulson. Next to Claire I would say Joy Meachum was my favorite, she was the only character who was “human” as opposed to being a cringe in the form of a human. I loved her character and the way she is morally conflicted, she’s somewhat like a blend between Matt Murdock and Cersei Lannister. And it doesn’t hurt that Jessica Stroup looks pretty damn fine…but I won’t venture into that dangerous territory in fear of embarrassing myself.

Claire Temple: [to herself] Hey, Claire. How was your trip to China? Oh, you know We committed arson, and then got killed by an evil ninja cult. It was great. What’d you do this weekend?

Speaking of acting, aside from Dawson and, everyone else was atrocious. Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick, always have that fake serious look on their face, like they’re trying to be serious but they end up looking constipated. And the “chemistry” between them is like something from a trashy romance novel, especially when you compare it to Luke and Claire or Elektra and Matt.

The fighting scenes and training montages are something I look forward to in the Netflix Marvel series, I think we can all agree they set a new standard for fighting scenes. In the second episode or so, Iron Fist tries to replicate Daredevil’s famous hallway fight scene (which is probably the best fight scene in the entire Marvel Universe rivaled only by Cap’s Elevator fight in Winter Soldier) but Danny’s hallway fight was a lame disaster. It was like a fight from B- 80s kung fu movie. And this goes as well for all the other fights.

Even the overall aesthetics of the show were lousy. In Daredevil you get the red and black hues of Hell’s Kitchen, in Jessica Jones you get the violets and dark purples, etc… but here it lacks that aesthetic, it doesn’t have an overall theme even in terms of cinematography. Oh and the music was lame as well. I think the first three defender series set a really high bar and Iron Fist failed miserably.

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Now the biggest concern with Iron Fist is the whitewashing controversy. I know, I know, why get into politics but you can’t talk Iron Fist without talking politics and whitewashing. I understand that the show itself doesn’t technically engage in any whitewashing since it is only using the source material from the comic where the character there was white which makes the comic creators the culprit. Nonetheless, Marvel has been showing signs of diversity that isn’t necessarily that “check-box” token diversity and so as a fan I was expecting them to right some wrongs and cast an Asian or Asian-American actor for the role of Danny Rand. But it doesn’t end here, the whole exoticsizing  of Asian culture and practices, the stereotypical Kung-Fu monasteries, and the white dude who trumps the Asians at their own game I’m sick of it. My problem with Iron Fist is almost identical to the Doctor Strange controversy with the Wise One. Maybe they didn’t mean that and it was innocent, but c’mon can’t we have Asian ninjas? And can we please stop making other cultures exotic subjects and explore them with appreciation rather than appropriation or condescension?

Score: 2.5/5, and had it not been for Claire Temple this would be a 0.5/5

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Logan (2017)

“Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long.” -Logan

Year is 2029 mutants are extinct. Most were killed in a freak accident some years ago, if any survived they have either been hunted down by the anti-mutant group of scientists and “patriots”, or they went into in hiding. A couple of scientists and “patriots” are hunting the rest. The only survivors we know of are Wolverine, Charles Xavier, and Caliban, hiding out in Texas on the Mexican border. Wolverine  going now by James Hewett or Logan put the claws away for a long time and now works as a limo Uber driver, he put Xavier away in their hideout down so south and Caliban in charge of him. Logan would go down there once a week or so in between jobs. Quiet life, eh.

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But just when things were starting to look good, Logan was sleeping in his limo some gang members try to steel his car rings, he wakes up, tries to get them off but they make the mistake of shooting the Wolverine which is always a great idea, yeah, let’s shoot the wolverine the man who can heal easily and has blades shooting out of his knuckles. Yeah well he goes full wolverine on them but he leaves bodies behind and that alerts some interested parties who have finally picked up the scent of the wolverine.

Donald Pierce: Charles Xavier, the world famous mutant octogenarian.

Charles Xavier: Actually, I’m a nonagenarian.

Enter Gabriella, a nurse who worked at Alkali-Transigen a company that’s been “farming” mutants to create the ultimate weapon. Gabriella and a couple of other nurses smuggle the mutant kids who were created. One of the kids, Laura, turns out to be Wolverine’s spawn and Gabriella was trying to catch Logan and deliver the kid to him. Meanwhile Transigen is also on Logan’s back trying to get to the new mutant kids.

Now because we all know how cooperative Logan is, a lot of fighting and running around goes on. He gets Laura, runs off with her and Xavier while Transigen and the rest of the task force are after them. Laura wants to get to Eden, a safe haven in North Dakota so we get a long road trip through the western coast and midwest.

Then we get the ultimate showdown between the forces of good and evil, the good old third act that’s in every superhero movie with the explosions and the chases and the fights.

Putting it it this way it sounds like every other superhero movie, but its actually not that bad. In fact its actually really good. There’s more of exploring personal conflict and human nature and less exploding helicopters.

Wolverine is a complicated character and the previous movies never did him any justice, he’s always just angry and bailing on everyone, which is his MO but he’s more than that he’s troubled and burdened but also has a lot of feelings and is unable to face them. And he’s angry. He’s really angry. Not just running and growling angry but a deep seated legitimate anger. I think its one of the only superhero movies that really depicts anger in such a realistic and human way. It was fantastic.

Logan was the Wolverine movie I’ve always wanted. It’s the movie we have been waiting for. Yes it’s not innovative in terms of comics, the comics have done that a long time ago and excelled at it it wasn’t translated into the big screen, until Logan. I think they used the R rating really well, it wasn’t violence for the sake of violence or shock value, it was true to the character, it was meant to show the extent of Wolverine’s anger and his morality.

As for Laura, she was phenomenal. She was the best thing about the movie I love her facial expressions, her anger which seemed so real, her anger bursts, she was amazing. At the same time she was a child, even the stubborn brattiness was natural and from an adult’s perspective. Her backstory wasn’t a typical sob-story and I think Dafne Keen’s acting is responsible for that, she made it sympathetic and natural.

The movie was definitely the best superhero movie I watched last year.

Score 5/5

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Reading 1984 in 2017: A Rant

After the elections, the consumption of dystopian, apocalypse,  and alternative history novels soared exponentially, and I wasn’t an exception. I recently read George Orwell’s 1984 for the first time, I had known the story previously but never actually read it but now the opportunity presented itself and the current political climate seemed appropriate. I was already familiar with Orwell’s style having read his essays so I had a certain set of expectations approaching it, not to mention the praise and criticism (mainly praise) I’ve heard about it. Anyway, I picked it up and started reading and the first thing that stood out to me was the way female characters were treated, the absolutely blatant misogyny. Winston was spewing hate and degrading every single woman he comes across or interacts with, be it his wife, neighbor, Julia, the woman hanging her laundry outside. They’re all described with upmost hate and disdain. This attitude doesn’t change even when he gets with Julia, she is then described by the narrator and Winston in terms indicating that she is dumb, lascivious, subordinate, so on and so forth.

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The novel is great, there is no dispute, Orwell creates this world, this negative utopia as he calls it, in such a realistic way that it makes your skin crawl. His prose is simple and beautifully woven, his exploration of human nature, human greed, politics and power, it’s all fantastic fantastic. And again, very realistic which makes it terrifying. Yet, I wasn’t able to appreciate all of that because I was struck by the portrayal of women. Now before you go ahead calling me a millennial snowflake, you should go back to the passage in which Winston describes his wife, or those concerning Julia–whether it’s the way Winston wanted to kill her or the way she is sexualized, or even the way she is manipulative and dumb. It’s not a passing comment that could be easily dismissed nor is it justified in any way, it’s blatant misogyny, plain and simple. And it’s disgusting, infuriating, and disconcerting.

End of rant.

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Sandman VI: Fables and Reflections

“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.”

Volume VI of Sandman Fables and Reflections takes a different turn after Volumes IV and V, rather than being a long coherent story told over several issues, it’s more of an anthology, a collection of different fables and legends from different cultures with a Gaiman twist sometimes. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you would know that I prefer longer stories when it comes to comics rather than short staccato issues linked only by one character like Morpheus (which is why I can never get into cop procedural shows, anyway). Nonetheless, it wasn’t that bad there are pastoral legends, Marco Polo fan fiction, the story of an American Emperor, stories about the French Revolution, Roman and Greek legends and myths like Emperor Augustine or Orpheus who’s supposed to be Morpheus’ son , there was an issue called Ramadan about the Sultan Haroun Al-Rashid, and a couple of others.

“Never trust the storyteller. Only trust the story.”

If the reader knows nothing of Roman mythology or history in general might find them fascinating and creative comics, but it so happens that I’m a little bit of myth and history buff and only recently I was taking a refresher course on Greek myth so to me it was a rather boring renditions of these myths and stories. Sure the art was great and it does provide a fun recreations for the modern reader but it really wasn’t. My favorite issue was “The Parliament of Rooks,” it was the only one with a real creative twist. In a cabin in the woods we have the following characters known as the storytellers: Eve, Cain and Abel, Matthew (Morpheus’ rook), and two minor characters. They sit around and tell stories, of Adam’s three wives from some medieval text and a riddle about a possible murder. Even though it only adaptations of other stories they are relatively obscure and told in a interesting way by framing them in this meta storytelling frame. Plus the characters of Cain and Abel are fantastic who have made several appearances in previous issues and volumes.

“Some things are too big to be seen; some emotions are too huge to be felt.”

Another fun issue was “Three Septembers and a January” which concerns Joshua Abraham Norton, the guy who declared himself the emperor of the United States. I personally don’t know the story so it was interesting to read. At parts it did feel a bit like he’s being ridiculed which was disturbing, but the overarching plot line was Despair challenging Dream over the soul of Norton and the six of the Endless siblings: Dream, Despair, Death, Desire, Delerium, Destruction, fight over him. It’s like a pagan, American version of the story of Job. And it was fascinating. But beside these two issues the rest of the volume was….meh

So that was a great story, otherwise this volume was rather a disappointment.

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The issue entitled “Ramadan” was rather infuriating. Now before you dismiss me as another angry-PC-SJW-liberal millennial, hear me out. It is playing on old Orientalist, racist, disrespectful depictions of Baghdad and Haroun Al-Rashid. And it’s done in an insidious way all throughout because you don’t always have the outright orientalist comments like oh look at the harem but by also depicting Haroun for instance as a hypocrite or greedy by offering Morpheus wine during Ramadan or wanting to preserve his city in unconventional ways or using evil spirits, it got under my skin and pissed me off. I know it was written in the early 1990s but that’s not an excuse, Edward Said published Orientalism a little more than a decade ago and the discussion around that has been rather robust; I would’ve expected more from a presumably erudite and wide-read writer like Gaiman. The constant vilifying of Muslim or Arab figures is wearing me out, at this point I’m not even asking for representation, keep having your straight white dudes as heroes and for the love of all that is sacred leave the Middle East and Muslims alone. That issue could have been written in a great way breaking some stereotypes by for instance highlighting the Baghdad library or looking at the folklore that is actually from the area and not the invention of some old sexually frustrated British dude, but sadly that wasn’t the case.

So verdict: 2/5, Read “The Parliament of Rooks” if you want, and if you don’t know the story of Orpheus read Season of Mist or A Dream of You instead

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Watchmen (1986-7)

By Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons

We have labored long to build a heaven, only to find it populated with horrors.

Set as an alternative history in graphic novel form: 1985, the US has defeated the Vietnamese rebels and their pissing contest with the Soviet Union keeps getting worse. The arms race of the Cold War has been escalating exponentially, the US government developed the Manhattan Project but instead of a bomb, Manhattan becomes a person (classic freak accident turns underdog to super powerful being). This event, of course, further escalates the tensions between the two superpowers, but more importantly it increases the possibility of nuclear attacks–be it preemptive or defensive.

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On the other hand we have the rise of vigilantism, these aren’t your mythic gods like Superman or Wonder Woman, nor are they super humans like Captain America or Spider-Man; they’re ordinary people dressed in suits running around trying to enforce justice. Imagine a whole cohort of Bruce Waynes, minus the money, the moves, and the intellect (maybe with the exception of one character but that’s not the point). They’re a bunch of weirdos dressed in the most ridiculous costumes and calling themselves the cheesiest names like Nite Owl, Ozymandias, Silk Specter,  and Rorschach. Rorschach being our main protagonist, more or less. But the days of masked heroes end with the Keene Act which outlawed all vigilante activities, unless they’re working as a propaganda machine or running black-ops for Nixon’s administration.

The novel starts with the death of one of the “heroes” called Comedian. We are then led through the investigation and the streets of New York through Rorschach: seeing what he sees, feeling what he feels, experiencing the city through his cynicism, bitter resentment, and journal entries.

Part of being a hero is knowing when you don’t need to be one anymore, realizing that the game has changed and that the stakes are different and that there isn’t necessarily a place for you in this strange new pantheon of extraordinary places.

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This is probably one of the best graphic novels I’ve read. It’s incredible. The art has that old school feel (it was drawn in the 80s so it *is* old school) but without it being overwhelmed with sketch-lines and small, unclear details. It has the perfect number of panels on each page. It was especially good in terms of creating the feeling of a close-up and zooming out. It’s really hard to describe the effect but it’s really fascinating. And the text accompanying the art is as good; though it’s addressing issues from the Nixon and Vietnam time, its politics are still pertinent in an unnerving way. You have the jingoism, the authoritarian regimes, the toxic patriotism, the riots and police violence, it’s all there and that’s the scary part. We thought we were over that crap, we’ve progressed and all, right? Nope, it’s still there.

On the other hand we have the novel’s treatment of female characters, and it was far from ideal, barely passing the Bechdel test. But that’s not the worse part. It’s treatment of consensual sex and rape, that’s the real issue. There’s a subplot where one character gets raped by someone she knows and its suggested that she’s to blame because she was wearing “skimpy” clothes therefore asking for it. Then of course the whole episode is brushed off, aside from the few comments it wasn’t a big deal. It drove me crazy because it at first they try to make you think that they’re dealing with it and not excusing it but then it gets worse, it’s that subtle type of disgusting misogyny that gets under your skin. The character ends up liking her rapist and they have a fling for a while. This is exactly the type of rape culture that creates a fertile ground for men and women to get away with rape and discourage the victim from reporting or fighting back.

And not to mention the ultra sexualization of females with the useless suits and the unrealistic body proportions.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, though I’m still pissed off, I have to say the character development was done quite well, especially in terms of Rorschach’s character. It was absolutely fantastic with the backstory unfolding through flashbacks and breaking the fourth wall and the psychiatrist visits that reveal his character in a creative and interesting way.

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The last thing I’d point out is the way the novel is set up. The volume has twelve issues, the front page of each issue has the doomsday clock with blood spilling, it starts with 12 minutes to midnight and each issue it gets one minute closer to midnight with the blood coming over the clock. It’s a crafty way to foreshadow the events of the upcoming issue. Then there’s that neat thing where each issue’s title has a literary reference that is later explained in the issue.

Overall it’s a fantastic graphic novel, had it not being for the rape culture perpetuated though the story it would’ve been a perfect 5 stars. So read it for the art, watch out for the insidious misogyny and rape culture. Oh and it’s for a mature audience, definitely not for kids: it’s very dark, cynical and violent so don’t recommend it to your happy-optimistic-Jane Austen-loving friend. There are several sex scenes (not explicit but heavily implied), nudity (again not graphic but clear enough), and whole bunch of swear words so watch out.

Score: It’s somewhere between a 3.75 and a 4 out of 5

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Gilead (2004)

By Marilynne Robinson

There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility we will forget our fantastic condition of morality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing the meant the world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe and all that has passed here will be the epics of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.

Gilead is the story of a dying father, John Ames, wanting to leave something behind for his seven-year-old son. Ames writes a letter, or one could call it a diary, in which he reflects on the nature of life, beauty, theology and religion, growing up, and love.

My attempt at a description doesn’t come even close to doing it justice, I would recommend just picking up the book without any prior knowledge and reading it, slowly. Not the way you would inhale a blockbuster thriller or dystopian future but, gently breathe it in, and savor every breath. You can’t zip through it, you can’t binge read it in one sitting, that takes away from the joy of the experience. In fact I believe the book doesn’t allow you to read it in one sitting. After every section or so it almost forces you to put it down to allow the weight of it to sink into you. The characters and the events are revealed gently and slowly throughout the novel and you don’t feel the need to rush through to get to know anything, if there is an innocent and pure equivalent to a strip tease, that would be an apt description of the way it unfolds. It is stunning and awesome (in the traditional sense of full of awe and not my usual awesome) if you don’t allow yourself to experience that you’d be doing both yourself and the novel a disservice.

It is a phenomenal book and I can’t find the words to translate my feelings. The writing is eloquent, crisp, and beautiful. You feel Ames as he is writing to his son, you feel his thoughts, his feelings, his despair and his love. It’s raw, pure, unfiltered emotions. You could describe it as a stream of consciousness which would be correct, but I feel that by labeling it you take away part of it’s ephemeral and enchanting beauty. It is probably one of the most beautiful and moving books I’ve ever read.

Do you know the feeling when you read a George Herbert poem, or maybe that feeling you get when you watch Amy Adam’s face as she’s playing a sad role, or that tingle you feel in your spine that then becomes like a strange glowing warmth growing in your chest as you listen to a piece by Max Richter? Maybe you don’t, that’s not important, I’ll try to explain it. It’s like a sadness that is also beautiful, a joyful sorrow, or maybe it’s a sorrowful joy. Its transcendent. Even before you finish reading it, even while reading the novel you are constantly left with a mixture of feelings, that of wonder and beauty but also with an irresistible desire to weep but not out of pure sadness. Does this make any sense? The novel was stunning in every way, shape, and form. I keep using the word beautiful because that is exactly what it is, the word may have been watered down and lost it luster because it has been overused, but read Gilead it defines beauty.

Gilead might be considered a defense (that is quite an aggressive word) of religion but instead it’s a call to look at religion not through the actions of fundamentalists or even priests and followers, but at the way it influences an individual’s life, not only spiritually but the individual as a whole. Personally, I am not spiritual but rather religious (something a friend pointed out to me a while ago and it allowed me to put a name to my religious experience), anyway, Gilead is not a call to spirituality and abandoning religion with its rites and rituals as many novels recently do. Nor is it calling to a strictly ritualistic religion. It’s calling for an appreciation of religion in its most beautiful and pure forms, and also calling for the appreciation of thought: Ames quotes Calvin and Feuerbach in the same sentence. And even though some might perceive it as a religious text or a strictly Christian text, it’s not. The discussion can be applied to any of the three Abrahamic religions in one way or another, even as a devout Muslim I was moved and felt much of it could be applied to my own faith.

For my fellow Early Modernist or EM enthusiasts, Gilead does read like the love child of Montaigne, Calvin, and Herbert. And in my opinion that makes Marilynne  Robinson rather divine.

If I’m rating books on a five star scale, this would go way beyond a 5. It’s one of those books that become like a personal bible and you read again and again.

 

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