Buried Letter Press Aug~Sept 2012 ÂŠBuried Letter Press 2011-2013
Cover Photo Theresa L. Cover & Layout Design Matthew C. Mackey
Buried Letter Press Akron, Ohio
B . L . P AUG/SEPT 2012
by slm young
Cut They’re Own Arts Out! by C. Mackey
Is It Art or Is It Craft?
Robert Balla What’s
the Big Idea? An In-
terview with Nick Sturm
by Saul Duluth
INTER-REVIEW: Direction and Discov-
ery with Poet G.P. Lainsbury Miltner
My TV Is Better Than Your
Movie: The Battle of Screen Snobs Rich Heldenfels
Method Museology: Re-
view of “Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties by Heather Haden
Forgetting History by slm young
The spring issue of American Scholar seems to be swimming with ideas of memory and forgetting—that dangerous combination of what too many of us do because it is easier than remembering and reporting, remembering and telling, remembering and doing something to change what might happen if the thing that was done is forgotten. In his Editor’s Note titled “Memory and Forgetting,” Robert Wilson focuses his attention on the problem of how distant and intangible violence seems to Americans, even though our country is so often participating in war. This fact, that we do not truly understand violence, but only abstractly can imagine it, has an obvious connection to the concepts of memory and forgetting—if we do not understand violence, if we have not experienced it, then it is simpler to support it. For it does not seem heinous if we never see the faces of the men and women and children we are responsible for displacing, or maiming, or killing. Recently I came across a piece of news that was disturbing because of what its details illuminated to me: we are forgetful. Apparently, when a significantly newsworthy story breaks that has its roots in something that happened before the Millennials’ memories remember, there is an echo in the Twitterverse, an onslaught of questions that ask about the event and why it should matter to them. One example is the recent death of Rodney King, which elicited questions of “Who is Rodney King?” Other examples are the appearance of Paul McCartney at the Grammys, which brought on tweets such as, “Who is this and why is he on the Grammys?” and probably my very favorite, which happened on the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic: “Wait. I thoughtTitanic was just some dumb movie. That really happened?” I cannot pretend to ignore the possibility that this problem has always been the case—that the younger generation remembers less than the older generations that came before—but what stands out as particularly different is that this forgetting is now documented
and made public because of the technology so frequently used by the Millennial generation. As a member of Generation X, I came of age before internet, email, and cell phones were in the classroom. I had to remember because I couldn’t rely on Google to find the answer for me when, or if, I needed it. Technology, in a real way, has allowed each of us to extend our brains outside ourselves. Memory has become an external experience rather than an internal, empathetic one; an experience we must feel to understand. And if memory is outside ourselves, if memory is as technical and unfeeling as a YouTube video or a search on Bing, then how are we to ever fully understand the experience of another? Additionally, this problem seems extreme because the things and people that are being forgotten are cultural icons. I don’t mean to sound like someone’s mother when I say this, but who in the hell doesn’t know who the Beatles are? In addition to his recent Grammy appearance, Paul McCartney was chosen as the closing act of the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. Obviously, a choice made because he is, as much as the Queen of England is, royalty, but also because the Olympic stage is a worldwide stage, and Paul McCartney is someone who would and should be recognizable to everyone and who could work to bring together peoples from around the globe. And while he may not be the same as the mop-headed man-boy he was when he sang “I wanna hold your hand,” he is still, clearly, Paul McCartney, and if there was any doubt, it seems as soon as he opened his mouth to sing, recognition should have come. But it didn’t. Of course, we as people do not remember everything, so why should I believe that as a society we should be any different? Why should I believe that it is important to remember who Rodney King was when he was alive, or what Paul McCartney has done to merit his appearance at the Grammys, or the fact that when man believes he is infallible, almost always there is a reminder that he is not, as in the case of the RMS Titanic? Because who we are and where we came from is important. Because remembering only part of the story keeps us from understanding the full impact of the story’s power. Because as my freshman high school history teacher
had pasted across his bulletin board, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” Forgetting is stagnation. Isn’t this why we write nonfiction? Not to wallow in the sins of our pasts, or to glorify our accomplishments, but to learn from what has happened? To place in context that which we do not understand in order to see it more clearly? Writers of nonfiction—whether it be reportage, memoir, essay, or some quirky combination—have a responsibility to keep us from forgetting. And this responsibility, to show us, up close and personal, what it is like to be someone else, what it is like to be a victim, a survivor, a woman, a teacher, what it is like to be on the front lines of Afghanistan, as Neil Shea does in his piece, “A Gathering Menace” from the issue of American Scholar that I mentioned earlier, or what it is like to experience a breakdown both in the psychological and spiritual sense, as F. Scott Fitzgerald shows in his Crack-Up essays, these are all vital in our education as responsible and worthy human beings. Understanding and empathy are perhaps the best tools we have against cruelty and violence. It seems to me it is the only way to survive in a world where the outrage is too often about the wrong thing. This is why truth in nonfiction is so often challenged and discussed, and why it is so essential. Lying about terrible things happening to you, embellishing the truth to sell books or get attention, making the path you’ve walked seem more difficult than it has been—this kind of deceit diminishes the power of the words that are written and spoken by those who have walked the hard path, who have lived through atrocities and find the courage, somehow, to tell their stories. Creative nonfiction at its best allows its readers to internalize memory, and as a result, we learn empathy. When we read a story and inhabit the world of its writer, we can begin to understand, and this understanding is the responsibility of both readers and writers. It matters very little how much or how well we remember, if we do nothing with the memory. The stories—of violence, of outrage, of victimization, of love and connection and forgiveness, of family and strangers, of separation and coming apart and also of coming
back togetherâ€”they all need to be told, if any of us are to have a chance of understanding each other any better.
They Cut Their Own Arts Out!
A comment on the recent firing of UNO’s Bill Lavender and the situation of arts programs in academia by Matthew C. Mackey When the rumors of budget cuts start proliferating the gossip in the corners of faculty offices and whispers of “eliminations” start blowing down the halls of schools, the first to gird their loins are those professors and students in the creative arts programs. While most budget cuts target low income programs, such as arts, music, and creative writing to focus on math and sciences, the lack of art and art funding is a growing crisis in the academic community.
If the problem persists, eventually most schools and academies following this model will be without art programs entirely, or those programs will be reduced to novelties. Perhaps, when the economy swings out of the current recession, we will see more arts programs back on the menu. However, there are inherent consequences to this thinking. First, the behavior of education administrators sends a cultural message. By targeting arts programs during budget cuts, institutions send the message that programs involving the arts, and subsequently artistic endeavors, are less valuable than the pursuit of the math and science fields. As a culture, we esteem undertakings only in relation to their monetary outcomes. It is obvious that the present economy is a burden on any institution, but what we cut from our schools says just as much as what we keep in. Secondly, we are conditioning students and individuals to think in more quantitative terms rather than in qualitative terms. If a student’s schooling is primarily in the sciences, then a logical result is a student who is taught to think primarily scientifically. How is it possible to round a stone if we only work with one side? And last, the idea of autonomic development is in question.
An individual, especially in education, should be given full opportunity to make an educated decision about his or her own existence as well as his or her pursuits. If institutions fail to provide a means or avenue for personal actualization, then the institution has effectively taken the students’ autonomy by refusing them the choice. Unfortunately, this practice of cutting the arts is too highly acceptable among administrators and bureaucrats. Education, however, is not big business.
As a result, Eastern Kentucky University, partners with the UNO’s international residency, has severed ties with the program. In a letter distributed to students and faculty, Derek Nikitas, director of EKU’s Bluegrass Writers Studio, issued the following statement: As some of you may already know from Facebook chatter,
In a recent decision by the board of the University of New Orleans, Bill Lavender, director of the university’s popular LowResidency MFA, was terminated as another example of the tendency to put arts programs under suspect when budget cuts start to dig into an institution’s financial accounts. Furthermore, the UNO Press, an international publication of literary works, which Lavender also supervised, has been put under hiatus. Lavender has been praised for his visionary work both in the LowRes program and with UNO Press. The school was subjected to almost 9 million dollars in budget cuts from the state, but students and faculty alike have made protests and inquiries into the ethical decisions of University President Peter Fos, and national attention and outcry has accumulated in such venues as Facebook, change.org, Occupy NOLA, Publisher’s Weekly, Poetry Foundation, and many more. It is clear that the school has taken another cut, not as a fiscal loss, but rather as a blow to their reputation as many see the decision as an insult to students as well as the artistic community.
Bill Lavender’s position at the University of New Orleans has been suddenly eliminated. This surprise and frankly rather shocking development appears to have come as the result of some incredibly drastic emergency budget cuts at the University of New Orleans. These cuts were designed to keep the university solvent against incredibly hostile state budget cuts. Nonetheless, the administration in charge of Mr. Lavender’s dismissal is understandably fielding criticism from the general creative writing academic community as a result of its decision. This new development has forced those of us at the Bluegrass Writers Studio to make a difficult but ultimately liberating decision. We will dissolve our relationship with the University of New Orleans effective immediately. Nikitas lists several reasons for the decision, including UNO’s instability and turmoil, as well as EKU’s lack of faith in the future of the program and a moral imperative not to support UNO’s decision to eliminate Bill Lavender. It is still unclear as to the future of the UNO Low-Res MFA program, and many are skeptical of the program without the direction of Lavender. Professor Barb Johnson has taken over, and The UNO Press is slated for restructuring. The University plans to keep the hiatus for the Press brief, but it is apparent that both extensions of Lavender’s hard and successful work will undergo changes, and the effects of business model ethics in higher education will be felt at UNO for quite a while. What follows are the voices of students commenting on their experiences in the Low-Res program and with Lavender. Last year, on a quest to find a creative writing program, I signed up to participate in the University of New Orleans’ Writing Workshop in Edinburgh, Scotland. The intensive four-week program introduced me to novelists, poets, screenwriters, playwrights and essayists from around the world. We spent the month writing, reading and exploring beautiful Scotland, and I came home energized, ready to invest in a graduate program. My summer in Edinburgh had such a positive impact on me that I made major changes in my life in order to enroll in the program and pursue a career in writing. I applied to the Low Residency MFA Pro-
gram with an emphasis in creative nonfiction. Last month I completed my first official semester as a full-time graduate student again in Edinburgh with plans to spend the next residency in Cork, Ireland. Shortly after the residency ended, we received word that UNO would be terminating Bill Lavender’s position as Director of the Low-Residency MFA Creative Writing Program and Director of UNO Press, leaving the program and UNO press in the hands of an unnamed faculty member. It was Bill’s reputable and creative program that I was so attracted to – spending each residency in a foreign country and taking courses from writers all over the country. His success leading the UNO Press also impressed me, and I wanted to be a part of such a talented group and in an environment of supportive faculty and fellow writers. The university’s decision to terminate Bill’s position has left other students and myself baffled and dubious that the Low-Residency program will continue to be as strong under any other director, and I am now considering other programs. Whether or not I continue at UNO, I am grateful to have been a part of the last two summers in Bill’s program. I am certainly changed because of it. The university’s failure to recognize his immeasurable value leaves me with very little confidence in the institution. His termination is a loss to the students, the publishing community, and the Louisiana education system, especially UNO. Lizzie Nichols is a first year student in the Low-Res program at the University of New Orleans with an emphasis on Creative Nonfiction. Her works as a playwright have been solicited by playhouses in Louisiana, Georgia, and Ohio. *** As an MFA student at Eastern Kentucky University, my only experience with the UNO Low-Res program was with the summer residency in Edinburgh. I am forever grateful to
EKU’s Dr. Young Smith and UNO’s Bill Lavender for creating this community of artists. Bill’s commitment to fostering emerging writers is immeasurable. From attracting talented professors to run workshops to bringing in agents and publishers to organizing readings, excursions, and simple bonding time, Bill Lavender makes this program what it is. I have no doubt that without Bill, the UNO Low-Res program will atrophy. Before I left Scotland, I told Bill how excited I was about next year’s residency in Ireland. Knowing that may not happen unless the powers that be overturn their decision is upsetting to say the least. Joey Mau is currently enrolled in the creative writing MFA program at Eastern Kentucky University. His short story, “This is Our North Dakota,” will be featured in the literary journal Mount Hope. The author notes “This story would not have existed without the summer residency in Edinburgh. Written in one of the fiction workshops, the story is proof of the inspired world Bill Lavender has produced.”
Todd Trulock is a student in the UNO Low Res MFA program. He specializes in experimental writing.
One thing I wonder: did the administration consider the impact of the sudden removal of the director of the Low Residency Program on that program’s reputation? It seems impossible to believe that they would not have, but their response to the outcry following Bill Lavender’s termination seems to indicate that they did not. I know, personally, that I would not have applied to the University of New Orleans if I had not heard glowing recommendations for the program from a friend who had participated in the program. Will I make a similar recommendation in the future? If you had asked me prior to Bill Lavender’s termination, I would have said “of course!” Now, though? The University of New Orleans will have to work very hard to earn back my confidence. Word of mouth is an important method for drawing in a higher quality of applicant and for garnering accolades and awards. I believe that this fiasco is likely to hurt the program far more than the administration realizes. John Shinholser is a current student in the Low-Res MFA program at the University of New Orleans.
Aisha Soto is a play-writing student in the Low Res MFA program at the University of New Orleans. She is an adjunct professor at a community college in Florida.
Sara Crawford is a student in the Low Res MFA program at the University of New Orleans. She is a musician and works as a freelance artist while she studies play-writing.
I wish it wasn’t so cliché to say that someone has “changed your life,” because that is exactly what Bill Lavender has done for me through my association with the low-res MFA. There is no doubt about it– thanks to Bill, I am a better writer, a better reader, and, overall, a more focused individual. Anyone who writes (or should I say, anyone who struggles to write) knows that half the battle is just making yourself sit down and work. I had always known this, and always attempted to devote myself to the craft, but once I took a poetry workshop with Bill, and he introduced us to his system of semester-long procedures, it was as if a switch was flipped for me, and everything finally clicked (oops, more clichés! my apologies!). Bill challenges his students, and in turn, they create great work. He is, without a doubt, one of the most helpful, erudite, creative individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, let alone the privilege of getting to work with. While pursuing my master’s degree I have realized that while undergrad is mostly the
regurgitation of an opinion, grad school is the precise formation of your own. That is where Billâ€™s guidance shines. He will urge you to think for yourself, to come to a conclusion, and to be able to trace how you got there. Most of the time, you arrive without even knowing it. Thatâ€™s the beauty of a brilliant professor.Now he has been taken away from us, for not one sufficient reason, and we are left devastated. Andrea DeProdocini is a poetry student in the low-res MFA program. She lives in Connecticut and works as a museum docent.
Is It Art, or Is It Craft? Meret Oppenheim – Le Déjeuner en fourrure
For quite some time, I’ve been struggling to come to some sort of understanding about the nature of art: what it is, what its role in society is, how it’s created, why humans do it. Unfortunately, I’ve had little success. I read a bunch of essays by philosophers, art critics, literature professors, and other self-proclaimed experts. Then I talk about these things with my friends, many of whom are writers, musicians, painters, or other types of artists. But something interesting and a bit troubling happened last week while I was driving home from a gallery with my wife. She called me a snob! Or maybe she called me an elitist. I’m not really sure which as I wasn’t paying all that much attention to her. Naturally, I was offended. Aren’t I the one writing articles on how art can and should intersect with and affect the everyday lives of all people? Isn’t Buried Letter Press all about allowing anyone and everyone access to the arts? Yes! So how could I be an elitist art snob? Well, apparently I am. It seems that I have been repeatedly backhanding not only my wife but also a number of our mutual friends for quite some time. You see, I have been writing about and praising art in all of its marvelous and splendid forms, while at the same time unthinkingly drawing a very clear distinction about what is and what is not art. This all came to a head with my article for last month’s Buried Letter Press “I Am an Artist because I
Jumped” where I interviewed a large number of my artist friends to discover what drives them to create art. While sending out my initial calls for input from my “artist” friends, my wife suggested several other friends, all of whom I did not contact because, as I put it, “They do crafts. They’re not artists.” I had labeled a narrow category of things made by artists as “art” while at the same time casting out an entire gamut of things created by a large number of people (some of my friends and my wife among them) by calling them mere craft. I insisted that art is created by artists, crafts by crafters; artists are artistic, crafters are crafty; art belongs in galleries; crafts in a craft show. I have been using this loaded language for years. Until that car ride last week, I was completely unaware that I had been making this not-so-subtle distinction. So now I am tasked with exploring my own biases and assumptions. I want to find out what the delineating qualities of art and craft are. I want to know why and where I draw the line between art and craft, or if there is a line at all.
LittleTeapot – courtesty of Firstpalatte.com
To start I need to lay some g r o u n d work. I’m not talking about mundane, common objects such as a pencil or a rock or a tea pot (although Meret Oppenheim’s Le Déjeuner en fourrure or Breakfast in Fur, a fur covered tea set including the pot, is an excellent example of surrealist art). I’m restricting this discussion to things that seem to be in a debatable state, stuff that one person says is art and another says is craft. I’m using craft in the vein of stuff you see at a craft show, not as what a craftsman makes. So no discussion of finely crafted kitchen cabinets or handmade Italian loafers. Also, no veering off into “arts & crafts” like what little kids do in gluing cotton balls onto construction paper to
make a snow family. Finally, we can restrict ourselves to those things made with forethought and the intent or desire to be art. This then eliminates the useless thought experiments like naturally occurring phenomena or objects and crud like “I could just slap some paint and glue and leaves on a canvas and call it art.” So here we go. Is it a question of usability? After doing some quick internet research, I noticed that a bunch of other people have been thinking and blogging about this very topic, and one of the main talking points is the usability of the finished product. In short, the consensus is that crafts have some practical use while art does not. In her essay “Art and Cognition” in The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand writes, “utilitarian objects cannot be classified as works of art,” and I saw her echoed and quoted many times in my investigation. This then leads to separate and distinct warrants: 1) all art is non-utilitarian and 2) no utilitarian things can be art. Let’s try and take this apart. We can assume that Rand and others are not talking about exotic miss-uses of art like using a sculpture to drive in a nail, or employing the collected works of Shakespeare as a doorstop.
Chrysler Building – William Van Allen, architect
However, what about the concept of function? Does this mean that art has no function? I put forth the cases of Picasso’s Guernica and Carl Sandburg’s “Grass,” both of which carried strong anti-war messages to remind us of our past atrocities in an effort to achieve a more peaceful future. I call that useful. I would also argue that much art is designed to make us feel a certain way or have an emotional reaction. If something is designed to make a depressed person happy, like a drug,
Paxil for example, we would say the drug is utilitarian. Why then would we say that a painting of an idyllic country pasture which makes the viewer happy to gaze upon is non-utilitarian? This then extends to other utilitarian objects like buildings. The Chrysler Building in New York is a work of art. Therefore, it follows that other useful objects can be works of art, like clothing, or cars, or chandeliers. Thus, utilitarianism can not be a delineator. Is it a question of medium? No. If one sculpts, one can equally sculpt in marble, wood, or ice. The explosion of mixed media art pieces and extravagant installations have been breaking down the idea that only certain materials are worthy of arthood. In painting, wooden panels had been the dominant recipient of pigment until the 16th century when they were replaced by far lighter and more manageable canvas. It then follows that what one paints on does not impact the artness of the painting, even if it is on velvet (regardless of the color). And watercolors have been around since Paleolithic times, used by everyone from the Neanderthal cave painters to Paul Cezanne to my daughter in pre-school. And what about macaroni? Do we eliminate it from the pantheon of art because it is edible? But watercolors often used honey as a binding agent and the linseed oil used in oil painting is exactly the same as the flaxseed oil we purchase in health food stores for its antioxidant properties. I’d contend that this point can then be extended to cotton balls and Elmer’s Glue. After all, often the most avant-garde artists are the ones who use the least traditional materials. Is it a question of originality? Obviously copying a masterpiece is not the same as producing one. However, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison famously said, “There are no original ideas.” If this is the case, then all artists and crafters are essentially adapting, remolding, borrowing, and reinterpreting the people and products which came before them. Also, this is not a modern view of originality. The ancient Greek Longinus noted that an excellent way to produce a thing of sublime beauty was to imitate a thing of sublime beauty. If we insist on originality for art, then we must renounce Michelangelo’s David because it revisits classical Greek
sculpture in technique and because a host of other artists had already depicted the hero. All art and craft it seems is derivative in some way, to some degree. Is it a question of talent/ability? Maybe it would be better to phrase this as is it question of gift vs. practiced skill. If artistic talent is something with which some born, then there should be no reason for one to hone one’s craft (see what I did there?). However, all artists and crafters continually strive to improve and perfect their work. I’ve often heard people say things like, “anyone can do that, so it’s not art.” This has never satisfied me. If we look at the physical process of art, almost anyone can in fact do it. There is no unique skill or talent required to move a brush with paint on it over a canvas, or to whack some chunks off of a block of marble, or to stick one thing to another with an adhesive. I guess this question essentially come down to one of inspiration or intent rather than a physical procedure. Is it a question of intent? Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere. It does matter what the creator intends, at least to a point. If the creator does not intend to create art and does not term the creation art, then who are we, the audience, to force it to be art? This to me is an improper elevation of the banal, and when the creator points out our error, we reply, “Oops, sorry. I misinterpreted it.” However, the process does not work in the opposite direction. We often feel completely comfortable decrying a creation as not-art even when the creator insists that the intention was to create art. Here we insist that the artist can not turn the mundane into art by simply calling it art. In the first case, the authority is the artist, but in the latter it is the audience. However, in both cases, the end result is non-art, the baser category. It seems that both artist and audience must agree to elevate. Is it a question of perception? Is this then what it all comes down to? Is a concord between the artist and the audience primarily responsible for the distinction between the two? It seems to be the case that each society or culture, and each individual to some extent, creates these categories of art and craft on a case by case basis. I hate to get all social constructivist at this late point in
the game, but it seems to make sense. We each bring our cultural and individual biases to bear when we make these types of judgments. While this smacks of pure relativism, I shy away from the resulting anarchy that this could eventually deteriorate into and instead cling to the ideas of Lev Vygotsky, Michel Foucault, and others who place the group ahead of the individual in terms of concept creation. They argued that societies construct shared knowledge and definitions for the individual members to use in order to streamline (Vygotsky) or to control (Foucault) the functioning of the society. So what does determine what is art and what is craft? It seems that we do, more so collectively than individually, as a society of artists and audiences . We create the concepts called art and craft or whatever and delineate them from one another. These distinctions are nebulous at best because as we change, so do our socially constructed definitions. What is art today, may be craft tomorrow, and the reverse is true as well. So in answer to my wife, I’m not a snob, I’m just towing the societal line. But maybe I shouldn’t be.
What’s the Big Big Idea?
An interview with Nick Sturm, founder of the Big Big Mess Reading Series by Matthew C. Mackey
A few months back, I had the privilege of going to a Big Big Mess reading in a small neighborhood of Akron, Ohio. I was surprised to find so many talented writers and public enthusiasm. I managed to catch up with Nick Sturm, who, until recently, coordinated the events. I was interested in his vision for public readings, and as the series changes hands, how he felt the future and significance of these readings would be as well as the larger necessity for such phenomenon as public readings. Follows is an interview with Nick Sturm, founder of the Big Big Mess reading series: Matt: When and why did you start the Big Big Mess Reading Series? Nick: The Big Big Mess was started in June 2011 as a way to support and, hopefully, enrich the Northeast Ohio arts community. “Support” as in give everyone a place to have a party where poetry is the center of attention and “enrich” as in remind you that we’re not alone in this crazy thing we’re doing, remind you that poems don’t just happen in bedrooms, in journals, in books, but between people, as communication, as a buzzing in the air, transmissions, and those transmissions are sometimes best received with drink in hand. Really, I came up with the idea to start a reading series while lying in bed one night. I was equal parts psyched as hell and benevolently envious of reading series in places like New York City and Denver and, feeling overly ambitious in the moment, called a friend to find out if I was dumb for thinking a series in Akron was possible, he confirmed that I was not, in fact, being dumb, and the BBM was born.
Matt: Why or how did you pick Annabell’s (a local bar in Akron) as a location? Nick: When I was talking to my friend that night we decided that Annabell’s had to be the spot where we hosted. I had hosted a reading at the upstairs bar about six months before and knew the bartender, Brad Thorla, would be down to help us out. Brad is a radical warrior musician, writer, and editor of his own handmade journal called Coreography Council, and without his accommodation, patience, and passion the BBM never would have snowballed into the party it has become. Other than that, the space in the basement bar is particularly perfect for a reading, with the couches and chairs gathered around some swirling lights, a lone microphone, a ratty red rug, and a Pac Man machine to boot. It’s charming, a bit twisted, makes you feel like you’re in a cave/boat, and all of that sounds like the best kind of poem, so in other words, we were set. Matt: What is your selection process for readers? BBM is a national reading series. How do you acquire new writers for the readings? Nick: I never anticipated being able to get the number or caliber of readers we ended up hosting. At first I thought of the series as being a mostly local/Ohio thing, but within a couple months I was already scheduling readers from New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and even from as far as Massachusetts and California. Some of it was getting lucky with people coming through on book tours, but most of it was just that a huge number of amazing writers live and work reasonably close to Akron. I mean, there are a shit ton of spectacular poets in Ohio, like Matt Hart, Cathy Wagner, and Noah Falck, and every state that borders Ohio is populated with just as many, if not more, incredible artists. After doing 13 readings over 11 months, we still didn’t exhaust that population. It’s an invaluable reminder that even though we’re not in a major cultural center, our ilk are everywhere, in every crack, small town, along every river, in rooms that look remarkably like our own, and that everyone is just as willing, as eager, to engage with everyone else. What else is there? As far as a selection process, there isn’t one other than I wanted to bring as many exciting writers to Akron as possible. I mean, I wasn’t going to ask someone from Utah to make the trip, even if I was sweating over their poems, so geographical concerns
restricted us somewhat, but I think that’s given the BBM a different feeling than some other series, a kind of regional continuity, because even if readers who come to the BBM aren’t from the Midwest, many of them are here now, in about a roughly 8 hour radius of Akron, that gives us something we can always share across genre, aesthetic, style, beers. Matt: Why do you think public readings important? Nick: It’s like asking why concerts are important: THIS IS HOW THEY MADE IT AND THIS IS HOW YOU NEED TO HEAR IT. Whether the volume is high or low, the performance muted or exuberant, poetry is communication, it’s between us, all static and breath and a mess of music. It gives our private experience of reading a public life, it reminds us how much we share. Even more than the poems themselves though, or the sense of community it fosters, readings are important because it gives writers room to have a conversation, and I mean that literally. Last September, Adam Fell drove 10 hours from Madison, WI, showed up right before he was set to read, bleary eyed and road weird, gave an amazing reading, but said later whether or not he read wasn’t why he came – he just wanted to hang out, see old friends, make new ones – that’s what community is, what the thing behind our poems (our hearts) – is there for. Matt: As a creative writer yourself, how have you benefited from public readings? From hosting a reading series? Nick: As a writer I’ve benefited the same everyone else has: I get to meet new people, hear amazing poets read, and have a generally rad time once a month. As an undergrad, my housemates and I would host these notorious dance parties and I was bummed when that era in our lives was over, so having the BBM kind of turned into the next form of that, whatever that means. As a host, it often feels the same – I have to keep everything in somewhat of an order, I’m responsible for what’s happening, I get to set the tone of the night, etc – and I really like being able to curate that kind of space. As a host, in a more personal sense, I often feel selfish because I get to put the writers up in my house, drive them around, feed them, drink with them after the readings, and even make breakfast with them the next morning. It’s fantastic. At the last reading that I
hosted in April, Amelia Gray, Matt Bell, and I spent the afternoon before the reading drinking margaritas, lying in the grass eating ice cream, and watching Amelia trespass. It’s hard to think of anything better than that. Sound like fun? Start a reading series. It’s easy as that. Matt: Do you see these readings as having nonliterary benefits? That is what are perhaps the implications for community on a small or large scale?
Nick: A community is the result of the work and dedication that individuals put into other individuals and the larger community, whether that means the writing community in Northeast Ohio, the arts community in Akron, or just Highland Square, the neighborhood where the reading is held, have been at least slightly enlarged by the BBM. Any contribution to those communities that carries positive momentum, that brings people together, is more than a benefit, it’s a necessity. Talking about an event being literary though is a mistake, as it inherently turns it into a club. The BBM is, literally, a big big mess, which is literary, which is a party, which is a bar, which is old friends and new friends spending time together. I mean, we’re not getting out the vote or anything, but we’re giving people a space to believe this thing they do, or sometimes do, or haven’t done since high school, is important, has value, and that’s invaluable. An older man came up to me at one reading and told me, so excitedly, that he’d been writing poems his whole life and never told anyone, but that coming to the BBM had given him the strength to reach out to other writers for the first time ever. I don’t even know what to say about that. It makes everything worth it. Matt: What are the dangers of having public readings? Spontaneous combustion. Overwhelming sexual desire. Leaving your credit card at the bar. Leaving feeling like your skin is made of candy. Knowing you’re going to have to come back. Matt: Forgive me if I’m incorrect, but most of you who work with BBM are students at University of Akron, yes? Is BBM affiliated with the university? How does university affiliation or lack thereof come to bear on the work you’ve done with BBM? I imagine its different working inside the arameters of association as opposed to outside of it. This question may be a little vague. I’m sorry. For ex-
ample, Buried Letter Press is not associated with a university, and I think that allows us to be perceived differently than if we were a branch of so and so institution. Please, tell me about what you’ve found to be the case with BBM. Nick: Right, I just graduated from the NEOMFA at The University of Akron, but the BBM has never been affiliated with the MFA program or any university. Everything has come from personal resources, resources generated by each reading (the bar treats us like a band, so we get 25% of the bar sales, money that goes directly back to readers in the form of dinner, drinks, and gas money), and my own sheer, stupid will power. For the first 13 readings, from June 2011 to April 2012, I was the sole curator. From here on out, Alexis Pope and Mike Krutel, both great poets in Akron, and Tim Peyton, who does a ton of work with film and other arts in the city, are cocurating the BBM together and I’m so excited for the work they’re going to do. And you’re right about not being attached to an institution – it’s limiting. That’s exactly why the BBM needed to exist – they weren’t any independent reading series in the area. I’ve always been happy to have free reign over the decision-making process, from personally inviting readers, to making the posters, to writing introductions, to making waffles the next morning. I’m moving to Tallahassee, Florida in a couple months to start a PhD at Florida State University and I’d love to start another series down there, but there’s a university-sponsored series there already. That series is pretty different than the BBM, so I know there’s still room for a new series, but it will be interesting to see if things work differently not being the only series in town. I’ll just host a series on a beach somewhere. We’ll get sand in our hair. We’ll sleep where we fall. Many thanks to Nick Sturm and the Big Big Mess Reading Series. For more information about the BBM series and upcoming events visit: http://bigbigmess.tumblr.com/ The Big Big Mess Reading Series on Facebook!
and Discovery: A Review of Versions of North and an Interview with the Poet G.P Lainsbury by Robert Miltner
1. Looking Northward The long poem is by its nature an odd fellow in the world of poetry. More typically it is book-length, though it may be the dominant section of a book, offering an extended meditation, examination or exposition of a topic of interest first to the poet and then to the reader. The best long poems transcend the moment or period of composition to take on more universal issues. Like the long shot in a film, rather than the close up of the actor’s face or an important detail—a Maltese falcon for example—it offers a slow pan of the street or follows the train tracks until they seem to intersect in the distance. The history of our literature includes many outstanding long poems: Charles Olson’s Maximus Poems, William Carlos Williams’ Paterson, Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, Pablo Neruda’s Canto General, Margaret Atwood’s Journals of Susanna Moodie, Campbell McGrath’s Shannon, or Lyn Hejinian’s My Life; each is more a tour of Europe than a weekend in Manhattan, each remains relevant for its insights that appear epic and profound due to the length of the work and the depth of detail. British Columbian poet G. P. Lainsbury offers us something new under the North American sun in his book-length poem, Versions of North. As one educated in the Canadian Northwest— Calgary and Vancouver—and one whose academic career has been there as well, teaching at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John close to Alaska, Lainsbury has a sense of the big picture, the long winter night’s meditation, and the many things the concept of ‘north’ represents to him. Versions of North is a symmetrically structured book: three “scenarios” of two or three parts open the book; an “intertext” of
six lyric fragments hold the center; then three more “scenarios” of similar length complete the nearly 90 page poem. Operating in a manner similar to that of chapters in a novel, these sections allow readers to read and reflect as they move through the piece. The poems themselves are not in the typical lineated and linear form of most contemporary poets; instead, one recognizes the visual contours once associated with Pound in the Cantos or Olson’s Maximus Poems wherein the page is more akin to a painter’s canvas and the poet a version of Jackson Pollack engaged in action painting. Olson’s 1950s manifesto “On Projective Verse,” written around the time he was coining the term Postmodern, argued that “form was never more than the extension of content” and that “one perception must immediately lead to another.” Readers can recognize the influence of Olson here, not only in form but in content: like Olson, Lainsbury is both well- and widely-read, and he’s smart, evidenced in the way he collages, juxtaposes, positions, and contrasts the cultural and personal observations that are the bones of this book. As a result, this is poetry that dances on the page, and, as in Pound’s work, Lainsbury stands in the center of a swirling vortex grasping one perception after another to arrange on the canvas/ page. I’ll trace one thread of the book in this short interview. Lainsbury considers the situation of working people, including college professors like himself. In ‘Frontier of Empire & Wilderness Playground,” he considers how “the have-nots are given spending vouchers / as compensation for living lives beneath refinery smokestacks,” and these images offer a picture of northern BC and its oil and gas economy in a changing locale that looks like Texas or Oklahoma during the boom days, where “the old North becomes the new West,” as he says in “Nowhere, Everybody Knows This Is,” adding, in “An Infernal History”: Let us evoke the cowboy image: proud, aggressive, competitive, vain, maudlin, controlled & violent by proponents of the energy frontier
this is all thought worthy
dreaming their permanent boom
the six-wheeled epic hero
the hardest of hard hats
This epic becomes an obsessive ethic, as Lainsbury shows in “Town and Country,” as “we gather accessories to show how hard we work / & how were are always working,” though he questions must we resign ourselves once & for all to that helpless destined feeling?
Lainsbury is the intellectual outsider here, the problem-poser, the gadfly questioning the quality of life inside the energy economy bubble, and that role allows him to locate his stance as the artist amidst this cultural reorganization. “what is left?” he asks in “Cemetery Criticism of the Partly Fogged-In Past,” when armed with only shrunken experiences & subservient languages of banality & despair
but to attempt
to stitch together a work consisting entirely of quotations
Thus, in “Zones of Contact: The Homeless Mind,” Lainsbury appears as the intellectual in the outback, for “the professor is ideal personification of intertia w/ out / inertness / by nature more articulate than dependable” – for how much can he really do other than offer cultural critique? Professors are largely ineffective as social activists, so they must write, nudge, observe, opine, articulate the issues for others to act on. The figure of the professor is more than the caricature he presents in “The Psychopathology of the (Northern) College Life” where, among the faculty, we encounter &, of course, the smug superior bastard w/ a few poems
in magazines nobody reads
Still, as a worker in the larger machinery of the culture and the economy of the North, as he notes in “Paramount Regime of the Normal,” to “remain sensitive / is a utopian stance.” That stance locates him, or any intellectual in an isolated locale, in the middle of a vortex of time, space, ideas, cultures, economies, classes, and belief systems. To be overwhelmed is to be inert, desensitized, catatonic. But to be sensitive, aware, engaged if only intellectually, is be utopian, and to be utopian is to be an artist. And that, being such a large task, requires a long poem. G. P. Lainsbury has transcended the immediate moment to address a larger issue of our time—how we are each a triangulation of our place, era, and experiences—delivering an important work that brings us to face-to-face with the two choices that define who we are: people who accept the status quo we deplore, or people who resist the system through questioning. Lainsbury’s decision is to choose the latter, and Versions of North is the artifact of his brave and affirmative decision to do so.
2. Crossing the Frontier RM: Greg, first of all, thank you for agreeing to an interview with Buried Letter Press about your book-length poem, Versions of North. Unfortunately, far too many American readers are as familiar with Canadian poets as they could be. We are delighted to present you and your work to our readers, and hope this will encourage them to read more work by some of the many fine writers in Canada. Let me begin the interview by saying that the process for writing a book-length poem is probably as mysterious to poets as that of writing a novel might be. Did you begin Versions of North as a booklength project? GPL: I didn’t set off to write a book-length poem. The project came about as I shifted my attention from the short lyric to the long, serial poem, coincident with my meeting Barry McKinnon [British Columbian poet] when I first moved “north” in the fall of 1994. Through Barry’s work I was introduced to a tradition that I
found resonant for my situation as a poet, and given access to, and the support of, a community of poets centered in Prince George where McKinnon was. RM: Did you have a sense of the serial poem, or a book-length project in your mind when you began? Or did you discover that as you were writing? GPL: The project began as a formal exercise in technique, the utilization of various aleatory techniques to disrupt the linearity of conventional poetic logic, and to blend registers of the high and the low, the sacred and the profane, etc. Over the years I initiated a drafting process which includes image-collage as the background to the emerging poem. I wanted the making of the poem to be an active process more akin to action painting than static composition. The poem uses the whole page to create an ever-shifting, post-Olsonian field of signification. In rock’n’roll terms I think of myself as a kid with a guitar and an old four-track recorder in his parent’s basement, creating low-fi avant symphonic art rock with early UK punk inflection. RM: That’s a great metaphor! Is there as much pleasure as that in writing “the long poem”? GPL: There is no particular pleasure in writing the long poem. There are moments when eros and aesthetics become entangled, though for the most part it is work. The form lends itself to the rhythms of my life as a college teacher [in Fort St John, BC]. Most of the work throughout the academic year consists of foraging for content. As the teaching year draws to a close the lengthening of the days coincides with an increase in energy and the onset of an anxiety specific to the beginning of a part of the poem. The task always seems too daunting; the audacity necessary to undertake such an absurd task is hard to locate on any given morning. And then once begun, the working through of false starts and fretting, the disappointment of one’s own critical intelligence
hovering over the creative self, endless compromise of specific attempts at perfection in context of need to keep moving forward— though maybe one morning you wake up and think what you’ve done is not so bad, and I guess there is maybe a little pleasure there. Each literary “season,” by the way, results in a “scenario” which is published in chapbook form, though some years, due to the usual catastrophes, there is no harvest at all. RM: I can’t keep from thinking of the title, Versions of North, as a kind of metaphor for finding our direction: you know, the compass point. But also, I sense this is a book about discovery, for one of your epigrams, the one from Jack Spicer, is “You have to go into a serial poem not knowing what the hell you’re doing.” To quote Raymond Carver, “If this sounds / like the story of a life, okay.” So to get to my question: What did you discover in the writing of this book? What do you think readers might find in it? GPL: I suppose one might consider Versions of North as a book about discovery. And it is “the story of a life,” though the totality of its intentions remains obscure even to myself. In the “Note on text” [at the end of Versions of North], I focus on one of these, the book as “an attempt on the part of one human being to make sense of the forces, large and small, that have brought him to a particular place, and that have shaped the place where he finds himself.” I evoke William Carlos Williams’s Paterson, “a long poem [written] upon the resemblance between the mind of modern man and a city,” as an important point of reference. The poem is both more and less than an “Idea” of North—it is, in the limited sense that is always “my” sense, the embodiment of an uncertain North, weak and highly constrained by context. RM: Like many academics, you were educated in an enriched urban environment—in your case, Vancouver, correct? But like many of us, you find yourself securing a position in the intellectual “outback” of northern British Columbia. In my reading of Versions of North, I considered the situation of the contemporary scholarartist, like a displaced Chinese poet during the years of the great dynasties, exiled into the provinces, but in a contemporary sense, being an avant-garde intellectual in a conservative rural area. Was
this the kind of metaphor you intended? GPL: I was educated in the enriched urban environments of two “major” western Canadian cities, Calgary and Vancouver, but had to move to “the intellectual outback” of northern British Columbia to secure employment suitable to my training. I like your figuring of the situation of the contemporary scholar-artist, exiled to the provinces “like a displaced Chinese poet during the years of the great dynasties … in a contemporary sense, being an avant-garde intellectual in a conservative rural area,” though I am fully aware of the psychopathology of such conceit, which is not to be taken at face value. RM: With Versions of North finished and published, what are you working on now? What’s your next project? GPL: I have a number of projects always on the go, which I work at according to no particular logic. I have spent considerable time this past sabbatical year working on a novel, though I have also been working on a series of short stories. Some mornings when I sit down to work a few lyrics insist on coming out before I can get back to what I am “supposed” to be doing. So I have a title and materials for a new poem, and hope to get down to it as soon as I can muster up the nerve.
Many thanks to G.P. Lainsbury for discussing his work with us. For more information regarding the poet and to find his work click here. Versions of North by G. P. Lainsbury. Halfmoon Bay, BC, Canada: Caitlin Press, 2011. 88 pages. PB original. ISBN 1-894759-62-1 $16.95
My TV Is Better Than Your Movie: The Battle of Screen Snobs by Rich Heldenfels The movie industry has been enjoying one of its biggest successes in 2012 as the comic-book-inspired Marvel’s The Avengers has taken in more than $1.4 billion in worldwide revenues; its North American take, about half of that total, is enough to put it in third place among all-time box office champs when not adjusted for inflation, behind only top-ranked Avatar and Titanic. (The Avengers ranks twenty-eighth all-time after the inflation adjustment by Box Office Mojo). But that seeming success does not completely overshadow the failure in America of two other films, John Carter and Battleship, each with budgets reportedly in excess of $200 million, neither of which drew audiences. And even the success of The Avengers is tempered by its getting extra revenues from 3D showings for which theaters add about $3 to the ticket price for 2D. By the way, the biggest box-office hits are neither the most artistic nor thoughtful of productions. In 2011, according to Box Office Mojo, the three biggest movies in America were parts of pop franchises — Harry Potter, Transformers and Twilight – and only the Potter film could be considered artistically successful. For a thoughtful drama dealing with a cultural issue in 2011, one has to scroll down the rankings to thirteenth place and The Help. That film, while controversial though its treatment of race, was nominated for a best-picture Oscar only to be beaten for that honor by The Artist, a widely praised but gimmicky homage to silent movies which drew far fewer people to American theaters than either The Help or six other of the nine best-picture nominees. This is not to say that there are only bad movies out there. Plenty of well-considered films are made, although many fail to get wide distribution; the nine 2011 films to have a 100 percent positive rating on the Rotten Tomatoes review-aggregation site included the likes of This Is Not a Film, Everyday Sunshine, We Are Here, Thunder Soul and Hell and Back Again, the sort of films available to moviegoers who could find art-house (which in Akron’s case meant an
hour’s drive to Cleveland’s Cedar Lee theater) or until they come to home screens via telecasts, DVD and Blu-ray, or streaming video services. But consider what those same homes can get via television, including Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Downton Abbey, The Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, Community, Modern Family and Justified. Granted that Homeland and Game of Thrones are on premium services Showtime and HBO respectively, all of the shows in this list can reach at-home viewers in the millions without requiring them to fill up the gas tank. Moreover, the shows I have mentioned are not disposable trifles—of which there are many in television— but ones that are ambitious in their presentation and in their embrace of ideas—about power, family, truth, class, crime and other topics. (Big Bang Theory, on the surface about funny nerds, is also about the value of intellect—these are not poor nerds—and the endless human struggle for a balance of thought and emotion.) And some find mass success. Big Bang averages 15 million viewers a week and Modern Family more than 12 million, numbers so large that, if each viewer bought a ticket to the same, single movie, it would be an immediate blockbuster. Moreover, in television, the viewing millions come back week after week; the audience for a hit TV show by far eclipses that of most movies, successful or not.For that matter, some beloved movies—including It’s a Wonderful Life, The Wizard of Oz and, yes, the Three Stooges shorts—seemed to be at the end of their cultural moment until they migrated to TV and were discovered anew. Yet, there are still factions in the entertainment industry who want to see movies as a thing apart from television, and as a superior form. Entertainment awards-giving organizations separate TV productions from movies; made-for-television movies, regardless of their high quality, are not eligible for Oscar consideration unless they have been shown in at least a few theaters before telecast. Roger Ebert, promoting his film-review series (on TV) with Gene Siskel, once infuriated a roomful of TV critics by arguing— based on viewing a single episode—that the much acclaimed drama Hill Street Blues was a bad show, with a style that in a movie “would be laughable.” Ebert reportedly said, after a TV critic accused him of being a film snob, that “there aren’t very many television snobs. … The best movies are so much better than any television that has
ever been done that it frankly isn’t a contest.” Even television itself encourages the sense that it’s something less than the movies. “It’s not TV. It’s HBO,” indeed. Actor Ted Danson, a deft performer in television for decades (Cheers, Becker, Damages, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and more), once explained his TV ties as coming from bigscreen failure, “box-office nose-diving films.” A handful of actors, among them Tom Cruise, still save their acting efforts for theatrical fare. Only television and movies are not really separate creatures, certainly not in terms of broad public perception. Each has faced decades of criticism for being vapid, overly commercial, artistically uninspired, in jeopardy from competing media and waning audience enthusiasm. Shortly after the turn of the 20th – not 21st – century, the movie industry had apparently recovered from the first proclamation of its death after the infant medium, as cultural critic Gilbert Seldes wrote, “was saying nothing whatever of interest.” The pictures weren’t much better in 1919, when Seldes, in his book An Hour With the Movies and the Talkies, declared “the majority (of movies) … are so stupid, tasteless, and wearisome that no man of average intelligence could bear to look at them twice.” The sad fact is that entertainment media of all types have long struggled to find a balance between commerce and art (Seldes said there was “perhaps a score” of worthwhile movies). And the newest form is usually decried as the worst. Seldes again: “One feels that centuries of producing cheap novels, tawdry plays, vapid songs, and formless paintings have not equaled the mass of twaddle which the moving picture has accumulated in three decades.” As for television, even during its first Golden Age in the early to mid-1950s, when live drama was showing how effective TV could be, the medium faced some critical sneering, including from film critics who had seen enough twaddle to know better. Anticipating Ebert’s slam decades later, Arthur Knight complained in 1957 that there was “no D.W. Griffith of television, no one with the vision to recognize its potential powers and, by an act of creative imagination, transform it into a truly distinctive art form”; instead, he complained, TV was no more than a hybrid—a “radio with pictures” or “movies by air.”
But the fact was that TV was already showing that it had artists, especially writers. The Oscar winner for best picture of 1955, Marty, was adapted from Paddy Chayefsky’s television play from 1953. In a 1955 collection of his TV plays Chayefsky—who would win a writing Oscar for Marty and two more for later films— conceded the commercial and other restrictions of television, then added that “this is an age of savage introspection, and television is the dramatic medium through which to expose our new insights into ourselves.” Further, he argued that there had been in the past year “four or five shows … that were far and away superior to anything on the current Broadway stage or anything issued by the movie industry.” While the following decades would find plenty of television snobs convinced that The Beverly Hillbillies or Laverne & Shirley or Jersey Shore represented a new low, those viewers would fail to see that TV had also provided to audiences Roots, Masada and other miniseries; the inventiveness of Ernie Kovacs, the brilliant farce of Lucille Ball, the satire of the Smothers Brothers and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In; the urbane humor of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, SCTV and Saturday Night Live; andthe drama of its live heyday, St. Elsewhere and, yes, Hill Street Blues. All of those efforts – and more besides – had aired by the time Ebert argued for the artistic superiority of movies. Moreover, the more technology advances, the more TV and movies are intertwined, via actors, producers, writers, studios and the way we watch. Television screens in the home have gotten bigger even as cinema multiplexes often seem smaller; if you are willing to pay for the equipment, you can watch movies and TV shows in 3D at home, as well as in high-definition, with quality sound. In addition, you can do so without the crunch of stale popcorn under your feet and the mumbled commentary by a couple behind you. Movies that don’t make it from theaters like the Cedar Lee to the big screens in smaller towns can instead be viewed at home via DVD, Blu-ray or, most significantly, streaming video. My Netflix account makes no judgment because my queue has Star Trek: Deep Space 9 alongside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind any more than it does because the Altman and Truffaut titles share space with Demolition Man and Stir Crazy.
One more way that television and movies are similar is their shared guilt complex. I have long talked about a Chamber of Commerce theory behind entertainment-industry awards, a need to honor works that make an industry look not successful but good, noble, artistic. The Oscars often reflect that, as do the Emmys, where mainstream commercial fare often takes a back seat to boutique television like Mad Men, an excellent show which feels important. The Emmys, meanwhile, have broken nonfiction programming into an array of categories (such as “reality program” and “realitycompetition”) to acknowledge audience favorites while steering toward relatively prestigious winners; audience hit American Idol has repeatedly lost to the less-watched but more acclaimed The Amazing Race. For that matter, when TV honors commercial fare, it sometimes does so with a humble nod to the movies; actors known mainly for movie work are often Emmy darlings. Consider Melissa McCarthy’s acting Emmy win for her work on Mike & Molly, an honor some observers credited at least partly to her rousing comic turn in the theatrical film Bridesmaids. In fact, nothing more clearly illustrates the struggle to balance art and commerce, and TV and the movies, than the changes the Oscars have made in the Best Picture nominations. From the long-standard five nominations, the category has expanded to as many as ten – to make room for more commercial fare, which TV viewers will care about when the awards are televised, even if the eventual winner is The Artist. Nevertheless, odds are that more people will see The Artist on their TVs at home than went to the multiplex for it—unless, that is, there’s something better on TV at that time.
Published on Nov 18, 2013
The extravagant arts and criticism bazaar. Often called the abstract adventure journal, Buried Letter Press offers you in this issue: an int...