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April 26, 2011

Comments

Niall

Where would I find the piece?

Niall

Mendelsohn's attachment to ancient models of metamorphosis make him miss what was truly ground breaking about the comic heroes of the early 1960s. They did in fact reverse a previous model of metamorphosis, but it was a model from the 1940s and 1950s. Throughout this whole period Americans (and Japanse, and most everyone else) were treated to cautionary tales of exposure to radiation. Radiation, in this discourse, breeds *monsters*. Rampaging giant spiders, ants, grasshoppers, Gojira etc. were the result of exposure to radiation, creatures so dangeous they had to be destroyed.

What is really so new, so revolutionary, about the comic book heroes of the early 60s is that their heroic powers were granted to them by exposure to radiation. The Fantastic Four and Spider Man are the most obvious examples of this trend, though the Hulk is another. By giving a positive spin on the metamorphosis effected by radiation, they decisively reversed the earlier trope of radiation breeding only monsters. That this occurred around the time of the highest level of anxiety around nuclear weapons and radiation - the Cuban Missile Crisis - may or may not have been a coincidence.

Shelley

Mendelsohn always has something interesting to say.

And let's hear it for intriguing failures.

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TEV DEFINED


  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."

SECOND LOOK

  • The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

    Bs

    Penelope Fitzgerald's second novel is the tale of Florence Green, a widow who seeks, in the late 1950s, to bring a bookstore to an isolated British town, encountering all manner of obstacles, including incompetent builders, vindictive gentry, small minded bankers, an irritable poltergeist, but, above all, a town that might not, in fact, want a bookshop. Fitzgerald's prose is spare but evocative – there's no wasted effort and her work reminds one of Hemingway's dictum that every word should fight for its right to be on the page. Florence is an engaging creation, stubbornly committed to her plan even as uncertainty regarding the wisdom of the enterprise gnaws at her. But The Bookshop concerns itself, finally, with the astonishing vindictiveness of which provincials are capable, and, as so much English fiction must, it grapples with the inevitabilities of class. It's a dense marvel at 123 pages, a book you won't want to – or be able to – rush through.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe

    Rider_4

    Tim Krabbé's superb 1978 memoir-cum-novel is the single best book we've read about cycling, a book that will come closer to bringing you inside a grueling road race than anything else out there. A kilometer-by-kilometer look at just what is required to endure some of the most grueling terrain in the world, Krabbé explains the tactics, the choices and – above all – the grinding, endless, excruciating pain that every cyclist faces and makes it heart-pounding rather than expository or tedious. No writer has better captured both the agony and the determination to ride through the agony. He's an elegant stylist (ably served by Sam Garrett's fine translation) and The Rider manages to be that rarest hybrid – an authentic, accurate book about cycling that's a pleasure to read. "Non-racers," he writes. "The emptiness of those lives shocks me."