What we can learn from the rise of the caped avenger.
The hero, it seems, will never die. From the ancient empire-creating adventures of Odysseus to the poetic quests of Sir Gawain, masterpieces that have truly stood the test of time have been tantalisingly heroic. Why? People like them.
Fast-forward a millennium or two and the narrative world is overrun with neon spandex and flying shields. Almost forty superhero blockbusters have been released since 2000. One has even made it into the top ten most popular movies of all time (according to the IMDb). Guardians of the Galaxyis already at 8.5 (at time of print) placing it on the same rung as Taxi Driver, American Beauty, even Citizen Kane. And this is a movie that features Bradley Cooper (two-time Oscar nominee) as a talking raccoon.
Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, Allhallowtide, Night of the Dead, whatever you call it and however you think it came into being one thing’s for sure, it’s become a majorly lucrative chocolate-selling and movie-renting business. This year why not save your consumerist fervour for Christmas and instead stay home for a quiet evening read, with a flickering candle and a glass of brandy or something. What to read, you ask? We have just the thing.
Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a list of fictional dads that doesn’t lead with Atticus Finch, so here he gets a category all of his own. This guy had it all. A lawyer raising two kids, teaching them to be real humans (the audacious character of Scout alone is testament to his fathering abilities) and defending the indefensible from the vilest aspects of human nature, all the while dispensing ageless advice to his children on the front porch of their Alabama home.
Mercutio: I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind
Romeo & Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Romeo & Juliet. I was young, and despite knowing the outcome of the tragic love story I was unprepared for the realness of the characters, the truth of their emotions, and the stark, gut-wrenching inevitability of the climactic scene which left me breathless and shaken to my core, unearthing emotions I hadn’t encountered in my short life but which, somehow, I understood.
Last weekend Byron Bay hosted one of the largest writer’s festivals in Australia, with three days of marquee action in the Byron Arts & Industry Estate and many more satellite events and workshops in the surrounding area. Writer’s festivals are a sublime experience, crammed with ideas and reflections on culture, politics and current events as well as the wonder of fictional worlds and the nuts and bolts of the writing profession. As usual I returned home with a stack of new books to add to my bedside pile, all bearing the scribble of their maker and some rare insight into their creation.
For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops.
– Karl Ove Knausgård, Min Kamp
It seems, beyond all reasonable conjecture, that the latest literary sensation is not epic fantasy or young adult drama or even adult colouring books, but something altogether new and unexpected — a Nordic fictional memoir in six volumes.
You heard right. A six-volume memoir. Why, you may ask, would anyone’s life be worth six volumes of text, let alone someone who is only several decades into his life? And then, more to the point, why on earth would anyone want to read the whole damn thing?
In 1816 a cohort of England’s finest writers, who also happened to be great buddies, spent a summer holidaying in the countryside near Geneva in Switzerland. Little did they know that the leisurely cross-pollination of their immense creativity would bring forth some of the darkest and most extreme concepts of humanity the world had seen, spawning works that would go on to change the literary landscape forever.
Let’s start at the beginning.
That’s what you want, right? That’s why we’re here?
Damn. I’ll be honest, that still hurts. Got a nice swing to that left, haha.
Ok, you’re right. You ask the questions, I’m the one in the chair with the broken nose. Pretty sure it’s broken anyway. You been practicing?
Hey, all I’m saying is, it’s been a while. Hasn’t it? It’s been a while.
So I’m reading Martin Amis, because we all have to at one point or other. For some reason considered part of today’s ‘canon’, his name gets thrown around with the likes of Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes, company that should already set the alarm bells ringing.
I saw her before she saw me. A proud affect but generous smile, a turquoise wrap, a blonde shoulder-cut: not too long (not too young). I could hear her admission in my head, spoken with a wink: There are certain things one must accept with age. From the blurred corner of my eye I could make out the bright red of her lips, the dark contour of well-made eyes. She paused at the table over my left shoulder, thanking the waiter like an old friend, the kind of woman who owned a dog, a small dog, a city dog as they say here.