About as unbreakable as a piece of ill-tempered… well, you know.
Glass (2019) – Not Much Super, Not Much Hero
by Jeff Bowles
During the closing moments of Glass, I couldn’t help but think director M. Night Shyamalan had squandered the opportunity to build something both timely and unique. In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which dozens of bigger-than-life characters exist concurrently and pop into each other’s movies like those annoying neighbors from down the street (you know the ones), it’s not unusual to expect some pretty big stuff from the superhero genre. And after all, Shyamalan began laying the groundwork for this trilogy of his long before The Avengers or The Guardians of the Galaxy had ever graced the silver screen, so it’s safe to say he had the market cornered on expanded comic book universes.
Shyamalan teased an unexpected and suitably epic showdown in the end credits scene of 2016’s Split, and while that movie was the best flick he’d made in years, the director who finally seemed to be getting his groove back has… well, lost his groove again. Glass is a lopsided mess, a film in search of a reason to exist. The only thing that saves it from complete mediocrity is the strength of its performances, chief among these being James McAvoy’s continually stunning, though in no ways realistic, portrayal of a man with so many personalities his personalities have personalities have personalities.
Really, McAvoy is an exceptional actor, one of the best of his generation, so casting him in a role like this takes a certain level of calculated genius. In his latest turn as mental patient Kevin Wendell Crumb—also known as Patricia, also known as Hedwig, also known as Barry, also known as The Beast, etc.—the Scottish-born actor gets to strut his stuff in some pretty bombastic ways. Scenery-chewing has never seemed so dignified, though. Shyamalan is clearly as in love with Kevin as audiences have become. He garners most of the film’s run time, which begs the question, why not just make a Split 2?
Glass of course acts as the capstone to a three-part story that began in the year 2000 with Unbreakable, the follow-up to Shyamalan’s debut masterwork, The Sixth Sense. Bruce Willis made for a pretty inert “superhero” all the way back in Y2K, and not much has changed. David Dunn still spends most of his time brooding and behaving like a working-class Bruce Wayne—a Bruce Springsteen Wayne, if you will—minus the car, the cave, and the Born to Run.
After a brutal encounter with Crumb, who’s been extraordinarily busy kidnapping and murdering young women since we saw him… kidnapping and murdering young women in a different movie, Dunn finds himself taken psychiatric prisoner and locked up in a dank, hopeless mental health facility somewhere in Philadelphia (no Philly Eagles jokes, please). Imagine his surprise to learn his arch nemesis has suffered the same fate, the eponymous Mr. Glass, played by Samuel L. Jackson.
Willis mostly seems bored with his role here, but he’s seemed bored in the majority of the movies he’s made in the last fifteen years. Jackson, however, clearly enjoys the opportunity to dust off an old fan-favorite and add another franchise notch to his belt. Mr. Glass spends too much time on the sidelines in this, his own movie, but once things really start cooking, he’s just as nerdy and evil as ever. Glass makes for an excellent counterpoint to Crumb, and in a surprisingly subtle performance, Jackon proves he’s still good for more than an eyepatch and the odd credit card commercial.
Back when Shyamalan released Unbreakable, good comic book movies were a rarity. Rarer still, mainstream acceptance and veneration for what is America’s oldest visual storytelling medium. Everyone likes comics these days, it seems, but in Glass, an overreliance on played-out comic-isms comes off as cheap, laborious, and self-conscious. Even the dastardly lady who’s thrown these colorful weirdos together, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), can’t tell if she should balk at the notion of real-life superheroes or wipe them all off the face of the earth.
The movie sports a larger supporting cast culled from the other entries in the series, including Mr. Glass’ mother and Dunn’s still slightly unhinged son, but none of them are served particularly well, and in fact, the heroic Casey from Split (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) suffers a puzzling reversal of character that all but nullifies her prior life and death victories.
In truth, Glass struggles to find a beat, content for the most part in giving us context and backstory for everything we’ve already seen. Plot development is kept to a minimum, the classic Shyamalan botched twist ending is still classically botched, and the big final showdown concludes in such a disappointing and franchise-killing fashion, I had to ask myself why the entire exercise was even necessary. In my opinion, it wasn’t. M. Night Shyamalan is not a director’s director by any means, but even he knows obfuscation and bad timing are the deaths of tension.
Mr. Glass himself believes comics are a secret history of the world. And I suppose they are in a way. As a popular media artform, comic books have a long history of extraneous filler material. It’s just too bad Shyamalan capped off his grand trilogy with a story destined for the bargain bin.
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Permission to Quit Granted – Alternative Means of Expression: Part II
By Jeff Bowles
The first Wednesday of every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.
A couple months ago, I talked about YouTube and alternative ways writers can express themselves in order to clear out writer’s block or perhaps simply gain perspective on career or creative issues. I consider the writer’s life a long-haul experience. Very often, we go through bursts of creativity and sheer writing bliss, only to end up in a long, slow burn of doldrums and low output. The first five to ten years of any writing career are all about figuring out our voices, our skill-levels, our likes and dislikes, and most importantly of all, our individual thresholds for, let’s say, soul-crushing rejection. After that, ultimate longevity is kind of a crap shoot, right? Well, sort of.
The workhorse model for professional writing doesn’t suit everyone. You may not believe me on that, but trust me, pragmatic holistics matter. Yes, in general it’s best to stay productive and avoid periods of low output, but it’s also a bare bones fact people seek and find inspiration in their own unique ways. For instance, it’s not uncommon for some very successful authors to disappear from the literary scene for years or even decades at a time, only to return in incredible, blinding flashes of brilliance. What do they get up to during those so-called creative droughts? Mostly, on an internal level, they live and experience a few more things until they feel they have something new to say.
If you’re the kind of writer who must hit the brakes every now and then, and by the way, I count myself among you, it may come as a surprise that there doesn’t exist a whole lot of information and support for your way of doing things. The workhorses of the world would have you believe you’re failing if you don’t put down your 2,000 words every single day. But you aren’t. Trust me on this. You’re still doing the job. Even quitters are doing the job. You’re smelling the roses, paying the mortgage, getting married, divorced, remarried, having kids, whatever it is. In essence, you’re telling the story so you can, you know, tell some more stories.
Quitting is a misnomer anyway. I’m not sure good writers ever actually quit. We say we want to, go through the motions, but sooner or later, the bug bites us again. Shamefully, we may disappear into our little domiciles and caverns and pine away for all the stories we never got to tell. But this attitude is borrowed, I can assure you, from a culture that sees reflection and seclusion as things slightly lower than sin.
Just quiz yourself for a moment. The last time you got yourself into a writing funk, wasn’t it because you had something bigger to do? You had to work on your insecurities or your fear of success, or maybe your great aunt died and left you a billion coupons for that buffet place she loved so much but that only serves your favorite brisket on Sundays. An unlikely scenario, sure, but you get the point. Writing doesn’t occur in a vacuum. As much as we may dislike the idea, every word we lay down reflects who we are, who we’ve been, what we believe and value, and the places we yearn to go.
It all depends on your purpose as a storyteller. Does anyone really have a purpose in this world? Yes, I believe we do, though you may feel free to disagree. As an avatar of the workhorse archetype (Family: workhardimus, Genus: unflappabilititus), your purpose may be to write whatever, however, whenever, and for as much money and prestige as possible. A worthy fate if there ever was one. If, by way of alternate example, your countenance and mean represent the BIG IDEA archetype (Family: trickleinspirationmaximus, Genus: deletekeywornout), you may make a habit of cooking a single manuscript for fifteen years before realizing it was good enough to show people eight years ago.
Is there a wrong or right answer here? I don’t think so. Is one of these writers lazier than the other? Arguably, but I don’t think dedication is the ultimate watch word. We’re looking at the sum rather than the parts here, and that makes all the difference.
Art, like life, is a product of time and gestation, and some ideas simply can’t be rolled out in the span of a few months or a few years. Let’s say all you want to write about is a clan of trolls that need to hatch a plan to infiltrate the King’s armory (why not? Substitute a diatribe for or against the Trump Administration, if you like). Every one of your writer friends tells you to plug away until the damned thing is finished, but instinct screams at you to put the story away because you don’t fully understand family dynamics during wartime, social patterns in relation to ground-dwelling malcontents, or the trials and tribulations of Diet Coke-swilling Presidents. I’m telling you to follow the instinct.
The relative complexity of the story you want to tell and your ability to execute it depend entirely on where you’re at as a person and a creator. An eighteen-year-old could write her magnum opus as easily as a fifty-year-old, it’s just the soul of one finds itself prepared many years prior to the soul of the other. So prep your soul a little. Here’s my recommendation if you’ve tried the 24/7, 365 model and found it wanting: live a little between projects. Forget what you’re working on right now, shelve it; yes, I’m giving you permission to quit. Here’s a real test of mettle. Can you forget all about your big dream? Can you go back to being a regular civilian non-writing-combatant? Knowing in the back of your mind when you return to work at some distant point in the future, you’ll be changed, the world will have changed, you’ll have packed on a few years, losses, wins, regrets, and that your stories will thank you for it?
Sometimes alternative means of expression require us to express nothing at all. To me, making something from nothing is a lot like breathing. The inhale, the brink, and then at last, the release and relief of a nice grateful exhale. Take in oxygen like a prize fighter or a Buddhist monk. Breathe until your belly fills with all the desire and longing you can stand, and then let it rightfully explode. Awaken to the possibility of laziness. I mean that. Sit on your butt and watch The Price is Right, or go to work every day and pretend to care about earning a living. In one hundred years you will be dead. Sorry if that’s a bit of a spoiler. Now did you write two books or forty? Would you rather have written fifty? No doubt, but tell me, was it your role to do so? Were you driven to do it? And can you really call that life of yours a waste because you lived how you were compelled to live?
To be blunt, don’t live by other people’s standards. Just in general, don’t do it. If you’ve got the drive and the nerve to chase your star, chase it as hard as you can. But if survival and struggle are all you know and you’re damn tired of it, understand there’s nothing to be gained by producing a mountain of crap for your name to sit atop as you relax into a neat pile of old bones. Individuality is far more central to our world than most people have the ability to recognize. One-size-fits-all only works in plumbing fixtures and baseball caps. Don’t knock yourself out with this story or even the next. Put it down if you need to. Put it down. Put it down. Put it down.
Then go for a walk and pick up a winning lottery ticket, meet the love of your life, or get an autograph from the leader of the free world that sends you reeling back through space and time to meet the man who invented Diet Coke. Stranger things have happened. I’m sure of it. Until next time, everyone.
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I did most of my poetry reading between the ages of sixteen and twenty one. I was in love with a girl who loved poetry. Otherwise, for the next several decades I neglected poetry. It was an occasional pleasure. Lately, however, I have been rediscovering poetry. If you want to read today’s poets head for the online magazine “Across The Margin” (acrossthemargin.com). ATM publishes living poets and prose writers. I am, fortunately, online buds with the editors Michael Fisher and Chris Thompson. As curators of such a venue, they are brilliant. They bring together some of the best writers of our times. While I’m throwing out resources, I must also mention the uber-poetry web empire PoemHunters.com
As an adolescent I was drawn to the work of Federico Garcia Lorca and Rainer Maria Rilke. Their influence yet remains with me. They occupy special seats in the Poets’ Pantheon. Lorca, who was mired in the political confusion surrounding the Spanish Civil War, was assassinated in 1936. He is now a Spanish national treasure. Extensive searches for his grave have failed to find his remains. He was thirty eight when he drew his final breath. No one knows who murdered him. The Fascists blame the Communists and the communists blame the Fascists. Hey, it was Spain in the thirties.
Here is one of his poems. As a Spaniard and member of what was called “The Generation Of ’27”, he was inspired and surrounded by surrealists.
in the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.
Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.
Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.
Rainer Maria Rilke was born into a middle class family in 1875. The family was highly dysfunctional, as are the families of 99 percent of every artist in Earth’s history. Rilke had the good sense to hang out with the most illustrious artists of any age. He was, for a while, Auguste Rodin’s secretary. He lived the life of a poet during the height of the Romantic era. His life was no piece of cake. He was drafted into the Austro/Hungarian Army at the outbreak of World War One. It took two years for his influential friends to free him from possible slaughter in the trenches. He did, however, have such friends. He wrote in a variety of media, including some four hundred poems.
This is Rilke.
At The Brink Of Night
My room and this distance,
awake upon the darkening land,
are one. I am a string
stretched across deep
Things are violin bodies
full of murmuring darkness,
where women’s weeping dreams,
where the rancor of whole generations
stirs in its sleep . . .
I should release
my silver vibrations: then
everything below me will live,
and whatever strays into things
will seek the light
that falls without end from my dancing tone
into the old abysses
around which heaven swells
A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good. His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv.
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I wrote in an earlier piece that my first motivation for writing poetry was to please a girlfriend. What is more apt, more romantically human, than writing and reciting poetry?
I was fifteen and completely smitten. My amour and I belonged to a group of friends who fancied ourselves as Beatniks, avant garde, fringe elements. Oh, how daring, these suburban kids flirting with dangerous radicals and writers! We weren’t political. We were curious and flying as close to the flame of modern art as we dared.
Our god was e.e. cummings. A close second was Charles Bukowski. Cummings was the defiant rebel and iconoclast. Bukowski was just plain foul, profane and we loved his flouting of middle class lifestyles. The two poets could not be more different. In the classroom we studied T.S.Eliot. We studied Robert Frost. Whee!
Then cummings came along and we were swept up in his lyricism and humor.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
and death i think is no parenthesis
This is one of his classics, one of his best known poems. In it he exhorts us to pure experience, to FEEL life, not to think about it. That appeals and will always appeal to the young. Bukowski is a different matter.
the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
crawling in and out
the bone and the
for more than
there’s no chance
we are all trapped
by a singular
nobody ever finds
the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill
Bukowski was more the nihilist, far more transgressive of social norms. He didn’t give a shit! By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie “Barfly”, do so. It is based on the life of Bukowski. It’s a hoot.
I don’t know many high school kids these days, so I have no insight towards their poetic tastes. They have hip-hop. They have the internet. I have no doubt that kids today are as adventurous, rebellious and weird as they have always been. It would be a good research project.
As always with these essays I close with a poem of my own. I’ll keep it brief. It has nothing to do with the subject.
Between my pillow and the back of my head
in the space where the stubble of my balding scalp
meets the soft fabric of my cotton dream ship
Shall I wake and know this to be a dream?
Dancers dressed in furs and leather
wearing antlers and tusks
tracing circles and hopping
from one leg to the other
drums and rattles, sticks with bells shaking
Magical Dancers in a dream
but my eyes are open, my mind lucid.
This is no longer a dream.. Are these dancers merely
the fleas left behind by the cat as he warmed my pillow?
Surely not! Surely not! But if they are, then I salute you,
fleas, for taking on strange identities
in a world where nothing is quite real
where fleas are shamans, ancient survivors
magicians of blood and skin.
If I turn on my side, what will I see? Fleas vanishing into the cat’s fur
or shamans celebrating the oncoming wave of another dream?
A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good. His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. Photos in these columns are by Arthur Rosch.
Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s The Many Faces of Poetry segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.
One town, two killers and the body count is rising. Artemis, by Chris Snider is the tale of how freak set of circumstances turned an ordinary scientist on the brink of death into something no longer human. With superhuman powers, including the ability to command animals, Joseph Art becomes Artemis, defender of animals and the innocent or vulnerable. The police don’t know whether they should string him up as a vigilante, or pin a medal on him. After he comes face to face with the evil clown axe murderer, the stakes are raised and the hunt becomes personal, and no one knows what will happen when the two killers confront one another a final time.
The individual storylines are skillfully woven into a single plotline and action filled climax. I give Artemis four quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the garage
Not a creature was stirring, not even the Dodge.
The spark plugs were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of sparks danced through their heads.
The inner tubes were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that Saint Nicholas would fill them with air.
Mama in her kerchief and I, in my cap
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my bunk and missed the ladder.
Ran to the window, threw open the sash,
Leaned out too far and fell in the trash.
I stood and brushed off all the new fallen snow
And greeted St. Nick with a hearty “Ho! Ho!”
He was dressed all in fur, for it was a cold night
It must have been freezing on the sliegh while in flight.
A bundle of goodies flung over his back
He looked like a peddler as he opened the sack.
His eyes twinkled through goggles, his dimples so merry.
Then, he took off his cap, but my, he was hairy.
His hair flowed over his shoulders, so white
He reached into his sack and pulled out a flash light.
Then to my surprise, what he pulled out of his bag
Was a 345 Hemi, ready to drag.
Then he pulled out some headers that looked really sweet
And to top it all off, a set of big meats.
He pulled out a tire iron, a hammer and wrench
Before I could grasp it, he pulled out a tool bench.
When all the tools were layed out in a nice, neat row,
He turned with a wave and said, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all, may you win tonight!
By Greg and Kaye Booth