Friday, November 28, 2008

More Pleasant Diversions.

The other day I mentioned that my cultural diversions have trended recently toward the darker side of life. I'm reading a book about religious scenarios for the "end times". In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit to having a long fascination with apocalyptic situations. I didn't do much reading when I was in high school, but one series of books I did read was called (something along the lines of) the "Ranger Series". It was decidedly not highbrow literature. It was more the type of thing that a kid would read before moving on to Soldier of Fortune magazine. In fact, that accurately describes the path I took after reading this pulpy crap. From the little that I remember, I guess it was about a mercenary trying to make it in a post-nuclear war world.

Naturally the guy at the center of the story was tough and resourceful. Still, he also had some heart, and I guess that's what made the books "suitable" for children. I don't recall the details, yet I imagine they were pretty sordid. I was fascinated by the idea of surviving in those kinds of conditions. The typical everyday concerns melt away, and one's attitude is colored by an "every man for himself" mentality. The question is whether or not some core of morality is preserved, and how it is articulated. I guess I'm still interested in similar material, albeit with a more sophisticated shell. I loved Albert Camus' The Plague much more than I even enjoyed The Stranger. How people act in desperate times reveals their essential character (and blah,blah, blah).

Not too long ago I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and all of a sudden my obsessions returned with a vengeance. If there is any such thing as an essential work within the apocalyptic genre, it is that title. And given the fact that it earned a Pulitzer Prize, I don't have to feel particularly self-conscious about admiring it. Hell, it's "Art". Not too long from now, the film version will come out- it's directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition), and stars Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. I expect to enjoy it a lot. It was even filmed in-and-around Pittsburgh. I haven't been this excited for a film in a long time, so I'm almost certain to be disappointed.

Anyway, I couldn't just wait for that movie to get my visual fix. Last week M. and I decided to start watching the complete Jericho series. It originally ran on CBS between September of 2006 and March of this year, and evidently flew under the radar for most American television viewers. Most people that I mention it to have never even heard of the show. It did run for 29 episodes though, so someone must have been watching. Like almost everything else worth watching nowadays, it is a serial- so you have to keep up with it to understand what's going on. That puts a natural limit on viewership, as many simply aren't willing to commit to following along faithfully. In this case, that was a significant loss.

The premise of Jericho is that someone has managed to smuggle powerful barrel-sized nuclear bombs into several major US cities. It tracks the lives of the residents of the titular town, somewhere in Kansas. They appear initially as stereotypical small-townsfolk... the kind of "Real Americans" that Sarah Palin is so enamored with. But just as in reality, the characters turn out to be a lot more complex than you first expect. If it were any other way, then the show wouldn't be compelling. And after 12 episodes, we are hooked. In fact, I'm getting a bit of crap for taking a break to write this post. If I don't wrap things up, I'm liable to disappoint someone... so, more details later.

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Blogger Merge Divide said...

I normally don't post comments submitted for the purpose of advertising... but I found the attempt at tying this in with the theme a bit funny and surreal.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

Tying in with the theme of your post, I just finished Earth Abides by Stewart. One of the earliest, and I believe the best, of the post-apocalyptic novels, this one was written in 1949 and deals with a plague that has taken almost everyone. I found the book to be excellent; it has held up very well over the 60-year span since it was written.

10:33 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


Thanks for the tip. I'll look into it.

12:41 PM  

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