Prometheus, Charles P. Pierce, and Salman Rushdie’s memoir “Joseph Anton”
Date posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Weekly picks from the office.
Editor’s note: Welcome to “Flavor of the Week,” a new feature where, every Wednesday, we recommend stories, books, articles, poems, films, videos, events, activities, and more and more and more.
Prometheus, the movie
Given Ridley Scott’s bona fides and the popularity of the Alien franchise, there was a considerable amount of buzz this summer when Prometheus hit the silver screen. Because the film is a prequel to the movie that Scott first released in 1981, expectations were somewhat high, as two separate generations of nerds were raised on those sci-fi movies. However, to call Prometheus a prequel seems to cheapen the appeal of this story: the term alone suggests all of the awfulness of The Phantom Menace and the ridiculous, quasi-racist patois of Jar Jar Binks. Prometheus does predate the first Alien film, but in so doing, it also creates an extremely broad narrative canvas. Referencing classic literature and several different religions of the world, the audience is constantly engaging a dialectic regarding the implications of the titular titan and our relationship with science, creation, and the supernatural. Though Prometheus is not flawless, it’s impressively ambitious and features a performance from the always-great Michael Fassbender that more than makes up for a lot of cheesy dialog and predictable action sequences. Somewhere in between a modern myth and our generation’s answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Prometheus reminds its viewers of the potential for serious philosophical discussion that should come built-in with the best works of science fiction.
—Mike Dell’Aquila, Contributing Editor
Charles P. Pierce at Esquire’s political blog
Construction is obviously my number-one go-to publication for Election 2012 coverage (right behind the New York Times’s reporting; Rich, Chait, and Heilemann at New York magazine; and the Daily Caller1), but Charlie Pierce at Esquire runs one of the most fun political blogs on the Web. I’ve long enjoyed his sportswriting for his Straight Talk Express approach to contextualizing the absurdity of institutionalized games. Recently, I’ve found much of the same in his election coverage. He’s the sort of writer who satisfies the lefty itch for something less theoretically heady than Paul Krugman and less abrasively muckraking than Matt Taibbi. Mainly, though, I enjoy how he formulates his overly dramatic and reactionary cynicism without piety but with, instead, moral liberal conviction. He’s grouchy and incredulous but highly respectable because, above, he’s smart, honest, and passionate. As an example, take his takedown on Paul Ryan’s soup kitchen photo op, where he scathingly identifies the intersection of a bullshit symbolism and an unfortunate reality.
—Nathan Schiller, Editor
Joseph Anton: A Memoir, Salman Rushdie
Most of us know the story of the British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, who’s lived with a bounty on his head since 1989, when Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s then-Supreme Leader, issued a fatwa against him after his novel The Satanic Verses was declared an assault on the Tenets of Islam. We know the story, but how much time have we—particularly those of us who were very young in ’89—actually spent contemplating the significance of the following scenario: the leader of a state you are neither living in nor from issues a death warrant against you, the resident of a country in another part of the world, for publishing a work of fiction, and though this warrant means absolutely nothing in the country where you are a citizen, you are forced by your government to go into hiding because you can be killed anywhere, by anyone, at any time, and your mere presence poses a security threat to the people around you. The kicker is that the very government that won’t allow you to return to home does not provide an alternative residence, forcing upon you the financial and mental burden of continuously finding new places to hide.
All of this sounds like the makings of a (potentially bad) action flick, but it’s the truth Salman Rushdie lived with for about a decade, and one that continues to haunt him today (just a month ago an Iranian Ayatollah reissued the fatwa against him in response to Innocence of Muslims, a film Rushdie had nothing to do with). Last month, Rushdie’s much-anticipated book about his experience was published by Random House. For a preview of Joseph Anton: A Memoir (Joseph Anton was Rushdie’s pseudonym while in hiding, a combination of the names of Anton Chekhov and Joseph Conrad), you should read an excerpt of it in The New Yorker; to get a sense of Rushdie’s rationale for writing the book (and to find out why he wrote it entirely in the third person), check out “Living Novelistically,” Richard Wolinsky’s radio interview with Rushdie, in Guernica.
—Masha Udensiva-Brenner, Editor[pinit]