Outside Reading — Canon Fodder edition

burnett filming

Rethinking the Film Canon by Rich Juzwiak

Earlier this year, I was listening to the Little Gold Men podcast as they discussed the newly announced Academy Award nominations. As they mostly expressed relief about the small signs of voters looking beyond the usual array of white-dudes-with-guns movies, even as they felt obliged to concede appreciation for the usual suspects among the honorees. (As did I.) Almost as an aside, one of the cohosts raised the idea that what was needed to shift away from the constant threat of #OscarsSoWhite controversy was not diversity initiatives mounted by the Academy, but a wholesale reevaluation of what kinds of stories and films are considered important and therefore Oscar-worthy. The recent Gone with the Wind kerfuffle provides the entryway to do exactly that, and Rich Juzwiak makes a good start with this article, written for Jezebel.



You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument by Caroline Randall Williams

In this absolute powerhouse oped, published by The New York Times, Caroline Randall Williams makes the strongest possible argument against statues honoring Confederate soldiers and does so with unflinching candor about her own identity and family history. In particular, the opening sentence is devastating. Any comments I might add are doomed to inadequacy.



Confederate Monuments Getting Removed By Protesters Is a Statement of People Power by Jane’a Johnson

In the city I call home, debate turned to the sanctity of statues this week. Angry protestors responded to the needlessly rough arrest of one of their fellow activists by pulling down two statues near the State Capitol that commemorated progressive causes and an abolitionist, hardly symbols of bigotry and oppression. Those eager to cast aspersions on social justice protestors quickly snarling with satisfaction about the ignorance of the action, ignoring that reasonable explanations behind targeting the statues were offered almost immediately. Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with invaluable local journalist Scott Gordon, who wrote, “We could spend a whole lot of time here parsing what the statues torn down this week mean or represent, but I also think the fixation on the statues is kind of deranged.” But that thought also brings me to this piece, written by Jane’a Johnson for Teen Vogue, that persuasively argues for the power inherent in citizenry taking it into their own hands to remove these bronzed commemorations of the wrong parts of our past rather than waiting for some sort of political process to grind through its slow work to the same end.



The Rape Kit’s Secret History by Pagan Kennedy

In this corrective to history, published by The New York Times, Pagan Kennedy explores the genesis of the rape kit. Often credited to a Chicago police officer (because he demanded the credit), the investigative tool was actually conceptualized and created by Marty Goddard, an activist dismayed by the lack of attention and effort given to the crime of rape. Kennedy’s story is full of amazing details, most of which reflect very poorly on the systems set up to deliver justice in this country. That the manufacture and distribution of the kits was taken more seriously by Playboy Enterprises than any government or police officials — and that the fact of that isn’t particularly surprising — is one thread in thickly snarled explanation of how we’ve reached the current point of broad disenchantment with law enforcement.


brief history

A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) by Marlon James

A colossal, complicated novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings has an assassination attempt against Bob Marley at its core, but puts layers upon layers atop that incident until the sprawling story starts to feel like it’s touching upon every trouble embedded in the human experience. Marlon James has an enviable command of language throughout the book, developing enveloping rhythms to the dialogue and storytelling which remaining fiercely direct, like some implausible hybrid of Stephen King and Don Delillo. It’s one of those books that is exhausting and thrilled in equal measure.

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