Derik Badman's Journal

2020-12-28 08:37

Rewatched Hong Sang-Soo's Claire's Camera yesterday which I had originally watched back in August of 2019. I'm still unclear on how it relates to or references Claire's Knee (beyond the title). I noticed this time through the non-linearity of a few of the scenes. There is at least one scene that has to happen out of order, though it is oddly ignored in a later scene when two of the characters meet again (but don't acknowledge they met). I like these little formal elements in Hong's films, where he plays with time and reality. It's not always clear what purpose they serve, but they add mystery and ambiguity to the goings-on, and tend to make me pay closer attention to the events around them.

I'm currently reading too many books simultaneously. Steven Moore's The Novel: An Alternative History, Beginnings to 1600 is a wide ranging look at the history of the novel before the most commonly recognized "first novels", going back to Ancient Egypt. The book is a lot of summaries and discussion of plots and themes of specific works divided up until time periods and languages (so not exactly chronological). Moore seems particular interested in the religious and the erotic, and the intersection of those too as Christianity becomes more prominent the erotic becomes less. He is virulently anti-religious, constantly inserting asides about the inanity of people actually believing in things like the Bible. I am in agreement with him, but even I feel like he brings it up too often.

He actually discusses parts of the Bible as novels which is really interesting. Turns out biblical scholars have untangled some of the varieties of authors of the early books and there are published works that attempt to put them back together (the "J" author seemed like the most interesting one).

Moore's definition of "novel" is pretty loose, but apt for someone who is known for his interest in (and writing on) the experimental/postmodern/etc forms. He basically boils it down to a long fictional prose narrative, which allows him to discuss a wide range of works of various sorts, some more well known than others (for instance, The Decameron, La Morte d'Arthur, Tale of Genji). I'm not finished with it yet, there are still a number of chapters to read as he moves to Asia (Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese). I've been skimming it a lot depending on how interesting any individual work seems, but it has got me interested in reading a few things. I've not read The Decameron but perhaps will give it a try. And some of the Ancient Greek and Arthurian works might be worth looking up.

Also on the nightstand is John Ruskin: An Idiosyncratic Dictionary Encompassing his Passions, his Delusions and his Prophecies by Michael Glover. I've been interesting in reading more of/about Ruskin and then this came up when I read the author's review of a Turner shows in the New York Review of Books (which I recently subscribed to). I'm reading it a bit at a time, and finding it mildly interesting, but it is not getting me excited to read more on Ruskin, especially given Ruskin's writing style in the quoted passages.

Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration by Jesse Kowalski a recent catalogue for a show at the Rockwell Musuem sounded like it would be a good historical overview of the topic but is proving to be pretty bad. The selected works often are tangentially (if it all) related to fantasy, or are poor examples of the particular artist in question (a really boring Hal Foster page, some modern and really uninteresting superhero covers). There is a large section in the end of Rockwell works which seems only included because of the museum and not any actual fantasy relevance. The text by Kowalski (not quite finished with it) is dreadful: basic, poorly written, often factually incorrect. For instance, while he correctly gives Dave Arneson credit for creating D&D he also incorrectly says Gygax and he co-founded TSR. (On the other hand there are some good early D&D pieces included.) He also identifies the video game Dishonored 2 as taking place in 19th century Europe, completely ignoring the simple/obvious that it is set in a fantasy world with elements of 19th century Europe. (There were other errors, those are the two I came across last night and remembered well enough.) One could get better information from Wikipedia, and indicates a clear lack of expertise or editing. Some of the text mentions topics that are not that important and clearly only merited inclusion because someone had a piece of art available (like a truly boring image of Vampirella). He also really tries to sidestep the idea of religious imagery as fantasy (don't want to offend anyone, I guess), despite including early examples (kind of the opposite tact of Moore). All in all a very disappointing book that so far has not offered anything new as far as analysis, history, or aesthetics.