thanks-barb copy
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Netflix’s newest series, Stranger Things, premiered July 15, and it has swiftly become one the most talked about shows of the summer. Each major media outlet has published their own think pieces, quizzes like “Which Stranger Things Character Are You?” have circulated, and Winona Ryder (who stars in the series) has made her comeback as a magazine cover girl.

There aren’t spoilers in this essay. Or shouldn’t be, unless you consider the lack of information an incredible spoiler (and I hate these type of concessions, because plot is secondary to the creation of character, formation of relationship between audience and narrative, and the feelings depicted and attached to the narrative). The only spoiler I’m going to provide happens by episode three, when teenager Barb goes missing, pulled by a monster into a pool and through to the “other side.” Despite being a minor character, I became infatuated with Barb.

More… “We Got to Talk about Barb”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
PL_MAUTNER_DEFOR_FI_002
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Characters sweat a lot in Michael DeForge’s comics. Not the kind of flop sweat that traditional cartoon characters exhibit, with water droplets literally flying off the body in a halo formation, but beads of perspiration that cascade down the character’s face in such a plentiful supply that you sometimes wonder why there isn’t a puddle around the character’s feet.

What makes them sweat so much? Oh, you know, the usual. Your organs and flesh are slowly turning into leather and spikes. You had to join a secret mafia club in order to get your niece’s beloved clarinet. You’re an ant that’s overwhelmed by the meaningless of it all. You got infested with baby spiders because your weird kid brother insisted on wearing that dead horse head all the time. You’ve been consigned to a hell populated by beloved cartoon characters. You’re a hapless, divorced flying-squirrel dog trying to deal with your own inadequacies and two unruly kids. You’re desperately trying to fit in. You just killed someone. More… “Between Tree and Twig”

By day, Chris Mautner is the mild-mannered social media producer for PennLive.com. By night, he writes about really nerdy things for The Comics Journal … and this site. He is ¼ of the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
PS_FLEMING_ICHABOD_FI_002
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

If Christmas is the great holiday for sounds — think of all of the masterworks and the centuries of carols — then surely Halloween is the bushel holiday harvest for sights. The very plumage of the landscape itself morphs from pastel verdure to vermillion explosions of the sorts of colors that we think of as having tongues, lapping across expanses as if summoning your gaze. The boogeymen come out, too, much as the ghosts do at Christmas, but whereas the latter have a subtle ease to them, the Halloween haunts rarely do. Part of that may have to do with Washington Irving and his Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon from 1820, a work that, in one vignette, helped inspire a visual schema that still colors the season.

Most people don’t read the Sketch Book in full anymore, focusing instead on its two most famous tales: “Rip Van Winkle” and, of course, the object of our purpose, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” These are bumper crop works that repay and repay, but that’s the gist of the thirty-four essays, stories, anecdotes, and musings that comprise the Sketch Book itself, a weird piece of Americana by turns folksy, Gothic, chatty, and terrifying which also happens to be exceedingly accessible. And, wouldn’t you know, entirely modern, as if Irving’s words have piggy-backed atop the Horseman’s mount and rode into the latest age, ready to gallop off with a willing reader.
More… “Getting to the Bridge”

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
Come closer...
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Two Toronto-based artists have opened KillJoy Kastle, a lesbian feminist haunted house, in West Hollywood. The art installation is in response to the“Hell Houses” put on by some Christian groups during the Halloween season, whose hellish rooms dramatize real-life situations with the aim of scaring sinners into penitence. (laist.com and Vice)

As some heritage sites around the world are lost to time or terrorism, a California non-profit is working to digitally preserve these sites in 3D. If and when sites are lost, as in the case of those destroyed by ISIS this past February in the Nineveh Region, a full-sized holographic replica can be made. (Observer)

If you’re looking for something horrific (and funny) to read this Halloween season, check out this interview with Margaret Atwood about her new novel, The Heart Goes Last. Then stop by the Free Library of Philadelphia this evening from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. for a reading and book signing with the author (if you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to the sold-out event, that is). (The Millions) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
PS_WELLESMAC_BF_001
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

The writing guru William Zinser once said words to the effect that if you wish to write long sentences, you best be a genius, the movie version equivalent of which is, probably, if you want to do long takes, be Orson Welles.

There wasn’t a shot Welles thought he couldn’t get, and it didn’t matter if we’re talking the artistic majesty of Citizen Kane, or any of a number of the cheapjack efforts Welles, having fallen from Hollywood grace, spent the bulk of his life trying to cadge up funds to shoot.

With May 6 marking Welles’ centenary, Kane will get still more props as not only one of the two or three best pictures ever made, but the sole picture on which Welles had complete artistic control. He was 25 when he made it, a conqueror of Broadway, the radio, and now Hollywood, and after racing off to South America to shoot a war effort the next year and leaving his Magnificent Ambersons footage in the hands of others, Welles would essentially be kicked out of Camelot on account of the final result, with a reputation for not seeing projects through.
More… “Orson Welles’ Horrorshow”

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
She better grab a Gunsmoke comic

I am not sure if people still make a practice of listening to the radio in bed, late at night. This was always something, in times past, one endeavored to do in youth, especially as there was a sense of getting away with an act — albeit a harmless one — that had to be carried out so surreptitiously as to require darkness. And for the best nocturnal stealth listening, there were two sources that just couldn’t be beat: baseball games and horror radio programs.

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy… More…

The Morrissey of the 19th century

What English teacher hasn’t cursed Edgar Allan Poe? Isn’t he responsible for all those cheesy revenge plots and creepy sex-death fantasies that teenagers (mostly male) insist on writing? Can you really quarrel with T.S. Eliot’s observation that Poe had “the intellect of a highly gifted person before puberty” (though going through puberty seems more apt) — or with Edmund Wilson’s indictment of Poe’s “awful diction”?

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane… More…

The real horror story is how poorly he's taught in schools.

Imagine the school board meeting — the kids are reading some dangerous literature in English class. Murder, drunkenness, torture, madness, and not even a sliver of moral instruction. If the students weren’t already so resentful, they might even like what they’ve been given to read, it’s so cool. Imagine the class discussion about the theme of, say, “The Cask of Amontillado,” and that one boy with a heavy metal T-shirt in the back finally joining the conversation with his interpretation: “Some motherfuckers just have it comin’.”

2009 marks the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe, arguably the most famed and influential writer in American history. Not only does his work entirely limn the culture, but he also created no fewer than two genres of popular fiction — mystery and modern horror — almost single-handedly. Virtually anyone in the U.S. can recite his poetry (a few lines here and there, at least)…. More…

The evil of reality.

 

One fine day in the mid-’50s, the eminent British actor Charles Laughton and the brilliant (if doomed) American critic James Agee put their minds together with the aim of adapting David Grubb’s novel The Night of the Hunter into a screenplay. Agee was drunk. He couldn’t put together a coherent screenplay.  But he had the mood right — Southern Gothic — and Laughton slapped that Agee madness together with a noir look and German Expressionist approach. Most of the scenes in the movie are mean and tight. The shadows go on forever. Interiors are framed in pointy triangles of light against the gloom.

Then, of course, there is Robert Mitchum. He plays Harry Powell, the preacher with “HATE” tattooed on one set of knuckles and “LOVE” on the other. Powell has a particular hatred of women. In prison… More…