Mockingjay, Bruce Lee, Giant Rats

Some things I’ve been thinking about, in no particular order:

Over the summer and the beginning of this semester, H and I have listened to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins while commuting. Pretty good stuff. There are several stylistic things I admire about the series – how the present tense sets the pacing, the way violence is handled, and the perceived authenticity of the protagonist – but more broadly, I really like how it presents a brutally unromantic view of media and rhetoric. I also like how it rejects what I have come to hate as the standard thoughtful-modern/postmodern/postpostmodern-novel-plot: protagonist enters an extended malaise that is only broken by an act of violence that serves as a catalyst for a glimpse at truth and a new way of living. Come to think of it, that also describes the plot of 90% of TV shows. Fortunately, a glimpse of truth is the one thing that the characters in these three books never, ever get.

I saw a page on the rhetoric of Bruce Lee over the summer and made a note to comment on it but never did. Apparently the thesis runs along the lines that Lee’s own founded martial art, Jeet Kune Do, was not nearly as original or groundbreaking as advertised, but more of an artifact or reflection of the postmodern and interdisciplinary values of late 1960’s culture – a ‘non-style’ that was anti-institutional but scientific,  and anti-traditional but unoriginal. This analysis reminds me a lot of the ‘plain English’ movement and its Baconian, irony-resistant critique of style. To have no style is, unfortunately, to have a style, however no-style you want to sell it. Every time I think about that particular circularity, I want to read The New Rhetoric again.

I’ve been playing Echo Bazaar lately, through Twitter, for which I blame idonotlikepeas. It is a wonderful example of how the horrific psychology of collecting can be turned to more benign ends; it is about collecting stories as much as it is about collecting stats. It is also a wonderful example of how to go about efficient world-building in terms of work vs. perceived content. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that it is set in reasonably Holmesian London, a setting created by one of the masters of efficient world-building, Arthur Conan Doyle. Rats are a recurring theme. I’m still looking for a certain one, for which the world is not yet prepared.