Why I Am Reading Less (and Enjoying It More?)

15 Aug
Donald Trump pinata

Donald Trump pinata

Two things I cared very little about: short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump’s reptilian illocutlons and Jon Stewart’s final show. Trump is a carney barker and though I respect and admire Stewart it’s his body of work that matters to me not the Comedy Central love fest scheduled at the same time as the GOP debate. I watched neither.

What I did [with great expectations] watch was David Simon’s newest HBO project Show Me A Hero which premieres on August 16*.Per usual for a Simon production there is a well cast ensemble with amazing and nuanced performances by Oscar Isaac,the perennially excellent Cathleen Keener and long-lost Winona Ryder

Now David Simon and his projects (since his beatification)soak up a universe of press attention so it will be the difficult to be unaware of Show Me A Hero. And like many great works it will move some writers to articulate some smart stuff, often bringing out the best of their talents. Over at Grantland (which, under the dearly departed Bill Simmons, had been a haven/springboard for good, young writers)Andy Greenwald skillfully opines:

In interviews, Simon often comes across as a unique, occasionally aggravating mix of self-righteous and self-effacing. But Show Me a Hero is an important reminder that there are real virtues to being a lonely needle in our soft cultural haystack. While everyone else is breaking their backs trying to make viewers comfortable, Simon is unwavering in his mission to make us pay attention. You’re always going to notice the prick right before the medicine goes in.

The artfulness and empathy of Show Me a Hero would be tremendously moving in any year. But it feels particularly relevant in 2015, when the Black Lives Matter movement and the violent incidents that inspired it are dominating the headlines. Though a large number of Yonkers residents appear to use NIMBYism as cover for old-fashioned racism, Simon and Zorzi are generally respectful of all involved. Indeed, their scripts go to great pains to suggest that there is something inviolable about the desire to consider one’s house a castle, built to defend against the chaos and uncertainty of the wider world. Keener’s Mary isn’t a hateful person. But what shocks her into action is the suggestion that someone else’s culture and experience might be unwelcomely poked into her own. This struck me as the inverse of The Wire’s unforgettable opening quote about letting everyone play the game: “Got to. This [is] America, man.” Well, what could be more American than the right to take your ball and go home?

In addition to these 6 hours I devoted to Show Me a Hero, series such as True Detective,Luther‘s 14 episodes (for the second time),Bloodlines, The Affair, Spiral, Peaky Blinders, Witnesses (both the French crime series and the HBO documentary), Transparent, Bosch, Hit or Miss and manifold wonderful discoveries at Netflix (which make that resource that much more valuable) and Amazon Prime have put a significant dent into my reading habits.

Washington Square, 1969 [photo :Andre Kertez]

Washington Square, 1969 [photo :Andre Kertez]

Which is not to say that I have not been pleased by what I have read this summer:

Bull Mountain  by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Palace of Treason: A Novel  by Jason Matthews

Palace of Treason: A Novel by Jason Matthews

Palace of Treason: A Novel by Jason Matthews

The Lower Quarter: A Novel  by Elise Blackwell

The Lower Quarter: A Novel by Elise Blackwell

The Lower Quarter: A Novel by Elise Blackwell

The Mulberry Bush  by Charles McCarry

The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry

The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry

Darkness the Color of Snow: A Novel  by Thomas Cobb

Darkness the Color of Snow: A Novel by Thomas Cobb

Darkness the Color of Snow: A Novel by Thomas Cobb

A Free State: A Novel by Tom Piazza

A Free State: A Novel by Tom Piazza

A Free State: A Novel by Tom Piazza

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller by Terry Hayes

 Sweet Caress  by William Boyd

Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Sweet Caress by William Boyd

*More on Show Me A Hero

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